The Urban Mother

In tribal communities the nature of the environment and the mother’s activities do not clash with the demands of her new arrival.  In the modern industrial world, this simple maternal harmony has all too often been lost.  Mothers cannot cope.  They cannot remain  permanently close to their infants, like their primeval ancestors.  The often miserable urban environment is totally unsuitable for children.  In place of tribal affluence there is industrial hunger, dirt, poverty and redirected aggression.  For millions of women today the dream of mothering has tuned into a nightmare.
            For some mothers the only way they can afford to feed their children is to leave them behind while they go out to work.  The children need nourishment and maternal contact, but they cannot have both.  Without food they will die, so the mothers have no choice.  In many developing  countries, the working mother must endure tragic separations from her young ones.  In the Philippines, for example, the international airport witnesses daily scenes of misery as mothers leave to work abroad in order to support  their families.  They can find good wages as maids and servants in other countries  and are able to send  money home  to feed their infants in their absence.  But to be good mothers in this way they must suffer separation from their loved ones, not for a few weeks or months but usually for several years.  This is a totally unnatural maternal patterns of love, but they have little choice.
            This is not a minor problem.  The figures are startling.  A recent survey  revealed that no fewer than 2,750,000 Filipino women were working abroad.  In addition to the maternal distress caused  by the separation, educational authorities in the Philippines report that, ‘Children of overseas workers often perform badly in school and grow up with little self-discipline because of the missing parent…Psychologically they are like orphans.’

Gender Bias

Another unnatural pressure modern mothers must face in some countries is a local gender  bias.  Where male babies are preferred over females, the sex ratio is brutally influenced by female  infanticide.  This is still widely practiced in several regions of the world, even today.
            Studies of smaller tribal communities over a long period of time have revealed that female infanticide increase during periods of severe food shortage.  This has the long-term effect of increasing the ratio of hunting males to breeding females in the population.  So, in these cases, it becomes a population control mechanism.  This is not always the case.   In larger communities  it may have more to do with economic pressures.  In India, for example, where poverty is widespread and where families are always expected  to provide a large dowry when their  daughters get married, giving birth to female babies can cause serous hardship.  The so-called ‘dowry murders’ are the result, in which a female baby is secretly killed to relieve the family of the heavy burden of a dowry when the grows up.
            Surveys of the sex ratio of adult humans in different countries give some surprising results.  In Britain and America there are approximately 105 females for every 100 males.  In India, reflecting  the anti-female bias, the ratio  is only 93 females to 100 males.  In Pakistan the ratio is 92/100; in Bangladesh and Afghanistan it is 94/100.  In China the ratio is even lower, with only 88  females to 100 males.  It has been calculated that, altogether, these male-biased ratios add up to a total of something in the region of 60 million ‘missing’   women.  It is not clear how many of these have disappeared as a result of infanticide, but it is difficult to see how else they can have vanished from the national statistics.
            In China we do have some idea of how the ratio has been achieved.  With a population of over one billion, the Chinese authorities made the laudable decision to reduce future increases.  Their method in achieving this was, however, brutal and repulsive.  All that is necessary to stabilize a population is to reduce there average family size for each couple to two children.  In that way the offspring simply replace their parents.  But in 1979 the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping ordered the most extreme measures to be used.  He was taken at his word and couples were officially permitted to have only one child.  Most parents wanted a son and many baby girls were simply dumped on the streets.
Since 1979 over 15 million baby girls are said to have mysteriously disappeared  in China.  When a British televisions documentary was made, showing the infamous Chinese ‘dying rooms’ where baby girls are left to starve to death, Chinese authorities hotly denied all accusation of cruelty.  If we are to believe them, it remains  to be explained what has happened to all the countless missing females in the present Chinese population.
In other countries there are also some strange statistics that are hard to explain.  For example, it was recently discovered that in certain Arab countries  in the Middle East  there are only 484 females for every 1000 males.  Again, it is not clear how this comes about, although from simply observation of these cultures it is obvious that boy babies are treated with much more care and attention than female babies.  For example, boys are breast-fed for two years, girls for only one year.
Taken together, these instances of widespread  gender bias with babies must add up to a mountain of misery for young mothers.  After the months of waiting and the efforts of giving  birth, every baby is precious in its mother’s eyes.  Or so it should be in simple biological terms.  But it would seem that, in literally millions of cases, local culture then adds huge pressures to frustrate these natural maternal urges.  How easy this is for the new mothers to accept we can only try to guess, but the likelihood is that in many, many cases there are long nights of agony and distress.
Mothers in other parts of the world, where this savage cultural interference with the biological process of human reproduction is absent, may not be faced with such acute, heart-rending decisions, but they have their own special kinds of dilemma that they must face.  In advanced cultures, where women wish to pursue serious careers and at the same time rear families of children, there are other kinds of conflicts and challenges.  These can be solved either by involving other individuals to assist or replace the natural mothers, or by strategies involving  these mothers themselves.

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