Monday, May 12, 2008

The State of Motherhood... (rant)

It seems of all the species of mammals left living on the earth, modern-day humans are the only ones who do not truly honour motherhood. Wild animals choose their mates based on traits conducive to parenting. And it's not just a trait lost with wildness -- I've been looking into buying sheep, and so of course the sheep-owners are telling me how 'milky' their ewes are, what good mothers they've been, and how protective and gentle the fathers are.
Yesterday was Mother's Day. Quite the event, huh? Parades and medals given out, the front cover of all the papers splashed with mothers who are particularly 'milky' and gentle and patient with their young... Every year it blows me away to see how much the culture I live in honours mothers and mothering. Wow.
Not. Yet I felt honoured. My children cuddled in with me with handmade cards and kisses and professions of deep, true love. They erected a sundial in honour of the day down by the newly dug pond, and I felt honoured. But then we left the property. Big mistake. Dinner at my inlaws was wieners 'because it was easy'. The menfolk stood, beer in hand, watching the highlights of some golf tournament and then some hockey game while the women tended the children and got the food on the table. There was a sweet little "cheers to mums" before we ate, and then the men debated the price of gas and the state of the economy and whether or not real estate prices are going to recover and blah blah blah. I tuned out. I was thinking about the state of motherhood. We ate, we presented gifts to Grandma (mil) who loudly protested that she was not to be given any gifts or cards. And it hit me, that she was the one setting all this up. It was her idea to "keep it simple", her idea to keep the honour out of the day. Because she's never felt much honour in mothering, she can't allow us to either. She's always telling us how important the men's work is, that we shouldn't complain when they come home late, tired, drained, with nothing to offer us as women and mothers. They're working HARD! She's always glorifying what they do as SO important -- and the more money people make, the more she respects and admires them. Not just men. Women too. She's all for equal rights. We were regaled with a story of a young mum we all know whose husband didn't remember her birthday on May 1st. She and this mum's mother both agreed that she should not expect or even hope her husband remembers her birthday because he's an accountant! He's just come through a very important time -- what is her birthday really in the whole scheme of things? I felt sad. Sad for this mum. Sad for my mother-in-law. Sad for my children hearing this story. Sad for the whole world because we are so completely f#@%ed up.
It's not just my mil. Somewhere along the way of gaining equal rights, we threw the baby out with the bathwater. Really. And I know it isn't like this everywhere. I know there are small pockets of human beings who are working hard to change this. I even know some of them and feel grateful to have their hopeful presence in my life. But for the most part, this is what we have come to expect. Mothering is a martyr job. It's hard, it takes everything out of us, it's joyous, it's the most incredible thing we'll ever do. But nobody truly deeply authentically honours the job but our own small children. {Some of us are coming around to it, including me. But we weren't raised that way. We weren't cultured that way. It's a struggle to really LIVE what we KNOW in our heads. To really feel in our hearts the honour that our jobs deserve, isn't it? When you're really honest about it?} As our own little adorers grow up they're cultured to hold it in disdain, to despise their mothers and everything they say and do and wear. A friend received a letter last weekend from her 14 year old daughter, thanking her for being her mum. She said she didn't feel she fit in at school or with any of her friends because they all hate their mothers and she couldn't relate. She thinks she's weird because she adores her mother. How many of you just read that and thought "she'll grow out of that soon enough"? We are cultured to hate our mothers. And we are cultured to think this is "normal".
It's not. It's just our screwed up culture. We are born in total worship of motherhood. Our first few years we think there is no one more important or incredible than mothers. For thousands of years this was our culture. From birth through to death. The birthing mother earth was our goddess, and women were revered. Children were cared for. That was the most important thing we could do.
But then through a series of very messy events, the economy replaced the goddess. So completely that we grow up knowing, now, that if we want to do something really important we'll get a high-flying career in law or accounting or medicine or business. Why? Because you make lots of money. Plain and simple. And the more land you clear and the more houses you build and the more roads you make and the fancier the cars you drive and the more stuff you can buy, well, the more important you obviously are. If you're an entrepreneur you get all sorts of tax breaks. As a mother? Not so much. You can't write off meals, you can't write off trips, you can't write off anything. Because you're not contributing to the economy. And if you're not contributing to the economy, then sorry, hon, but you're just not important in this culture.
And we're just starting to see (some of us, some of us not as was evident at the dinner table last night) that this worship of the economy is what has our planet headed for complete destruction. WHAT IF more people than not (tipping point) woke up this morning and could see that the most important thing we can do is raise our children to be hopeful, caring, happy, compassionate, earth-loving people? What if more people than not refused to work at anything another single day that wasn't supportive of the future of their children? Would more of us stay home with our children and grandchildren and take them for a walk in the woods? Would the malls be empty today? Would the manufacturing plants be too empty to grind out any more useless STUFf today? Would our economy grind to a screeching (GASP!) halt? The world as we know it would END! Wouldn't it?! All the doomsday cults would be RIGHT! The WORLD WOULD END. As we know it.
And then we could begin again. Would we take the time to show our children how to grow their own food and pick up some garbage and teach them how to share this planet with the animals and birds and plants and oceans? We could teach them how we must live in order to survive! And then would we place more priority on actually THRIVING with them? Now? Instead of waiting until we have enough money that we can relax....
Why am I up at 5 this morning writing all this? Because my husband was flopping around in bed like a fish out of water. Why? Because he has an important day today. The BIG boss is coming. The one who actually OWNS everything. That's big stuff, no?
I think about all the women this morning who are getting ready for something important today. Who maybe weren't totally present over the weekend because their minds were still partly engrossed with work. And I don't wonder why more women don't choose to stay home with their small children. Why would they? It's not important in our culture! Oh! Sure! We SAY it is. We say (come on now, say it with me) "mothering is the most important job you could ever do". I hear that over and over when I tell people what I do for a living. We SAY it is, but our culture says it isn't. Mothering can be done in an hour or two a day, can't it? We pay someone to take care of our children. "They're kids! They grow up whether we're there or not. They'll be fine! Look at me! My mother didn't stay home with me and I'm fine!" Don't you read that in our culture all the time? On TV and in movies, and magazines and on the news and just everywhere? Daycare, that's what our Prime Minister talks about whenever we talk about children. We MUST get better funding for daycare. Not to mention that daycare workers are some of the least paid in our society. Nobody talks about changing that -- we just need MORE daycares.
It's not all doom and gloom, I know. My husband is actually really strongly bonded to our children. He rarely works on weekends. He's there to really BE with them most nights before they go to bed. We even have dinner together most evenings. He at least acknowledges that what he's doing right now isn't sustainable. He can't work this many hours, be this drained, be this all-consumed-by-work forever. At some point it will slow down and he will be more present with us. And at least we manage to get him truly grounded and present by the end of most weekends. And there are those holidays (is it 3 weeks a year now? maybe even 4. 4 out of 52, not bad, hey?) where he's so present that we at least all remember what it's like, AND that it really is possible. And hey! He makes lots of money AND his mother is proud of him! So someday we can retire and enjoy our children together. Or grandchildren as it will be.
Will my children grow up any differently? By the time we're all "ready" to be really present with each other and make each other a priority will they be off into the ratrace and have no time for us? Will Annika embrace motherhood and feel it's the most important thing she will ever do? Will Pedar feel that raising his children to be happy, hopeful, caring, compassionate people is the most important thing he could ever do? Will they LIVE that way?
I wish I could answer that with a resounding YES! But I can't. I'm hopeful. I am. But our culture is so strong. And there's just me, their mother, in their lives who sees it all this way...
I remember one of my good friends telling me a story about a father who every Friday night gave a big talk to his children about how important their mother was (was it you J? or Tab? if it was someone reading this, could you type it into the comments? I really need to hear that story again). He'd say that what he had done all week paled in importance to what she'd done. Those kids grew up honouring motherhood. Living it. Not just thinking or say it, but LIVING it. And I'll bet that man had one of the best lives of anyone alive. That mother would've felt validated and really SEEN, filled up and able and willing to pour back into him her gratitude.
What about you? Are you LIVING that motherhood is honourable? Are there any speeches at your table on Friday nights to help put the screwey ideas of our culture into perspective for your children? What is the state of motherhood in your world?


Andrea said...


Amanda said...

Wow is right! I have to admit that I laughed when I read this... not because it is funny. It is all quite sad actually. I laughed because on Mother's Day I was thinking about all of the self-assured Goddess moms that I am so thankful to know. The ones who just inherently know the worth of the important job that they do and derive such joy from it - and you were one of the women I was thinking of. Little did I know you were having such a challenging day. I think you are right, you should have stayed home :-)...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this was very thought provoking and made me realize why I felt so sad and frustrated on Sunday. I grew up in a family that had some lovely Mother's Day (and Father's Day) rituals. Mother's Day always started with breakfast in bed for mom, prepared with such excitement and love! We loved waking mom up with breakfast and flowers. When she was done, we'd all go climb on the bed and share our cards and presents with her. We LOVED this special day and ritual. So I was VERY surprised to find out that not everyone did that! And when I became a mom, I was even more surprised that my husband had no concept of how to make this day special for me.
I'm thankful for Dad's example of making Mom feel appreciated. Even this year, we had a family lunch and he was the only one who took some time to talk about the different stages of mothering, he had some lovely quotes about mothering, and thanked each of us for being such loving, caring, wonderful mothers to his sweet grandkids. I appreciated that. Okay, now I need to send him an email to thank him! And I need to figure out how to make things different in my little family. It's time to take a stand - not only for myself, but for the role of Mothering in our culture.
Sorry this is so long!!!

Anonymous said...

I just realized after I wrote my comment, that my dad grew up in a family of 8 kids, all of whom loved and honored their mother more than any other family I've ever seen. They took every opportunity they could to make their mom feel loved and appreciated and honored. And in his mother's family, it was the same. My Nanny was a mother to 9 kids, and her children were the same - the sun rose and set over their mother....throughout their whole lives - not just while they were young kids. Was that the norm 2 or 3 generations back? Or was that really an unusual beautiful thing that has been passed down? All I know is that I want it to be the same in my family! It makes for a wonderful, cohesive, close, connected family. The question is... how is that achieved?

Mary-Sue said...

Amanda, I spent a few moments thanking the Goddess for the strong mothering women in my life too. It makes such a difference for me and for my children! And I did feel honoured on this special day, just really aware of what "other" messages my kids are getting as soon as they leave the sanctuary of our own home or that of our like-minded friends. I hope you had a really special day too.

Mary-Sue said...

Jacq, I know you can create the atmosphere you want in your own home and family. I look forward to talking about this lots more. And what an amazing gift to have a father who comes from a long line of mothers who've been honoured and fathers who've taught the value of mothering! I can't even imagine. I think a thank-you to your dad is definitely in order! Wow! Thanks for sharing this!