Mothering in fear during times of national and international insecurity

I was going to blog about something else, I cannot remember what now because it does not seem important anymore. Instead, I have been reading about mothering in fearful times after the terrorist attacks in Brussels today. They scare me, as did the attacks in Paris and Turkey. 

There is a video of today’s attack on a Metro train in Brussels in which the screams of a frightened child can be heard. Hearing it makes me want to weep. I hope the child was not injured. Many mothers would have thought the same i can bet you upon watching the newsreel which I have posted below. Do not watch it if you think it will upset you too much

Whenever news of mass inflicted terrorist attacks come through, as a mother, my first thought is for my daughter’s safety. This mothering instinct is not always a rational one because we do not live in Brussels, Paris or Turkey but terrorism transcends national boundaries. I am scared that my daughter will be somewhere someday where an attack, God forbid, takes place.

When the 9/11 catastrophes took place I remember watching a mother on the news who had to strap her child in the buggy and run as fast as she could to escape the plume of smoke and dust that was heading their way. 

Front CoverThe list of mother worries is long but in the 21st century another issue can be added to the list and it is this, mothering during times of fear in national and international insecurity. I am not alone in thinking this.

An academic called Ana Villalobos at the University of Brandeis, California, has written about (in the book featured) what it means to mother in fear ; “Despite terrorism causing physical harm to a minuscule percent of the population, it causes an emotional response and fear of harm in a far large percent of the population…” After the 9/11 attacks she undertook a study in the Netherlands of the effects of stress from it to pregnant women. It was found that maternal stress as a result of worrying about terrorism had resulted in a lower birth weight of babies as compared to those women who were not exposed to the stress. 

Ana Villalobos has pinpointed what she terms as ‘strategic mothering’. When threats occur people gravitate towards having a greater connection with their children. Mothers quite commonly adopt strategies such as being protective and highly involved as an antidote to the world’s ills. This form of mothering can be called ‘intensive mothering’ or’ hover mothering’ or the ‘the helicopter mom’. I think I am, depending on how you look at it, either guilty of these tags or am doing the wise thing by adopting intimate mothering strategies. 

An alternative strategy is to expose your child to what is going on in the world. it means not shielding them from watching or reading about the terrors going on. This is called the ‘inoculation’ strategy where you openly talk about terrorism and what is happening globally. 

My thoughts go out to the mother of the child who was screaming in the video below, mothers who are mothering in war torn areas who are living the reality of what I fear and mothers stuck in the refugee camps of Europe who will be paying the price for any anti-refugee backlash. 


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