How do societal norms influence motherhood?

The influence of societal norms on motherhood is expansive. But first, what are societal norms? Societal norms are unwritten rules about how to behave. For example, as children we are taught to have good manners, to be polite to others, to eat with knives and forks and to wear clean clothes; these are societal norms.

In motherhood, we are subject to an exhaustive list of societal norms; in western society, these include, but are not limited to:

  • being a good mother (which in itself changes and is rooted in individual perspective),
  • historic and outdated but entrenched gender roles (unfortunately still quite present),
  • the prioritisation of children and family over the mother’s personal goals/interests
  • mothers will instinctually know what to do and how to cope with children
  • mothers will return to their pre-baby weight and ‘look good’
  • motherhood is expected to be fulfilling and all-encompassing, ‘the greatest gift’

There are many more social norms that impact motherhood, as well as women more generally, but what we can take from social norms, is their role in shaping our choices and behaviour.

Similarly, in family life, and throughout an individuals life, social norms influence the choices we make. In western society, we usually go to school, possibly tertiary education, or we get a job, and we climb the ladder. We continue to work towards making more money, working longer hours, buying a home, expensive whitegoods and furniture, and then we usually have a baby. These choices reflect the structure of society; they reflect the majority of what individuals choose to do. However, what is important is to ask the question: just because most people choose these things, are they the ‘right’ things to do?

Minimalism is a way of simplifying your life so you are able to ask yourself these questions? As a result of the process, we recognised that we didn’t want to live in a main city, we wanted less debt, we wanted a better lifestyle, we wanted to be around more while our children were young, we wanted to study, we wanted a quieter life with fewer commitments and obligations.

Perhaps you have considered and are aware of social norms, and how they have influenced your choices, but perhaps you have not? Have you considered how your parents and your peers have influenced your life? Did you buy a three bedroom home in the suburbs like most of us, or have you chosen something different? Recognising social norms in your choices allows the freedom to make intentional choices.


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