March 05, 2023
Motherhood is one of the most fundamental components of human existence. However, that doesn't mean it is the same from culture to culture. Instead, motherhood encompasses a wide range of experiences within the same culture. Never mind the sheer range that can be found between different cultures.
Consider these examples of how motherhood can differ from place to place:
Once upon a time, it was near-universal for people to live in a much more communal manner. They didn't settle far from where they grew up. Moreover, they remained in close contact with friends and family, meaning they were embedded in systems of mutual support. Unsurprisingly, that extended to the very taxing experience of motherhood. Nowadays, plenty of people still live this way. For instance, new moms in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania are often surrounded by other women as soon as they have delivered their babies. For example, Maasai women will take care of their tasks while they rest up. Similarly, Swahili men will stay out of the way, so much so that couples sleep in separate rooms for 40 days after childbirth.
Signs of similar practices can be found in a wide range of other cultures. To name an example, new moms in China stay either at home or at the hospital for a month, which is meant to protect their babies' health. Furthermore, they will take various measures to protect their health. One example would be avoiding bathing until the postnatal period ends. Another example would be avoiding "hot" foods in preference for "cold" foods in traditional Chinese medicine.
Meanwhile, Japanese men play a minimal role in pregnancy and everything that comes after. Something that might reflect the strict separation of spheres for many couples in Japanese society. Regardless, it is interesting to note that the Japanese also have a ceremony called maiyamari, which celebrates a child's birth while wishing for their future well-being after the first month of life. Such ceremonies weren't uncommon in much of the world because the first year of a baby's life was the most dangerous by far before the advent of modern medicine.
The western world is continuing to change, so it makes sense that motherhood is continuing to change. People tend to want to be financially stable before they have kids, which makes sense because parenthood is such a huge commitment. As a result, mothers in the developed world have higher average ages than before. Moreover, they have fewer kids. This phenomenon isn't limited to a specific region. Instead, it has shown up everywhere development has happened, which explains why the global population is expected to peak in a few decades before declining thereafter.
Whatever motherhood looks like, most of us treasure our moms. As a result, now is a good time to start getting ready for Mother's Day.
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