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English 212

2002 Third Paper

On Serendip


Sexuality Education for Mothers

Sarah Hesson

Sexuality Education for Mothers
In considering a sex-ed curriculum for the group of people I am working with, I had to extend the possibilities of such an education beyond their traditional realm. The population I work with, mostly women, all have babies up to 1 year old; it is a sexually active population who is now dealing with the trials of motherhood for the first time, or perhaps the second or third time. Thus, it seems necessary to gear the sexuality education toward safe sex practices and largely with issues surrounding pregnancy. Also, along with safe sex rhetoric, positive outlooks that celebrate pregnancy despite the age or marital status of the woman seem applicable. An overlying theme of this sexuality education might be Celebrating Motherhood.
All of the web-based research I found dealt with maintaining the mother's health during and after pregnancy. I think this component of a sex-ed curriculum, though not traditionally related to sexuality, would benefit this group. Such an emphasis would reinforce the woman's separateness from her new child, and the fact that maintaining her own health does not mean neglecting her child's. Physical fitness is also a large part of self-esteem and positive thinking. The articles I found indicated that women who took care of themselves after their pregnancies where happier and less stressed. Also, after giving birth, women's images of their own sexuality often change. Physical fitness can help facilitate this change in thought and actual appearance by helping reinforce that though the body is changed, it is still strong and healthy.
The same ideas apply to addressing eating habits and weight gain. Much of a woman's negative feelings following pregnancy, or at any time, relate to bad habits rather than actual appearance. Eating healthily is important to the mental and physical health and recovery of the mother, but also to the care of the baby. If a woman is breastfeeding, her milk is directly affected by her food intake, and even if she is not, she will be ill-prepared to care for a child if she does not maintain her own health. For these reasons, the importance of exercise and diet seem relevant, if not indispensable, in creating an applicable dialogue of sexuality among this group.
Another relevant facet of sexuality education for this group is safe sex practices as well as changing views of sexuality. Safe sex seems a logical topic to preset to a group who is obviously sexually active, but to present it in the traditional way would probably seem preachy and irrelevant to this group; therefore, a new approach would be in order. One such approach might be fostering open discussion about what methods of safe sex are accessible and realistic, and why others do not seem to be so. This could precede a discussion on making other forms more available, or how to talk to peers or younger women about the importance of such practices. This would be particularly applicable to women with children in their adolescent years.
Changing views of sexuality seems another topic relevant to this group ľonce women become mothers, who they are to others, and what they must be to their child, redefines them as individuals, and particularly as sexual individuals. Again, open discussion seems the best way to approach this topic. Asking opinions about how different women dealt sexually with becoming a mother would create a dialogue between the mothers, and a support system as well. Especially if women are single, not only do their perspectives on dating change, but the people they date also see them differently. Opening discussion to these changes could create an opportunity to reinforce the positive effect motherhood has on one's sexuality, but also to voice the personal challenges it presents, which are often overlooked. Then, a group workshop could brainstorm ways in which mothers can negotiate their lives as sexual beings and their new role as mothers without neglecting either role.
Along these same lines of redefining and rediscovering the individual, I feel an important topic to address would be the way women in their position are represented and perceived in society. To look at different media forms such as TV shows, movies, commercials, billboards, and music, and critique the messages these media forces send to society might be useful in realizing the societal roots some perceptions of the self come from. The idea that women with children, especially single women, are so strong that they have no needs of their own, for example, is an idea reinforced in media that limits single mothers' perceptions of self.
In brainstorming an appropriate language to approach a group of people with more experience and certainly different experience than myself, I continually revert back to the importance of their own language and their own voices. By presenting information, such as topics on health and exercise, and then letting the women claim the topic for their own and rework it in a way fitting to their lifestyles seems the most beneficial. Especially in relating academic topics to a population largely college uneducated, the use of familiar language is crucial. I believe this education curriculum would work best in a setting where opinions are welcomed and valued, and where the population has as much say in the curriculum as its coordinator.
Sources
Websites:
Exercising During Pregnancy
http://www.findarticles.com/cf_dls/m3225/n8_v57/20570146/p1/article.jhtml
Pregnancy and Weight Gain
http://www.findarticles.com/cf_dls/m3225/6_61/61432877/print.jhtml
Keep in Shape While Pregnant
http://www.findarticles.com/cf_dls/m1077/n10_v53/20971232/print.jhtml
For New Moms
http://www.fitpregnancy.com/magazines/magCategory/FitnMagCat.asp?catid=463&curcatid=186&SuperCID=463&CID=B&SubCID=A

Books:
Chase, Susan E.. Mothers and Children: Feminist Analyses and Personal Narratives.
New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2001.
Merrick, Elizabeth. Reconceiving Black Adolescent Childbearing. Boulder, Colorado:
Westview Press, 2001.
Kaplan, Elaine Bell. Not Our Kind of Girl: Unraveling the Myths of Black Teenage
Motherhood. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.


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