More information on Texas mothers who murder
Here's a good article in the Dallas Observer about the recent spate of mothers who murdered their children in midst of religious and/or magical paranoid delusions. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I follow these cases with interest--the public's reactions are rather telling of our general values.
I think one of the reasons that people were reluctant in the first Yates case to admit that she acted out of an onslaught of paranoid delusions and her own mental breakdown is due to a combination of two very powerful beliefs that are hard to shake. One is the belief that "crazy" is just something you are and that other people can perceive it easily. The other belief is that staying at home with your children in helpful, not hurtful, to the health of women who have problems or mental illnesses.
On TV or in the movies, having children is a sure sign of mental health for female characters, especially those who stay at home. And while out and out insanity is rarely tied to childless female characters, they are invariably neurotic, especially in comedies. Only recently in a post-Yates world can I think of any depictions of stay-at-home mothers that struggle with loneliness or frustration that are the natural result of being locked up with kids all day. "Desperate Housewives" has a character who struggles with her four children. But they also have a childless character who is shown to be somewhat empty-hearted as a direct result, for "balance" I guess.
I think the worst indicator of a prevalent belief that child-bearing stabilizes women's mental health is the movement to convince people that abortion drives women crazy. Story after story after story you read in literature from the pro-life movement that puports to be "sympathetic" to women who've had abortions imply that these women who have mental problems would have been much better off with a baby to raise. It's routinely ignored that child-bearing can exacerbate present mental illnesses.
By no means am I saying that child-bearing makes women crazy. I think it's clear across the board that women who deteriorate after having children, such as the women described in the Observer article, usually have serious unchecked mental problems beforehand. But it's common sense to me that few things could be worse for someone who is struggling with mental illness to isolate her at home with minors in her charge and expect everything to turn out peachy.