Mother, Iron Lady …Or Both?

by Eli Craats 2012

While the reader will probably wonder what does motherhood has to do with the Iron Lady or vice-versa, I will  start by saying thanks to Meryl Streep for her great performance in her recent impersonation of Margaret Thatcher,  in the Iron Lady (2011). Despite the fact that she was England's first prime minister and led the country from 1979-1990,Margareth Thatcher reminded me of how much  we women loose when we forget that our children are more important than any ephemeris  glory or career.

The movie is quite auto-biographic and portrays Maggie as a regular women with her own limitations at work and occasionally, also at home as a mother and wife. Therefore, it made me reflect upon the subject of motherhood and the challenges it represents for less motherly women or women who devotes more of their time in doing business, in building up their own careers as celebrities, a tycoon or as a State Leader such as Thatcher. Well, one certainly knows that there are not as many as her, a claim that can be good or bad for the following reasons:

Good because we do need strong leaders with a heart and she was definitely not one of them. Even though the movie somehow tried to show a less evil side of Thatcher, whose Tory policies didn't show any compassion or concern for the poorest people in the UK, what her supporters called her achievement, actually caused a national psychological distress with riots and exacerbated oppression against the miners that were on strike from 1984-1985. In a book called Defeat for the Jaws of Victory, Inside Kinnocks Labor Party, R. Heffernan and Mike Marqusee tell the dramatic history: "for a full year the miners waged a titanic struggle against the government" (1992: pg 48). Instead of listening to their desperate voices, living the struggle of their lives as it was the case of the average Briton, Thatcher and her government treated them as enemies, a threat to their political powers, and therefore, spent millions, not to help the miners out of their crisis, but to crash them.

Bad, because we do need more women in politics, women with the power, determination and the possibility to go all the way to the top as Margaret did. According UNESCO statistics from December 2011, the number of women in the national Parliament of 190 Nations is still small in comparison with that of man. Surprisingly, it was not in the West but in Africa (Rwanda), where there has been noticed an increasing number of women parliamentarians (

She could have become an amazing icon for women, especially for the great Women's Movement. However, she probably thought, that she had to act as a man, and forgot her important role as mother, as she was quite absent in that matter as well. She also forgot to show her sensitivity and compassion to her countrymen. As Naomi Ruth Lowinsky (2009) well observed, "to be part of the "real world", to be equal to men, we forgot something essential. Our mothers also were women, worthy of our respect."

Nevertheless, I am sure that Carol, Thatcher’s daughter, would not be happy to see me criticizing her mother. One mostly sees one’s parents as heroes. This is Carol defense of her mother: “I was brought up to see home life as a base or launch pad for everything you did in the outside world. I didn’t always understand this as a child. I remember finding my mother in the kitchen one day making Scotch pancakes and I said: “Why can’t you be at home more? All my school friend’s mothers are around. Why can’t you be more like them?” She stopped making the pancakes. “Darling, you have to understand that you have a lot of benefits that other children don’t have: you can come to the Opening of Parliament and have supper at the house of Commons. You can go on overseas holidays.”She was quite right, of course, although it wasn’t until I was older and wiser that I realized it”. (Carol Thatcher 1996, 86, 87).

Justifying our shortcoming as parents, with material benefits is a common mistake we all do sometimes. However, we should not underestimated the psychological impact that parent absenteeism may have in a child’s life. How can a child fill the “mother gap”? I wonder if Carol Thatcher could write more about her own experience. It would help Psychologists and children actually dealing with the situation right now in millions of homes across the country and in other nations.

According “The Child”, a report from the Children’s Bureau (1968, bind 15-17)) in the United States, the effects of an absent parent “are more marked in children whose parents are divorced or separated than in children whose fathers are dead”.

On the other hand, Thatcher’s overall behavior can be seen as a quite experimental response to those who were critical and skeptically questioned if women, could ever play other roles than that of housewives and mothers. We can imagine that  under the pressure's of the seventy’s revolutionary years and ideas (Wilhelm Reich, 1986). Maggie's ultimate goal was not to prove that she could be a good mother, her priority was to prove that she was capable of been the Prime Minister and as tough as her male counterparties.

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