The Price of Motherhood
I've got lots of feels this morning. After the 2016 election, I don't trust my worldview anymore. I can trust that our elected officials will reflect the Americans who voted them into office, and that there are more of those people. So, I guess what I’m saying is Election Day is my personal barometer for HOW THINGS ARE. And, I’m pretty anxious.
I’m reading The Price of Motherhood, by Ann Crittenden. It’s about how motherhood is considered the most important job by pretty much everyone in the world, but it's unpaid and unvalued. What is valued is a mothers sacrifice, her devotion to her family, and support of her husband’s needs as the breadwinner. And this hasn’t changed all that much in the last hundred years or so. In fact, mothers spend more time raising children now (the book was published in 2001) than they did in the 1920’s, when they were too busy washing clothes by hand and whatever. Even though more women are college-educated and may enter the workplace, many eventually leave or cut back their hours to have children. The motherhood aspect is the thing that mucks up equality in the workplace. When children are involved, we seem to slip right back into traditional gender roles, with the women caring for the children, whether they work or not. Whether they earn more than 50% of the income or not. In homes where housework was shared before having kids, 75% of it slips back into mom’s responsibility after children are born.
I get this. I've lived this.
I was raised by a single working mom in the 1980’s. She taught me to be independent, and to work hard. Her career was everything to her, and it had to be. She had a child to raise.
I have considered myself to be a feminist always. I was punky and androgynus in high school, refusing to conform to antiquated and demeaning ideologies of femininity. But what I didn’t forgo was the idea that I what made me a better person was my willingness to sacrifice myself for others. I married a man and had a baby. I wasn’t earning enough to pay for childcare, so I stayed home. That had not been my plan, and I found it really hard, but I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I accepted that my value as a person lied in my service to my family. And now I can see how horribly damaging that belief is. The last 5 years have been the hardest of my life. By FAR. I wish I could go back and do better. For my kids and myself. Now my kids are 3 and 5, and I’m starting to process my rage. They both started school this year, and I can breathe for the first time in years. I have felt so resentful and trapped, and monstrous for feeling so. I mean, how can I wish to be free from my family? My kids are so fucking beautiful, I would do anything to raise them to be happy, healthy people. Why is this so hard for me? I’ve felt SO MUCH GUILT.
And here’s where it gets really sticky. If I am raising two people while bitterly resentful of my position as their sole caregiver, what are they learning? Is my daughter learning that she will eventually do the same for her family? Is my son learning that his family won't be his concern, his career will be? Are they feeling like they aren’t important enough to me?
We simply must ask for help. My husband is a grad student and was the only source of income for our family until my children started school. I felt that I couldn’t ask for his help, becasue his plate was too full, and he was supporting us. I have always struggled with the fact that I didn’t earn an income. I felt I owed him, so I felt trapped.
I see now that this entire situation was my choice; my unhappiness and rage was caused by my own belief that I wasn’t worth more. I bought into the idea that we shouldnt want, because motherhood is some elevated moral position and my worth was in service to my family. It makes me so angry that I believed that for so long. Its an ongoing process to untangle behaviors from the beliefs that motivate them, but it’s so necessary to let go of that shit.
Ann Crittenden found that as mothers become more educated, they put more importance on raising a family, And that working mothers don't put in less time with their families to accommodate their careers, they put less time into themselves. They sleep less, exercise less, and have less free time. Working mothers put in more hours than any other workers, anywhere.
The importance of raising a family isn’t going anywhere, it's just getting harder for the moms. We spend way more time with our children now than previous generations did. Some of us also want to have a career, or some life outside the home. And as pressure builds to keep our families healthy and safe in a scary world, we alone are expected to step up, and step up, and step up. Of course we will, we are mothers. But at what cost?
We all confess that we haven't showered in days, have been wearing the same leggings for a week, that we survive on coffee and wine. We are being prescribed piles of antidepressants like its normal and fine to need them. And most of us have no fucking clue why we’re falling apart. Its fucking lame. It makes me furious. We need to be real about what we want our lives to look like. Not carry our crosses bravely, with a messy bun and a glass of Pinot. Because until motherhood is a healthy endeavor for everyone involved, we’re doing it wrong.
I am Jessica DaCosta, I'm a proud cannabis enthusiast, advocate, and mom of two.