As planned, I have posted some lovely cozy photos of things I associate with Mother's Day-- my son at age 1 (note the rash on the cheeks-- after months of agony, we discovered he was sensitive to all chemically fragranced soaps or detergents), and the baby quilt my grandmother and I made for him.
But for some reason I just couldn't get excited about this post. All day I thought about how much I love being a mother, how lucky I am to be home with two healthy, beautiful children. But then after supper, I listened to the Women's Circle on my local college radio, and found myself sobbing over the dishes (anyone else experienced this?) Yes, I have done it before, but usually it was for selfish reasons in the past. This time, it was less so. I was crying because of the songs I heard, songs about mothers whose children died in wars, about women who cried together to cope with the pain of losing their children. I thought of how lucky I am, how sad and ashamed I am to be so fortunate here in my safe little bubble while other women's worlds are destroyed by the deaths of their children. Then I began to feel angry.
I never identified myself as political until I became a mother. I felt rather dispassionate politically throughout young adulthood, maybe because I was fortunate enough to grow up unscathed by any major social evils, such as poverty, war, or abuse. With the birth of my first child, things began to change. Her very birth was a struggle-- a struggle to find a place and a doctor who would allow me to give birth in the manner I chose: drug-free and with low interference on the doctor's part. Then, the struggle to breast-feed in a culture that at best turns a blind eye, and at worst, looks away in disgusted awkwardness. And now: the struggle to teach my kids that constant accumulation of more toys, more clothes, more everything is not the way to happiness. The struggle to feed them things that I consider to be food and not garbage. Don't even get me started on trying to avoid/compete with television or other influences that would teach my daughter to mimic adult sexuality in her dress, speech and behavior. Last year my search for toddler-sized flip flops led me to 3 main department stores full of only high-heeled flip-flops!!!
I don't feel like my expectations are too high. I want to raise children who wait until an appropriate age (as in at least 16!) to become sexually active. I want them to have strong, healthy minds and bodies, affected less by the media than by their natural impulses to eat food that truly feeds them and explore the outdoors or act-out play stories of their own creation. I want to raise a daughter who values herself as more than a beautiful, sexual object or a sharp-witted brain. I want to raise a son who values himself more than his ability to win at a competitive sport or excel in school. I don't think it is too much to ask of my country or society that it provide a safe, healthy environment for my children. Unfortunately, it seems increasingly less able to do so.
Granted, my expectations seem ridiculous when compared with the basic requests of mothers across the world who would only ask that their children not be killed. My requests are insignificant in comparison, and I am willing to admit that I am grateful to my country for providing at least this amount of safety to my children. However, my country does not do the same for all of its citizens, and most definitely participates in the killing of children in other countries. I placed the button on my blog last week to start becoming vocal about my feelings on this issue.
With these thoughts in my head, I couldn't help but wonder, what would happen if mothers were a real political force? Just think: REAL maternity leave (ever hear about Scandanavian maternity leave!?), on-site daycare at your workplace, no marketing to children via television, billboards or the internet, more programs to help people recover from child or sexual abuse, school systems that actually produce healthy, happy, thinking children, juvenile detention and prison programs that focus on healing and reconciliation... The list goes on.
How could we mothers, in spite of our differences in race, culture, or religion, not see past those differences to our shared and very simlar bonds of motherhood? I think we could. I think the only thing stopping us is a belief that we cannot make a difference. Maybe we can. We have to start somewhere. Hence my Motherhood Manifesto. :) I would love to hear yours.