“The Divinity of Motherhood”

by Jessica Kuzmier

      Once more, Mother's Day has come and gone. The tradition of flower buying to honor Mom on her special day was in its usual full swing. Breakfasts in bed were made, and in some churches the sermon lauded the holy nature of mothering.
      Like all holidays, this holiday carries baggage for a lot of people. Their mothers are dead, didn't fulfill expectations, or maybe were alcoholic, mentally ill or abusive. Maybe she took off when the kids needed her most to go find herself. Holidays don't usually take all this stuff into consideration. They seem to live in some magical land that the rest of us don't inhabit. Any problem can be remedied by a bunch of lilacs, holidays' credos seems to suggest.
      Mothers themselves get gypped big time, too. It seems like no other state of existence is so venerated yet reviled. It's the most important job in the world, yet if it's all you do, you're "just a mom". If your kid becomes a drug addict when he's twenty-five, somehow it's your fault. Freud helped solidify the modern school of blame the mother, and the fifties, which polarized the role of motherhood, took this to the extreme. Even with the advent of television and the education system taking up the bulk of a child's day, it was assumed that the kid was the product of its parents. Since dad was busy in the office all day, "its parents" seemed euphemistic for "its mother".
      One day of pancakes and flowers make up for all this?
      What has been touted as the "traditional family" by social conservatives, mostly comprising Silent Generation and older baby boomers who only knew of the nuclear family, was really a radical experiment that failed as quickly as it started. The nuclear family was created once mobility increased, via the interstate system and massive consumption of automobiles, not to mention increased airline travel for pleasure. No more could you rely on your maiden sister or the kid's grandparents to hold you up when things got tough. They lived in Toledo while you lived in Topeka. And next year, because the company was promoting Hubby, you were moving to Tampa Bay. So much with connecting with your community.
      The extended family and community were important elements in the family before the rapid technological progress of the postwar era. People, for the most part, grew up in one place, dying in the town that they were born in. Mass corporation had not yet taken over the free market, and services were delegated to individual tradesmen and craftsmen that had roots in the community. Small businesses operated like informal daycare centers-- the kids hung out in the penny store downtown. People were concerned about the welfare of community children because their parents were part of the fabric of their lives, and their children would grow up to take their places. Therefore, to ensure the survival of the community, they were engaged in the upbringing of children as much as parents were. Even though a mother had great responsibility for what her kids turned out to be, she wasn't expected to be the center of a child's life.
      Nowadays, even with the influence of media, school and peers, and with many times, the necessity of a mother to work outside the home just to pay the bills, a mother is expected to know her child inside and out, love it at every moment of the day, and act like it is the most fun thing in the world and never complain. Getting tired is okay, but only as long as you express it is an exhilarating tired. The lack of community and the lessening of family ties should do nothing to dampen the excitement of being a mother. It is as though the mother is the last frontier in the breakdown of the family; if she fails, then there is no hope. So let's pretend that everything is great with Mom so we have some bond to cling to.
      The only way the general community still seems to maintain interest is in the inquiry of a women's maternal status. The litmus of a woman, to some extent, is determined in others' eyes by this role-- does she have children; if she doesn't why not, if she has only one, isn't she afraid of the kid being lonely and isolated, if she has two or more, how far apart are they separated in the birth order, if she had kids a year apart from each other, isn't that selfish, if she has more than say, four kids, isn't she thinking of the consequences of raising so many kids. The community seems to remember it had a role in a person's private family, but it seems to have degenerated into nosiness and busybodiedness only, leaving aside the part that it has a vested interest in seeing that person's children raised properly. Their your kids, you had them, not my problem. But you'd better have at least two or else you must be antisocial and selfish.
      The spirit of Mother's Day, instead of giving token flowers and candy, should be one which honors the essence of where we all came from. One where women are honored by their human family, their brothers and sisters alike, whether they are mothers who have given birth, or women who mother by giving to the community. The spirit of unconditional love calls to help parent those who are around us, young or old. The needs of the community and the world belong to all of us. To place the burdens entirely on the shoulders of another denies the reality that everything we do affects those around us.


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