I’m a mother.
I love my daughters. I’m overwhelmed by how cool they’re turning out. Both of my daughters are artistic, sensitive, empathetic, and their ideal evening is eating wings and watching Doctor Who. I definitely feel like I’ve done the world a favor here.
That said, I really don’t like Mother’s Day.
I can’t stand all the sentimental and overly sweet messaging we throw out on Mother’s Day from a culture that very obviously doesn’t honor mothers, what with our rising maternal death rates, lack of accountability for violence against women, lack of accessible health care, support of separating children from their mothers, and lack of paid maternity leave.
We live in a culture that tolerates all of that, but then people turn around on this one day and tell me being a mother is the most important thing I’ll ever do.
Being a mother is a part of who I am, but it’s not all that I am, and I don’t like it when the world ignores my wholeness and focuses on one part of me. I don’t buy into the idea that motherhood is the thing I’m here on Earth to do. It’s one thing, not the only thing.
My role as a mother is important, but I don’t see it as the most important thing I’ll ever do in life. I won’t be raising children forever, and I don’t plan on dying the day my youngest leaves for college. I won’t cease to exist on Earth as a human person once I’m not actively raising kids. I plan on doing quite a bit during and after that time, thanks.
Assuming I live into my 80s, I’ll only spend about a quarter of my life raising my children. Am I really supposed to believe the other ¾ of my life is basically meaningless? Come on.
Right now, parenting is a top priority for me, but shouldn’t that be true of all parents, fathers included? We don’t tend to talk about it that way, though, do we? Fathers aren’t often told the most important thing they’ll ever do in life is raise a child. Why is that?
We know why. Men aren’t reduced to one single role. Men are allowed to be fathers and also have other important callings in life.
Mothers can be mothers and also following other callings.
Dorothy Day was a mother. Would we say the most important thing she did was have a daughter and ignore all the other important work she did? Can’t all of it be important?
How many other mothers have made significant contributions to the world?
I’m not saying every single mother needs to make some earth-shattering contribution to society as a whole. I’m saying everyone should be allowed to follow their callings in life. Some women don’t have a calling outside parenthood. Some men don’t have a calling outside parenthood either. That’s okay. Those who do have a calling in addition to parenthood should be free to follow it without all the patronizing nonsense about how we are sooooo important from people who want to deny us health care and maternity leave.
When people who don’t actually support mothers by doing anything that would help mothers tell us, “Motherhood is the most important job,” what they’re really doing is patting us on the head and saying, “Hush now. Just be satisfied with what we allow you to have.” Pretending to honor motherhood is just a tactic they use to shut us up. They aren’t praising us. They’re trying to manipulate us.
I take parenting seriously, but then again, I take all of my work seriously. Some of the work I do has nothing to do with my children, but it’s work I sincerely believe God wants me to do. What’s more important than doing God’s work?
Sometimes motherhood isn’t the job. It’s one of our jobs.
Some mothers heal the sick. Some mothers create art that brings people closer to God. Some mothers feed the hungry. Some mothers fight for justice. This is all God’s work. None of it is less important than being a parent. All of it is important, and all of it is valuable.
I can’t stand Mother’s Day. I can’t stand our culture paying lip service to appreciating mothers by boxing us in with stereotypes and guilting us into staying in our place when our place is anywhere God calls us to be.
Yes, parenting is important. It’s exhausting and challenging. I know. I really, really know. And, yes, mothers should be appreciated for what we do. But how are we really showing that appreciation?
We don’t box men in the same way. When men heal the sick, create art, feed the hungry, or fight for justice, they’re primarily recognized for that work, not for being a father. Does that mean we don’t value fathers? Of course not.
Part of honoring mothers means honoring everything a mother does, even the work she does that doesn’t involve her children.
We expect women to focus inward on the family while we allow men to focus outwardly on the world. Really, mothers and fathers both need to balance inward and outward focuses. Fathers shouldn’t be so outwardly focused they aren’t actively parenting their children. Women shouldn’t be pressured to inwardly focus so much they lose their identity as an individual person and aren’t able to follow any call they might have to focus on the rest of the world as well.
Maybe one woman doesn’t have a calling outside raising her family. That’s fine. Some men don’t have a calling outside raising their family. That’s fine too. We don’t all fit into a little box. Everyone should feel comfortable following their call, and we should support each other in that. We can’t take one mother who has a calling to raise a family, and nothing else, and apply that to every mother.
It’s not wrong to be a stay-at-home mother. It’s wrong to insist that’s the calling of every mother. It’s wrong to reduce any mother to just that one word. I know so many awesome women who stay home with their children. I don’t view them only as “a mother,” but as a full human being who has her own interests, strengths, challenges, and personality that stretch beyond that one label.
Raising children might be the most important thing some mothers do, but let’s not pretend we can apply that to every mother. I’m pretty sick of hearing it when I know it’s not true. We don’t have to lie and devalue all the other important work so many mothers do. It’s more honoring of mothers to honor their entire person.
I believe the most important lesson I’ve taught my children is that caring for my family is my most important job, but my family doesn’t all live in this house. Everyone in the world is our family. That’s the most important calling we all have.
Now, please excuse me while I go accept some handmade gifts from my children who don’t view me as just an extension of themselves, but as a complete, separate person who cares for them and cares for others while retaining all of my Kristy-ness.