Something I’ve noticed from my travels is how motherhood is perceived differently from region to region. In Tanzania, being a mother largely defines a woman. She is proud to have many children.
This clashes with the lifestyles of Western women I also knew there, who said they would receive funny looks from the local women when admitting that not only are they childless but that they aren’t interested in motherhood at all.
My country is a better place because women are freer of the pressure to have children at the expanse of other passions they may have. But I also sometimes wonder if we forget just how fundamentally beautiful and important being a mom is.
When Natalie Portman won the Best Actress Oscar in 2011, she thanked her fiance in her acceptance speech for helping provide her “most important role”–being a mom. For this, she was criticized by those who thought she was downplaying her career and Harvard degree. In their eyes, women had worked so hard over the decades to gain equal footing as men, and Portman came along and enabled the trope that women are best kept at home.
Perhaps in our male-dominated history, child rearing has been considered something less than the endeavors men typically undertook: vocation, athletics, exploration, war. So as women began to enjoy more opportunity over the years, they’ve wanted to “prove themselves” by showing they can do all these things, too. In all, I think our society has forgotten that women’s equality isn’t something demonstrated by women doing all the things men can. It simply exists for who women already are.
Not understanding this seems to have lowered the stature of motherhood in the US. It’s seen as old-fashioned and perhaps even as a symbol of the historic patriarchal society. And now today I read about–and have taught–countless children in Minneapolis who need nothing more than a good mom. Really, is there no more important role in human life than motherhood? Not just in creating it, but shaping it?
What the critics of Portman fail to understand is that she wasn’t demeaning women; she was elevating motherhood to the rightful place it deserves.
As we look back on Mother’s Day 2016, I hope we’ve all had a chance to recognize and feel the love had toward all the mothers in our lives–those who raise our children, our nieces and nephews, who raised us(!), who shaped this generation and who will raise the next.