It is time to come to terms with the nature of motherhood- and I am not just talking about the pregnancy phase. I am speaking about our failure as a society to actually humanise mothers through everything they experience.
I stumbled upon the picture below as I was browsing the internet. The caption had something to do with appreciating the sacrifices our mothers made to raise us.
The reactions were both strange and interesting. For many, it seemed like an appropriate tribute to what mothers go through as they run the household. For others, it was a limited view of what being a mother is all about. They raised the question of the kind of stereotypes we have placed on our mothers as caretakers and as people who should accept their role without complaints.
A third group saw this as a form of bondage, a way women are subjugated by the demands and dictates of the society. They even called out the person who posted for romanticising how the society has made things tough for women.
As Karen Rinaldi says:
The assertion of motherhood as sacrifice comes with a perceived glorification
However, according to the Guardian, women have a lot of things to think about before they become mothers. From work and leisure to sleep, they end up giving up more especially with children under 6 as compared to their partners and unmarried women.
Change our perception of Motherhood
Our view of mothers as just one thing- mothers- takes away the multi-dimensional person that the woman who gave birth to you is. We seem to refuse to see the broader perspective in which mothers can still enjoy motherhood and still be the individual beyond motherhood.
It is why you get people making statements like ‘You are a mother now’ as if to define the kinds of activities a woman can indulge in now that she has had a child.
It is why women, once they become mothers, are asked questions about ‘balancing their career and motherhood’ with insinuations that she can only be one thing.
The situation is worse when it comes to mothers expressing their sexuality. Many celebrities who are mothers-from Beyonce to Kim Kardashian -have come under the scrutiny for being overtly sexual in their career or everyday living.
Others have had it worse when they complain about the things they went through to become mothers. The society often looks at them as if they have blasphemed by talking about the terrible aspects of being a mother.
By defining the ways in which mothers can express themselves and their individuality, we are denying them their humanity.
Running the house as unpaid labour
As I look back to the picture, the aspect of women as caretakes brings up the aspect of unpaid labour. According to Action Aid, unpaid labour includes duties such as “cooking, cleaning, collecting water and firewood, and caring for the ill, elderly and children,” which is usually considered women’s work.
While Action Aid calls out government to set up structures to reduce gender disparity and unpaid care work, we should strive to take up roles in the house as spouses, elder children or relatives. This will go a long way to ease the burden on our mothers.