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Defending a mother's work without perpetuating gender roles

There is a fine line between valuing motherhood and defending a period of maternity leave beyond a few weeks on one side and perpetuating gender roles on the other side. However, we are convinced that it is important to set aside the eternal dichotomies of the patriarchy and recognize the value of motherhood.

Our mowom project was born focusing on women because today, we are still the ones who have the hardest time when it comes to returning to the paid labour market once the family grows. Our project speaks in feminine.

We defend that a mother’s work matters and we want to raise awareness and give it the value it has. However, we realize that there is a fine line between valuing motherhood and defending a period of maternity leave beyond a few weeks on the one side and perpetuating the gender roles that so much damage have done, and still do, to women on the other side.

A clear example of this tension can be seen after the change in permission for the birth and care of a minor in Spain. Since January 1, 2021, paternity leave has equalized maternity leave: 16 weeks for each parent with 100% of salary and non-transferable. It is one of the most advanced measures in Europe in terms of the equalization of this permit, along with countries such as Sweden, Iceland or Denmark (1).


From an equality point of view, this should be the goal for any country. Equalising maternity and paternity leave prevents women from being at a disadvantage compared to men when it comes to getting hired or promoted, because a man will be able to take the same time off. These are extraordinary news, which, however, have generated debate even within different sectors of feminism. Why?

First of all it is arguable whether it ensures a level playing field or not in the long term (we will analyze this more deeply in another post). But our main concern here is that despite being a measure that seeks equal opportunities and above all co-responsibility, it continues to leave in the background the value of motherhood and parenting and the well-being of both the mother and baby. It is a good start, and it is very necessary, but deep down, we believe that it continues to be a patriarchal and capitalist measure, which favors a quick return to paid work without revealing the origin of the whole problem.

The duration of maternity leave is still only 16 weeks. That is very little time for the mother and the baby. Recovering from childbirth, physically and emotionally, bonding with the baby, not to mention breastfeeding, if that is chosen * needs time. This is seen from some sectors as a setback and an excuse to bring women back to their homes. But the reality is that a high number of mothers in Europe would like to take care of their children full time during the first year. Why? Maybe because they have to choose between black and white.

Taking care of your baby or pursuing your professional career? Illustrated by Laplupin.


From our point of view what we are perpetuating with this discussion are the pervasive dichotomies of the patriarchy: private/public sphere, male/female, paid/unpaid labour, etc. Co-responsibility for parental care and social policies are essential to achieve equality between men and women. And we propose to consider the following points as part of the discussion:


We are talking about the first months of the babies’ lives. Maybe a year. A time when babies are still immature, totally dependent (yes, we are all born immature, it is a consequence of the evolution of the human species).


We will work an average of 40 years in our life. What is the impact of being disconnected from the paid labor market for two or three years (if there are more pregnancies)? Why should it be a drag on women's careers when you can also plan well in advance? After all, a pregnancy lasts approximately 9 months.


We go even further: why do we have to choose everything or nothing? Being a mother or working? We better look for models that allow us to gradually integrate motherhood with working life and distribute co-responsibility in the way that best suits each family. And we are not referring to nursery schools from 5-6 months, we refer, for example, to being able to take our babies with us and look for solutions depending on the type of work we develop.


And finally, of course, we must keep in mind that if a woman spends more hours raising a baby at first, this does not mean that the other parent should not collaborate and take over the rest of the care duties. Again, each family will find its most appropriate model, without pressure, if all tasks are equally valued.


No. It's not about women staying at home and caring. It is about recognizing the biological process of motherhood and its time requirements. It is about considering it as valuable work and integrating it as one activity of society. It is about us, women, going out into the world, taking care of our children and that society, in any of its areas, does not see it as a problem. It is about sharing the responsibilities with our partners. In the end, it is about developing a society that values motherhood and care work without perpetuating gender roles.

(*) We speak from our experience of biological motherhood, being aware that it is not the only one.


(1) "El permiso por nacimiento y cuidado de menor será de 16 semanas ...." 23 Dec. 2020, Accessed 9 Feb. 2021.



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