Friday, February 19, 2010

Rambling Frustrated Thoughts on Motherhood

"What I’m really struggling with is how what I’m sacrificing is benefiting human kind. How what I am doing (full-time mothering) matters, especially if it only serves to provide the next generation of women to do the exact same thing. I guess I didn’t express that so well."

I think you have expressed yourself very well — it’s just easiest to respond to a slightly different question than the one you’re wondering about.

Millions upon millions of mothers have done some variation of what you’re doing, and God willing, millions more, including your daughter, will do it in the future. What any individual mother does may not benefit human kind in a monumental way, but that’s not the role of mothering. Each of us experiences mortality only once, and each of us needs a mother, or someone else in that role, and each of us experiences the benefits of being the child of a good mother individually regardless of how many millions of others have the same need. That is, it is irrelevant to your children that you are one of many millions — you are THEIR mother, raising THEM, and that’s the whole world to them.

Even so, I’m not convinced that your individual good mothering, including the drudgery, is of use to your family alone. I have a stake in this world, too, and the quality of my life, and the life of everybody else, depends in part on the fact that millions of mothers have raised their children to pick up their socks, avoid breaking eggs in anybody’s bed, and in general to function in society. I need doctors and clerks and policemen and seamstresses and bus drivers and plumbers; I need overwhelming numbers of people around me who have been raised not to rob or murder me, who have been taught to call 911 if I have an accident, who will cooperate with me in electing good leaders and financing clean water delivery systems, and who will drive on the right side of the road and stop at crosswalks.

I guess what I’m trying to say in brief is that what you are doing leads to everything good within the walls of your own home, and contributes to human kind in ways that are obvious and yet so subtle that you aren’t even aware of them. At least you’re not aware of them in those moments when you’re teaching your children not to tie your tights to the bedposts.

Comment #39 by Ardis Parshall - Rambling Frustrated Thoughts on Motherhood (By Common Consent)


Anonymous said...

My daughter is currently in Sudan working on a project to promote democracy through education.Never thought of that when I was up nights with her.More power to you loving parents.That's one way of changing the world.

Nathan Bunker said...

Some complain that motherhood is drudgery and has little impact on the world. But to be honest, even high profile jobs are mostly drudgery and although they have wide effect they are usually very shallow. A mother has the opportunity to make a very deep impact in a very specific area. The important thing is that you write your own story, in no matter what you do. Florence Nightingale turned the dreadful job of nursing into a respected profession. We can all do the same in our own way.

Julie Stephens said...

I hope my children's teachers don't view their jobs like this. However, I'm sure some do. They might sometimes feel like what is the point. Teach kids a bunch of stuff and they grow up just to be people.
However, a good teacher realizes the real difference a teacher makes. You can't really measure it. You can only notice a part of your students' progress.
I see my children progressing and whether I am their social skills teacher or math teacher or occupational therapist or responsibility teacher or spiritual teacher or sports coach or speech therapist or learn from consequences teacher......I see them change and I know I had a lot of power in those changes. Each child is a real person even if they never grow up and have children themselves.
A teacher can never control a student. You can only give the opportunities or the guidance and then it is up to the student how they react to it. Each child is an individual.
So, parenting is an art, not a science. You don't always get to pick the finished product and will never truly see the influence it will ultimately have on the world.
I can, however, see the influence it has had on me. I feel like a better person than I was before. This may not have been the only worthy cause I could have spent the last 12 years on, but since I did spend the last 12 years on it I am happy to report that it has influence me for good.

Papa D said...

Thanks, everyone, for your excellent comments. I appreciate them.