“Motherhood is sacred and cannot be attained through mother substitutes” says Dr Paynter
The human baby is the only life form that has to be guided by the mother for suckling, and be helped for many months until the baby is able to explore his or her surroundings.
This is how nature has programmed humankind for establishing intimate relationships between the mother and the baby. The baby learns through sensory functions of vision, hearing, smell, taste and mother-aided movement, which ultimately enables the baby to integrate with the rest of society.
Children who do not have a secure relationship early in life and are deprived of intimate maternal-infant bonding are at greater risk of developing a disturbing mental health issue, educational difficulties and behaviour disorders. This is the basis on which Dr. Arthur Paynter introduced his topic “Impact of Globalization on Motherhood and Childhood”. He delivered a lecture at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre on Tuesday 6th Nov 2012.
Dr.Paynter, a retired Pediatrician, lives in Carlisle in the UK and was here in Sri Lanka to be with his 96 year old mother who lives at the Paynter Home in Nuwara Eliya. Her husband, Arnold Paynter, founded the Paynter Home.
Instinctively, a mother assumes the role of protecting and nurturing her baby. Breast feeding, non-verbal communication and response strengthen baby-mother bonding. They enable the baby to gain confidence.
This is very crucial for creative development and exploring into the unknown. According to Dr.Paynter, there was a time when mothers did not have to make a choice between mothering and something else. Unfortunately, post-industrial revolution, social and economic factors changed and women are forced to take up jobs to complement the household income.
In our globalizing world today, women are increasingly found to be outshining men in acquiring knowledge and skills and, therefore, are called upon to occupy responsible positions. This has also increasingly led to a deliberate choice to adopt measures to lower fertility and resort to mother substitutes. Today, babies are produced externally in in-vitro cultures, or mother-substitutes are employed to bring them up once they are born.
In the globalized and commercialized work-home- work culture of today, children tend to lose their childhood. They are programmed to a competitive life style in which they have lost the freedom of unstructured playtime. Parental anxiety to succeed makes the parents push their children to ‘formal education’ very early, where they are confined to a small space restricting free movement. It is very unfortunate that such practices are being idealized today, and have become priority subjects for policy decisions, said Dr.Paynter.
Dr.Paynter illustrated how women of today are trying to cope with the different demands that the commercializing world has brought upon them (see illustration). He concluded by saying that motherhood is not another chore whenever a women happens to be at home. It has to be earned with dedication, and it is a sacred responsibility on which the entire human social structure depends and, therefore, appropriate policies are needed to raise and celebrate Motherhood.
By a Special Correspondent - Talk at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre