Sunday, August 2, 2009

Label me this

When I was in Maine I saw a personalized license plate that read, "KWLTR." It took me a second to discern quilter from that. And I thought it was kinda odd. I mean to feel so defined by your hobby (or I guess, possibly, profession) to consider it a label that encompasses who you are. And then I wondered what I would define myself as. I guess I see myself first and foremost as a mother.

But when I thought that it immediately brought up the millions of times I have heard women complain about being defined as a mother. "I'm so much more than that," they say. And I can see that. Truly aren't we all? But I can't think of anything more important than being a good mother. So why is the knee jerk reaction to be insulted?

The answer is obvious. Motherhood is so looked down upon. According to Linda Hirschman monkeys could raise children. She doesn't understand why highly educated women would rather raise children than argue court cases or cure sick people. (I would say "teach children" but my guess is that if she thinks mothering is worthless she probably has a similarly low opinion of teachers--Those who can't do, teach.)

When I think of the dilemma as my own I immediately know that nothing is more worthy of my time and abilities than to raise Maggie (and all the other future kids I'll hopefully end up with) to be a compassionate and intelligent person. But am I raising Maggie to be a mother? Or rather, if I look at it not as being my choice but Maggie's choice. Would I be ok with Maggie wanting to be a wife and mother?
And even if I were, truly, what would I say if she told me her life aspirations were to be a mother? My first thought is that it's not that easy; one must have a mate and preferably an education and an ability to stay home. But it's not so easy to be most things. You can't just decide to be a lawyer either; you must get a bachelor's degree and take the LSATS and get into law school, etc. Would I encourage Maggie (or anyone) to approach becoming a mother in the same way?

I remember a (female) friend telling me once that she thought women who were in school to get their M-R-S "degree" were so presumptive to think that it was ok for them to stay home and raise children rather than working (because we all know raising children isn't real work). And yet, traditionally that's been women's role in life. I know, I know. Women can do anything and should have no limitations. And I completely agree with that. Obviously. But still the first generation to be raised in the atmosphere that women can do anything they want and be whomever they want is the generation that "opted-out."
But I guess my point isn't whether or not women should or should not be SAHMs (in fact that's not point at all—to each her own), but rather why do we have such a low opinion of mothers in the first place. Why do we live in a society where is completely acceptable (and encouraged) to openly discuss and criticize mothers and the way they. . . well everything, interact with their children, talk to their children, deal with their careers/jobs/homes/spouses?


becca said...

I hate that when people ask me what I "do" I feel I need to either defend my answer of "I stay home with my kids" or preface it by saying "even though I have my MBA and worked for years, I now stay home..." or something along those lines. Actually, where I live, if you DO work, you're almost pitied. "Oh, I'm sorry you have to earn a second income" is the look that goes across people's faces... the whole thing is just weird. Moms should get to do what they are comfortable doing and need to do and accepted for it but it's not always the case.

P.S. Welcome back! Never been to Maine but it's on my list!

Maggie May said...

glad to find you, and where i work it's the same as above... kind of pitied when you work