Empowerment: On the value of mothers and of children

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I first learned that children were essentially pooping, crying machines from the American media, courtesy of the movie License to Wed, which even Robin Williams couldn’t save. The overwhelmingly bad film featured creepy twin baby robots that cried nearly nonstop and literally pooped weird blue goo, which understandably did not improve the main protagonist’s opinion of having children. “But all for comedy, right?” I thought dryly.

Probably true. But as I moved from middle school, to high school, then to college, I began to realize that while presented as a running gag and a parody in movies, TV shows and ads, it was actually a serious perception people had of children, and raising them. People honestly did not see much in the value of children, and even found their existence to be detrimental. It wasn’t just media talking to me for the sake of attempting to make me laugh. It was also friends while they talked in all seriousness about why they didn’t want kids. It was in the way that my classes were taught, what my professors said, and what the articles I had to read told me. The only difference was how they were phrased.

Keep house and have babies. That was all the predominantly patriarchal society expected women to and to be able to do. Women can rise above that.

I was such an asshole as a kid and I’m still such an asshole. Just think about all the little assholes that I’d create. The world would never forgive me.

Now I’m just going to go ahead and say this: I am a feminist. I believe that women are more than incredibly capable and versatile in the things they can do, and the places they can go. I believe women can do much more than just keep house or just have children. Women can do anything they set themselves to do, and it is a severe lapse in judgment to believe any less in them.

Nevertheless, I have two problems with the ‘rising above’ part. For one, it irks me because it implies that keeping house or raising children is somehow less of a calling than the professional jobs that women are more often encouraged or empowered to take in the present day. It implies that being a mother is a ‘weak’ position, or not a ‘real’ job at all. I also have a problem with it because it implies that babies and children are burdens to be torn off and put aside.

It’s not to say that everyone who delays or decides against being parents or having children thinks that way. Many have weighed it all out and made their decisions for very wise reasons. But to conclude very generally that children are a burden, that being a mother is a waste or a lowly job compared to a “professional” one is fallacious. To its benefit, such perception was birthed in response to women being pigeonholed to be only mothers, only housewives, which was also wrong. It had the good intention of empowering women. But women are still being shamed. Once women were scorned for seeking professional jobs, for leaving the house to be independent. Now they are scorned for choosing to stay at the house, and be mothers. This not only devalues children. It goes against the very hope of empowering women.

Motherhood is certainly not the only thing women can do. But it certainly isn’t the lowliest thing either. On the contrary, I believe that being a mother is one of the most empowering things a woman could do or be. And if we are to truly empower women, we will give them our support in however they choose to responsibly use their passions, gifts, talents, and time. For some women, this will mean choosing to dedicate part or all of their lives the so-called traditional role of being a mother. And that has a whole glory of its own.

On the more day to day, more unseen basis, mothers are there to show children that there’s someone there for them—something that is too often lacking today. Mothers are often the ones that teach children that they are worth unconditional love, and also that others should be treated that way. They often are the ones that encourage, constructively criticize, uplift and push us on to be best of who we are.

On a more universal scale, the impact of mothers is undeniably great. Women can change the world in many ways—changing policies, changing science, challenging the status quo. And mothers do too, for they are often the ones that raise up and change the next generation. Is our generation spoiled and self-centered, or is it one that’s generous and justice-minded? Is our generation one with men that know how to honor women and treat them with respect and equality? Is our generation full of women that know their own worth and are confident in who they are and where they’re going? Not all the answers will be found in the mothers. But many of them will. And that, while usually not as obvious, is glorious as any other profession, if not even more in some ways.

Children too have a often overlooked, but invaluable wisdom. Perhaps they aren’t professionals, but they certainly teach us a lot, and would affect how our world looks a lot if we actually listened to some of the things they said. Before children have been taught otherwise, they are often the most color-blind and difference-blind people. They don’t know what the rat-race is, or care about money, or having giant buildings or a famous name. They are unashamed, unabashed and so full of faith and imagination—traits that we scorn when we’re older, but are often most in need of.

Children are certainly not a waste. They are the future generations, somehow reminding us of important things we ourselves may have forgotten. And they will change the world.

So what is the value of children, and what is the value of mothers? I suppose, again, that it depends on what we choose to value ourselves.

“An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all he is the greatest.” – Luke 9:46-48