Mothers are the Unsung Heroes of our World

Peace-of-Eden series, article 10

Sometimes when I am in a right relationship with myself and my purpose in life, all sorts of events seem to come together synchronisticaly. On one of those occasions was when I begun to observe the African Wild Dogs, or the Painted Hunting Dogs, as I prefer to call them. I was looking at the behavior of those Painted Hunting Dogs living in the wilderness space of Madikwe Game Reserve in the North Western Province, and those being preserved in captivity, at Oudtshoorn Cango Wildlife Ranch! The Painted Hunting Dogs are an endangered species, they used to occur in 39 countries in Africa, but over the last 30 years, they have disappeared from 25 of the homelands in which they used to roam. Most of the packs exist in southern and eastern Africa, with small remnant populations remaining in west and central Africa. Hence, their preservation in the wild and in captivity is imperative to their survival.

At the time I was fortunate to be introduced to Andrew Erickson because his nephew, Mark, met my daughter, Cindy, when she agreed to transfer from her school in Cape Town for 2 weeks, along with 3 colleagues, to play her saxophone in the York Highschool band during their production of West Side Story. A brief love affair commenced with Mark travelling frequently to Cape Town, and returning to George with his uncle, who was then partially resident in Somerset West. When I met Andrew, through this liaison of young love, we had an animated discussion about Painted Hunting Dogs and I have the privilege of observing the unique-in-the world filming that took place at Cango Wildlife Ranch Wild Dog Breeding Center, of an Alpha female giving birth to her pups with her 'Man' in attendance!

In a wild dog pack there is only one reproductory pair, the Alpha male and female, who usually bond for life. The Alpha male was in attendance at the birth. I was impressed with the way he helped release the pups from their mother's womb, but he was most preoccupied with the welfare of the Alpha female. The way in which this Alpha pair were operating reminded me of the more conservative and traditional male and female roles that used to be performed in our society - where mothers who were physiologically and psychologically best equipped to nurture and feed their children in those early developmental years of their lives, were freed up to do so by an attentive, protective and providing husband. This thought was confirmed for me when I read an article by a well-known South African businesswoman and feminist, Joanne Fedler. She said:

I have learned that feminism is right, motherhood is possibly the most underrated and undervalued profession, and the state should pay mothers a wage to go bring up kids. When someone tells me, they're just a mother and a housewife, I now pay them homage, as I might have done pre-motherhood to a high-powered businesswoman or politician.

Women with children are the unsung heroes of our world - something feminism taught me in theory, and which I only understood later on in practise (with the advent of her first child). And I have learnt that it is both unfair and magical that women are biologically the chosen people to bear children. I have lost a lot of my theory in the process and found a humility that reminds me that despite what I thought I knew, I really don't know much about anything anymore, except that teletubbies - Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po, all love each other very much.' (Sunday Times, 10th January, 1999). (Brackets are words of writer).