Ideology of intensive mothering

From UBC Wiki

Intensive mothering is an ideology of mothering that Hays argues is the dominant form of mothering in North America today.

Intensive mothering involves three components:

1) Mothers are the central caregivers. According to the ideology of intensive mothering, you can’t substitute for a mother’s love.

2) Mothers must use time, energy, money, and expert advice, putting children’s needs at the centre and above mothers own. Hays (1996: 8) writes that intensive mothering is "child-centered, expert-guided, emotionally absorbing, labor-intensive, and financially expensive.”

3) Children are pure and innocent. You can’t put a price on them. Childrearing is utterly distinct from the cool-headed and competitive economic and political realm outside the home.

Hays used a cynic’s view. She steps outside the cultural context and asks "who promotes it? Who benefits from it? Where does it come from? When?"

Who benefits from the ideology of intensive mothering? It is likely men, as this ideology is serving to cater to their interests. The workforce also benefits - their individualistic competitive bureaucratic regimes don’t allow for family life to come into the work place. Hays also says the middle class benefits from this [when talking about ideologies we talk about classes that have power to dissipate those ideologies] as it allows them to mark out a moral terrain where they can have moral superiority over the frivolous rich who may not have anxiety because they have finances to rely on and also separate themselves from the poor. It is women who continue to persist so they may be rebelling against the other dominant ideology which is rationalisation/self interest.

Hays contradicts the ideology of intensive mothering with the ideology of the workplace, both of which she argues are the two most central ideological frameworks of Western society today. The workplace emphasizes efficiency, self-interested and profit-maximizing behaviour, whereas intensive mothering is founded on nurturing qualities and a sense of obligation to others. The two ideologies are opposing and require professional-class women to make decisions about whether to prioritize work or family life when the demands of both spheres are presented simultaneously. The opposition of the two ideologies is rooted in their inequality--society places higher value onto the prioritization and pursuit of career--and their inability to be neatly compartmentalized.