Everyone’s Got an Opinion on Motherhood
I recently read a NY Times opinion piece titled “Motherhood Isn’t Sacrifice, It’s Selfishness” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/opinion/sunday/motherhood-family-sexism-sacrifice.html) and started thinking about all the conflicting and damaging messages we get about motherhood. If you’re a mother, you know that everyone’s got an opinion on motherhood.
“Cliff Notes” on the Article
The piece primarily talks about not agreeing with the typical quote that mothers hear,
“Motherhood is the hardest job on the planet”.
It talks about motherhood being a selfish act, since procreating is all about passing on our genes. Being truly selfless means having no skin in the game. And is certainly not true in motherhood.
It says that comparing motherhood to a “job”, takes away from the woman’s full worth and pegs her into a specific “job” of motherhood. The article then contradicts itself and talks about all the benefits society should still provide for motherhood, like parental leave, social service supports, etc, despite it not being a job. And in the same breath it calls motherhood a “privilege”, while still advocating for benefits. Oy, so much to unload.
Confusing messages about motherhood
We need to start first by agreeing to the fact that motherhood is a privilege only for the privileged. For many families parenthood comes at a great cost and is at times unplanned and not desired. By viewing mothers as “privileged”, not only do we perpetuate a message that motherhood is some divine glory that a woman needs to experience, but we also make it into some elite club.
What about all the women who want and can’t have children? Should they now feel that the divine gates closed on them and they are somehow less privileged than the women who are mothers? What about the women who don’t want children? Are they in the underprivileged club? You decide.
Unfortunately our society does have very poor messaging around motherhood. Some people, like the author of the article, don’t like motherhood being called a “job”. While many others will balk at the idea of motherhood being a “privilege”. We (mothers) are confused about whether we are allowed to disclose the hard times of motherhood or are required to perpetuate the idea that motherhood is a blessing, with angels coming down from heaven and singing songs to us every day.
The real issue is that both sides of these messages are damaging in different ways. Neither grasps the complexity that is motherhood. And we are not even talking about the fact that fathers are completely excluded from this conversation.
One thing that we cannot escape is that motherhood is a life changing experience for women. And it affects all of us in different ways, no matter how much we might deny it. Motherhood makes us re-prioritize our lives and forge new identities as women. There is no one size fits all formula.
Creating a new image for motherhood
There is no denying it: societal views on motherhood do need a makeover. We need to view mothers as neither goddesses, nor martyrs. We are simply women. Women with different priorities, interests and contributions to the world. We, just like all the other women and men, are allowed to stand tall and decide what those priorities are. We don’t need to fit into a specific description just to make others feel better. And we most certainly do not need to feel that motherhood is either a “privilege” or a “job”. Motherhood is a category on its own. It needs not to fit anywhere else.
I wish for all mothers to be able to shake the stereotypes that are thrown at them and live the life the want. There is no reason your motherhood experience needs to look like someone else’s. Be unapologetically, uniquely and authentically you.
Please, share your experiences (in the comments section) with being stereotyped as a mother and about the confusing messages you have received.
Quote of the day
“Let’s have some new cliches.” ― Samuel Goldwyn
Mental Health Tip of the Day
Journal your feelings. It may feel juvenile but journaling is a great way to release the negativity onto the page instead of carrying it around. Make it into a fun project that you can fill with quotes, gratitudes and well deserved whiny releases.