Posted by: kshayes513 | May 13, 2012

Shake Up Your Definition of Motherhood

mom takes her 2 little kids on a pony ride

My mother poses for a Christmas card with my brother and me.

Mothers are controversial.

Wait, what?

No! Everyone loves a mother. Mothers love their kids unconditionally – once a mom, always a mom.  Moms kiss boo-boos all better and make brownies and work three jobs to put the kids through college. Moms get the spots out of the laundry and the carpet, drive the whole junior hockey team to a championship in their mini-vans; make a heartwarming dinner in half an hour, and smile lovingly at Dad’s bumbling attempts to keep up with their awesomeness.

Here’s how much mothers are revered in America, especially mothers who stay home to take care of their kids: when a Democratic campaign worker questioned Ann Romney’s ability to understand the lives of ordinary working American women, Republicans shut down the issue instantly by positioning it as an attack, not on Mrs. Romney’s wealth compared to most women, but on her role as a stay-at-home mother of five.

Mothers are such a popular ideal that all sides of the American culture wars want Mom to be their own icon.  So motherhood has become a lightning rod for every political, economic and cultural controversy we have. Kids are failing in schools? We need better schools, or we need the moms to be more involved in their kids’ education, or we need moms to stay home and help the kids with their homework.  Most kids are being raised by single moms? We need to make sure birth control is accessible so people only become moms when they want to, or we need much better day care, jobs and education for single moms, or we need to stop abortion and promote traditional marriage so these moms have a husband to take care of them and their babies.

No, this isn’t a political rant. Bear with me. Motherhood has never been so polarized or polarizing in American history. Somewhere in American culture you can currently find an expression of  every ideal of motherhood from the “Quiverfull” cult to  “Heather Has Two Mommies;” from the “Tiger Mother” to the controversy over Time Magazine’s “attachment parenting” cover.

These ideas are controversial, because for most of us, the definition of  “motherhood” is built into our worldview like a floor in a house, so integral to our assumptions about the nature of life and the universe, that we never question it until we bash our heads against a definition of motherhood that doesn’t look like ours. Then there’s screaming and flame wars and political meltdowns.

And I’m not even getting into the personal side, of expectations met and unmet from our own mothers and ourselves as mothers (if you are one).  That’s another day and another discussion.

For today, it’s enough, I hope, for me to ask you: have you thought about the role of mothers in your own worldbuilding? Have you just defaulted to your own built-in definition of motherhood, or have you really looked at who mothers might be in your world, that they are not in ours? How might different cultures or species define a good mother or a bad one? How much might your world’s biology determine these definitions (like the primate biology that underlies attachment parenting theories); and how much might technology change or even eradicate them (Brave New WorldEthan of Athos)?

So don’t take your mothers for granted.  And I’m talking both literally, in the real world, and metaphorically, in the worlds you create.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: