Thursday, December 30, 2010

I am a mother

Why do we not say, simply, I am a mother? Why do we not say: I am a feminist mother whose greatest contribution to making the world a better place is raising children with open searching loving hearts, children who might be world leaders or who might not be world leaders but who will, I hope, be caring human beings who will demand that the world be a better place? Why do we not say, I am a mother, and the work that I do as a mother – the care I give, the love that I offer – extends far beyond hearth and home, far beyond my own children, and causes ripples and waves that will shift sand on shores that I cannot see ... Why do we not say, I am a mother, full stop? Why do I not say that? ~ Catherine, of Her Bad Mother

Catherine at Her Bad Mother wrote this fantastically inspiring essay on motherhood, parenthood, womanliness, manliness, feminism, and changing the world. It is a long essay, but thoroughly worth reading in its entirety. So obvious, and yet so radical an idea - Changing the world begins in the home, by raising our sons and daughters to have empathy and be good people. This is work that is done in the private sphere, within the home. This has traditionally been the work of mothers, although it has taken increasing priority with fathers (such as in our household, where my husband is the primary stay-at-home parent). Catherine's point is that we should celebrate the work of raising children itself, and that work's place in women's history. We celebrate fatherhood, particularly when men embrace fatherhood the way my husband has and embraces the work that has traditionally been done by women. We do not so much celebrate motherhood - "just" motherhood for its importance and value and potential for contribution to the world. Motherhood and the work of women in general tends to be devalued, and she proposes we mothers initiate a change in that thinking by making a simple, yet radical statement. I am a mother, full stop.

Catherine asserts:
Not all mothers are heroines, not all mothers are feminists, not all mothers raise good citizens, not all mothers have the best intentions, even mothers with the best intentions do not always see those intentions fulfilled in the ways that they expect, or at all. None of that matters. What matters is this: ordinary motherhood, undertaken in ordinary ways, can be as extraordinary, can have as extraordinary an impact, as any work undertaken in the public sphere.

Along with Catherine, and for myself, for my child, for the world in which I would like to envision my child living, for women and mothers everywhere, I declare: I am a mother, and my motherhood is important, my motherhood can be radical, my motherhood is a feminist act.

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