Can mother centres be the way out?

Author: by Ryszka Nóra

We talked to Emesi Dömösi, President of MotherNature-Anyatermészet Association and board member of MINE (Mother Centers International Network of Empowerment) about the situation of mothers and women, victimhood, war and how mother centers can help us.

This is the opening article of MoNa’s autumn round of the Ukrainian Fund. The series of articles will continue on Fridays.

Something is happening to us women and mothers these days. A MoNa’s  Ukrainian Fund  spring  round is a very inspiring example of this. It’s as if a strange organising and joining together has begun, as if we are beginning to find our strength. But why is this not a basic?
What is the starting point, so to speak, from which we must rise? And why is motherhood so strongly linked to victimhood?

Dömösi Emese

Emese Dömösi, president of MoNa, board member of MINE (Photo: Impact Design)

I think there are myths about motherhood that are simply not true to life. The deeply ingrained image of the perfect mother that we encounter through religious and social ideals does not fit with reality. According to the myth of the holy mother, the mother is unconditional love, who only gives, like an unquenchable spring. We flesh and blood women cannot live up to this.

We should realise that a mother is also a human being who needs a very strong support network, not someone who does everything on her own, loves everything and everyone, and never gets tired.

The gap between the expected and the real image of a mother is so great that it is no wonder that these two create conflict within us.

“We should admit that the mother is also human,
who needs a very strong support network.”

Is there a historical reason for this?

Before the feminist movements, women lived a very different life. They were not allowed to learn, not allowed to decide about their lives. They could not decide who to marry, or whether they could earn their own money… And that was not so long ago, we are talking about only 3-4 generations.

Since then, of course, the position of men and fatherhood has changed, but not that much. The explosive change in the status of women has brought huge progress. It has both opened new doors and confronted us with our previous roles.

Have we got ourselves into a rut?

Yes, and into role conflict. This is typically reflected in the general expectation that “work as if you are not a mother. And mothering as if you don’t have a job or a desire to fulfill yourself in other areas.”

In the past, mothers didn’t think about motherhood as much. It was easy, the children were nurtured, they had responsibilities, and the grandparents kept them, but only enough to keep them out of trouble… But nowadays, with the needs and demands of children coming first, we mothers have been pushed even further into the background.

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. I think it takes a whole village to raise and support a MOTHER. Because it is a very exhausting task, both mentally and physically. And we are lost in that.

“it takes a village to raise a MOTHER”

Perhaps that is why there is such a strong attachment and clinging to motherhood as a role – it is easier to dissolve into it as a martyr, because “it is the vocation of women”. It’s easier – apparently – to live our lives doing everything for the child.

Motherhood also entails constantly meeting the needs of the other, immediately, for years. And the “reward” we get for this: a baby smile, a drawing, a performance, is very little feedback that we are doing our job well.

How do you think you can get out of this situation?

In the Community and with Community support. We need community to see ourselves in the mirror of the other. And to see others, different ways, different solutions – because motherhood is not a sacred thing that can only be done one way, it is our diversity that helps us to find solutions.

Some people go back to work with a 6-month-old baby, and others dedicate their whole life to motherhood. It’s all fine.

If we women can build a non-judgmental, accepting environment among ourselves, there is potential. Because it’s a mistake to think that if a lot of women get together, it’s bound to turn into a fight. It’s not true, we’re just led to believe it, because we end up realising how strong we are together.

How is such a female environment different?

Basically, it is non-linear. Continuous growth is not progress. “More-bigger-better” is not the value. Instead of linearity, there is circularity. Progress is about reinventing ourselves over and over again.

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions, but individual paths. And dialogue, continuous dialogue, is very important, because this is where the solution lies at community and organisational level.

No competition in the women’s round?

Yes, you can! It is necessary, because we want to be better, but the extent and the way is not the same. This is expressed very well by the term COOPETITION. It is a mixture of the words cooperation and competition, with the emphasis on cooperation.

A képen szöveg látható

Automatikusan generált leírás

cooperation + competition = COOPETTION

I think we should now be very aware in the world of the importance of cooperation. Global problems do not stop at borders. I really believe that women will find solutions to the world’s problems. Because we can create systems that have specific answers and can react suddenly.

In order to connect with each other and become open to cooperation, we first need to be able to climb out of our oppressed and sometimes self-pitying situation. But as long as a mum is working 16 hours a day and managing 3 people, it’s hard enough to step out of the merry-go-round and become a change-maker. How do you get started on this journey?

First of all, we need to recognise for ourselves the competences we acquire during motherhood. At the moment, these are neither defined nor recognised. And yet it is a great treasure to be such professional experts on life and the flow of life. I believe that motherhood is the most powerful informal learning journey.

A képen szöveg, személy, lány, fiatal látható

Automatikusan generált leírás

These competences can be well defined in a space where self-reflection can be practiced. Motherhood is a long process, our competences do not emerge overnight – and we need to be able to be aware of them, to articulate them and to say them.

Is it difficult to find such an accepting and self-aware environment? Or do you have to create one?

This could be achieved primarily by connecting with other mothers. But we are so isolated these days! On the other hand, in spaces where mothers meet, the focus is almost always on the child. Of course, there is a need for children’s activities, but the essential thing would be what happens now in the hallway before and after the programs. So mothers can connect with each other.

We need spaces where mothers can go with their children. But the focus is not on the children, but on creating a balance.

Unfortunately, when we try to connect with other mums, we are often met with competition. For some reason it’s not about supporting each other, it’s about being “better” than the other. Why is that?

These are the values of the patriarchal world. We think we have to compete, that it will be my merit if my child is “more-bigger-better”.

What do you think is the real value instead of “more-bigger-better”?

Diversity and acceptance. To accept that we are diverse, that there are different paths to development and different solutions.

The point of these spaces is precisely that the mother does not see herself as a client, as she would in a consultation with a child protection officer, an educational counsellor or a paediatrician. Because it is not good to be a victim or a client. There is a place for knowing when to go to a professional. But when it is not someone else’s knowledge that is needed, when we are looking for our own answers, when we are trying to define ourselves, to understand our own motherhood, it is not a good idea to do it in a subordinate relationship.

The next paragraph was an insert in a small box:

What are the mother- or family centres?

They are typically open spaces, initiated by citizens, which serve as meeting places for communities of mothers and women.

“They are very resilient organisms, operating in a less rigid structure, almost like a family. Because of that, they can react very quickly if something happens, whether it’s a natural disaster, a Covid or a war situation.”

Whether they receive state aid varies from country to country. There are already more than 1000 such organisations worldwide, but in our country the creation of parent centres is still in its infancy.

“The József Attila housing estate Mother Ship  Mother Centre; a Hello  Mom, which is special because it approaches the business side; in Miskolc, the My Moon and we, the MotherNature – Mother Nature  Association

What are the biggest barriers to us women and mothers stepping out of our subordinate roles and into our power?

On the one hand, most of our resources are exhausted in everyday struggles, so few of us have the time and energy to deal with societal issues.

Another problem is our isolation – which is also a sign of victimisation. Isolation is just as present among victims of relationship violence, victims of war conflict and lonely women in the Green Areas. In such cases, the sense of self is dissolved to the point of incapacitation and paralysis.

And we have arrived at the feeling of incompetence. While there are many expectations of us, our abilities are not recognised at all – either in small ways or at a societal level. I think one of the most striking forms of this is maternity rape – where the mother’s competence is called into question in a biological process that takes place in our own bodies.

Moreover, as a fourth such factor – the values we develop during motherhood are difficult to monetise, or even define.

However, I think that if women and mothers speak up and become aware of these abilities, they will realise what power they have! An overwhelming power that can be a solution to many of the issues of our time, both at an individual and societal level.

Whether we are talking about war or other difficult situations, we always come to the conclusion that the role of supportive communities is cardinal.

Belonging to a community also has a huge impact on the individual. In community we can experience much better what we are good at and useful for individually. I can finally believe that I am competent in something. Also, rising up in a community and finding a common way out is a very strong cohesive force. These communities remind women, on a visceral level, of who they really are: a circle of acceptance, holding and connection.

The project we are talking about is supported by MoNa and MINE. While MoNa brings together national parent communities, MINE does the same at international level. Why is it also worth joining an international organisation if you are thinking of setting up a parent group or a parent centre?

The international network MINE has accumulated a wealth of knowledge and experience on the functioning of these communities. There are so many examples of how women who are in a hopeless situation can come together to build something new.

For example, there is the Bosnian Mother Centre, which played a major role in post-war reconstruction and is open to all, regardless of religion or ethnicity.

The Roma Mother Centre in Belgrade is taking a leading role in providing a community and a way out for vulnerable families living in extreme poverty.
There are also mother centres in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, some German provinces and on the South American continent.

It is also a source of knowledge, support and inspiration. If you are interested in creating a mother centre or a women’s community, you should also join the MoNa and MINE community.

The project is MotherNature-Anyatermature Association and MINE, Mother Centers International Network for Empowerment.

Are you organising a mothers’ group or would you like to? 

Did you know that there are already thousands of Mother Centres abroad? 

How is there a proven model, a concept that others have tried and tested and have been working with for decades?

Did you know that our neighbours, the Slovaks, have 50 such mother’s communities, with buildings, children’s playgrounds, programmes for mothers? And in the Czech Republic 250!!!!

The MINE (Mother Centers International Network for Empowerment) international network has more than 1,000 such mother communities.

Source: MotherNature – Mother Nature Association 

Featured image: by MINE – Mother Centers International Network for Empowerment