“When we cling to the idea of motherhood as sacrifice, what we really sacrifice is our sense of self, as if it is the price we pay for having children.” -Karen Rinaldi
Motherhood Isn’t Sacrifice, It’s Selfishness. NYT. Karen Rinaldi.
I love both this article and the comments (make sure you check those out too). Rinaldi addresses what I believe are some vital and problematic social takes on parenting including: The view of motherhood as martyrdom. The view of motherhood as a priviledge. The muddy mixing of vocabulary like mother, parenthood and “job”. Deep biases in regard to a man’s place in parenting versus a woman’s.
As several commentators elucidate, Rinaldi skims over some important factors that make the call to end the victimizing rhetoric, recognize our privilege, and see that parenting is not a “job,” a challenging task.
First and foremost, not all women are entering the state of motherhood under the same circumstances. Not all woman choose it. And upon coming into parenthood, many women are faced with the challenges of being a single-parent, dealing with the “job” (or not) of mothering a new human, often with financial and other lacking social support. I imagine it’d be hard to feel very privileged in such a circumstance.
The “job” (or not) business. I work for myself. I do not recognize general parameters such as having an employer or even a set list of duties as fair measurements for what does or does not define a “job.”
I think that there tends to be a certain negativity around the word “job” for many people. This is understandable, as it often represents some thing we don’t feel like doing and wish we got more for doing it. Nonetheless, I do consider the rearing of my children a “job” of sorts. Perhaps not in the same way that I carve out time and sit here “working,” but in the way that I plan for their needs to be met day by day, the way I observe who they’re becoming in hopes that I’m not raising little assholes, and in the way that I study myself as an individual and parent. Like a “job,” I “show up,” go through the motions, whether I feel like it or not; Meal times, bedtimes, nap times, playtimes, and all those in-betweens where your child is seeking your presence. This is especially true with young children. Just because you’re not paid, because like a “normal job” it’s not always enjoyable, doesn’t mean it’s not your duty. For me, while it is one I do my best to approach with love and a healthy dose of kindness (to myself and my kids) it is a job.
SO. Upon reading Rinaldi’s words and many thought-provoking comments, I find myself searching for a grey area…is there something that we can all take from this? With societal biases that we will continue to push against, and wild injustice throughout the world in regard to women’s rights with their bodies, reproduction, and the lives they are then responsible for, I wonder if asking women, mothers, to see themselves as privileged is simply asking too much? There is a huge grey area between being a victim and being privileged. I imagine that all parents, whatever your circumstances, could benefit, as might our children, if we abandon views of ourselves as victims. This does not mean that we turn a blind eye to injustice or become stagnant in it’s wake. Rather, the call to unvictimization (nope, that’s not a real word) allows us the privilege of shedding burdens we’ve come to define ourselves by, burdens and self-perspectives we often pass on to our children, and instead pass on resilience and strength, giving the next generation tools to further fight the injustices and bias’ that us parenting folks won’t see end in our lives. That, while perhaps a doe-eyed, idealistic vision, is something that I can get behind. On that, I applaud Rinaldi.