by Tracee Sioux
When looking at 6 to 12 week maternity leave policies in the United States one has to wonder:
Do employers and lawmakers hate mothers? Or do they hate babies?
Or do they hate babies?
After you push a human being out of your crotch and feel pressured to return to work before your stitches have even dissolved you have to wonder, Which of us to they hate more?
What causes policies that are detrimental to both mother and child?
Devaluation of motherhood.
What if anti-mother employment policies are a direct result of women criticizing motherhood? Women do it to preserve our hard-won place in public life. Perhaps, the end-result is damaging and harmful to working-mothers and their families because it manifests in anti-mothering employment policy.
I'm playing with the theory that the devaluation of motherhood is a bi-product of feminism and emancipation. An over-correction, if you will.
Follow my thinking here, for thousands of years women were submissive and oppressed. We were told the only thing we were qualified for was mothering. To break out of our narrowly-defined role, we did the only thing we could: we minimized and devalued motherhood.
Consider my family as a microcosm of the whole. In order for me, personally, to break away from my mother's Church and Society sanctioned stay-at-home-mom role I minimized what she did. The cleaning, the cooking, the nurturing, the caring, the self-sacrifice, the moral building, the breast-feeding, the birthing, the nursing, the educating, the training, the whole mothering bit got reduced to nothing. Nothing important or validating anyway.
Now that I have children of my own I can see that this so-called nothing is really what makes the world go round. The growing of people, nurturing human beings, the next generation, trumps professional achievement. I want both, but the mothering keeps the entire species evolving and thriving according to the scientific Grandmother hypothesis.
To break away, I devalued motherhood and then was shocked, angry and surprised that my husband would dare equate my mothering to nothing.
I think there is ample evidence, in the last 30 years, that men will follow our lead. They'll resist, but they will eventually follow. We are, as their mothers and wives, the most influential people in their lives. If we led them to devalue motherhood, then it stands to reason that we can lead them back.
Valuing motherhood starts with each of us. Obviously, we have made good progress. Women are not going to run back into their Normal Rockwell mothering roles, it didn't make us happy then for legitimate reasons.
But, I think it's a grave mistake to criticize the stay-at-home mom who does choose that role today. The stay-at-home mom reminds us that motherhood, in and of itself, is a valid ambition.
Why would employers and lawmakers hate mothers? It would be absurd to hate the very people they love most. Is it possible that anti-mother employment policies are the result of women devaluing motherhood?
Clarification: I use the term mothering and motherhood in a collective sense. For instance, though Oprah has no children I think she mothers all women. Likewise, Violet, who brings up some issues about mother's in the workplace has spent 15 years mothering me, though she suffered from infertility.
Clarificaton II: This is not meant to be a controversial article on working versus staying at home. I suggest that when we devalue one we devalue the other. It's meant to offer a solution:
When we value motherhood all women, working or not, mother or non-mother, single or married, benefit from family-friendly (however you want to define family is fine with me) policies.