The changing face of motherhood in France
France is the 10th best place in the world to be a mother according to the Save the Children’s 2011 State of the World’s Mothers index. France has one of the highest fertility rates in Europe as well as a high rate of female employment. Family-friendly government policies aim to assist French women in reconciling their work and family life, and achieving a healthy work-life balance remains the primary concern for many French mothers.
During the Enlightenment, motherhood, or la maternité, developed from being a necessary burden for women to evoking ideas of the happy, nurturing mother. Rousseau’s ‘Emile’ was a key contribution to this development, encapsulating the notion that la maternité was a woman’s natural role and responsibility rested with her to ensure the child was well cared for and educated and would subsequently develop into a ‘good’ citizen. This new concept of maternity became know as ‘the cult of Motherhood’ and set the scene for civic motherhood which remained the dominant attitude throughout the 19th century.
By the end of World War One, the ‘cult of motherhood’ was in decline and a more scientific, state-led approach to child rearing arose. Concerns over a shrinking population saw the prevalence of pro-natalist, anti-contraception policies in the first half of the twentieth century. Being a good mother and producing a large family became a public concern and a duty that women owed to the state…
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The Changing Face of Motherhood research was commissioned by Procter & Gamble (P&G)