General Love of Children
The notion which some people have that single women are filled with a deep and intense maternal love of children which is constantly frustrated by their single state causes much pity to be wasted on them. As a rule a single woman's interest and affection in children remains general and diffused in nature. Even when she has a particular fondness for a child of her family group, a younger child of the family or a nephew or niece, her affection for him lacks the concentration and intensity of mother love. On the other hand, there are very few single women who do not like children and almost all of them are interested in promoting the welfare of children. But even the general love of children which almost all single women have varies in depth and intensity from one to the other. One woman may like children so much that she wishes to work with them as a nurse, a teacher, or a social worker. Other single women are quite satisfied by occasional association with children and they do not wish to work with them. Still other single women who have a genuine interest in the pro-motion of better living conditions and educational opportunities for children do not desire personal association with them at all but they are apparently satisfied to make a money contribution to a family or to a social agency, or to work for a new law or other measure affecting child welfare. The notion that all women should have a "motherly" interest in children causes some single women to affect a sentimental interest in them which is evidently false but which they display in order not to seem a typical or unwomanly. An honest display of whatever genuine interest they do feel on the level at which it is experienced would be more pleasing as well as more effective. For there can be no doubt that the abounding but undisciplined energy of the child can inject a disturbing element into a well-ordered adult existence which is seldom desired by others than those who are identified with him through the ties of family.
Some single women have an interest in children which makes them desire direct association with them in their work. This liking for children is by no means the only reason, however, which prompts women to enter occupations which bring association with children. Some women enter these pursuits because the opportunities for pay and advancement are better and because in these pursuits they do not enter into competition with men. Nursing young children, teaching them and doing welfare work for them are occupations for which women seem well fitted by nature, and occupations which, on the whole, are avoided by men. Women have more opportunities for advancement in these lines of work and they can often rise to the top positions. It does seem to be true, however, that women in these lines of work either have a liking for children when they enter the work or they develop this liking in the course of their work if they remain in it. For women who do not like association with children do not usually succeed in teaching or other forms of work with children and they are likely to pass on to other fields after a few years of it. The "sour puss" school teacher who remained in teaching even though she disliked the work is seldom found today because so many other occupational fields are open to women. But the liking which women have for the children with whom they work in no way conflicts with the mother's love of the child even though the objective may be the same, i.e., the welfare of the child. For the interest of the single woman in the child, while it may be warm and friendly and unselfish in nature, is less personal, less intense and less possessive than the mother's love. And it can hardly be doubted that most children need both forms of interest for their development to maturity. Parent-teacher associations have done much to bring under-standing harmony in the relations between home and school and to unify their efforts on behalf of the child.
Some women prefer to work with the underprivileged child or with the child who lacks the care of his own parents. "Child Welfare" work is often supposed to mean closer association with children than teaching or other forms of group work. But even here the social worker does not play the role of mother nor does she desire to do so. Her interest lies in promoting the welfare of the child but in order to do this effectively her interest, while deep and genuine, re-mains detached. She does not allow herself to become involved with him or with his problems in an emotional way for this would render her ineffective not only with him but with her other clients as well. For when she allows her own emotions to play a part in planning for the child she becomes to that extent interested in herself rather than in the welfare of the child. It is the foster home mother or other substitute parent who assumes the responsibility for the closer, more personal ties with the child.
Wonder is sometimes expressed that the single woman who works with children does not desire close personal association with them in her own home. Some women do, of course, and their association with younger siblings, nephews and nieces or even the neighbors' children are pleasant and affectionate. But the average woman whose interest brings her into direct association with children finds the day's work sufficient in the opportunity which it affords and she is glad to escape to association with adults or with books when the day's work is ended.