Yesterday and the day before I was at this strategic planning meeting for our organization where we were deep into visioning and strategising exercises. As a Non Profit organization involved in the “Change business” visioning exercises often take on a dream like quality and people get quite emotional and poetic. It was while we were engaged thus that someone voiced aloud the thought about how maternity is central to a woman’s life and we cannot empower a woman unless we first address her needs as a mother.. Though there were counter arguments to this , the gentleman maintained that womens’ choices in life always revolve around their motherhood.
While not disputing the fact that a woman’s choices may revolve around her needs as a mother , I would like to reflect around a very basic question about motherhood itself – what are the choices that women have around it?
We women are taught from childhood to aspire towards this one goal in life- to be a mother!! Motherhood in most cultures is the most exalted status that a woman can hope to achieve within her family and community. Despite education and employment outside the home, we still aspire for motherhood. But the question is – how much of this is our own real aspiration and how much of it is something that we have internalized in order to prove ourselves and our reproductive capacities?
In India, a woman who does not have children is called very derogatory names. She is shunned in society as an “unlucky” woman. Couples who can afford it, spend a lot of money trying all possible ways that science has to help them conceive…!
It is funny that no one acknowledges it but motherhood is a way that a patriarchal society uses to control a woman life and sexuality! If you ask those millions of women in our society who live in loveless, unhappy and violent marriages as to why they do so the answer would be “Because of the children”. Most often women have no way out of these situations because their ability to cope alone with the social responsibilities of being a parent is very limited. This would seem ridiculous if we see that women in most families are the ones who are actually burdened with the responsibility of parenting. It is usually we women, who look after the children, feeding them, giving up careers and caring for them when they are ill. Yet to be able to able to do that while living alone without a man by our side is something that we find very difficult – never mind if that man is a drunkard or an abusive person! In my work I have seen that most poor women are not able to participate in economic activities as much as men and take risks around businesses because of this motherhood thing!
Yet we aspire for mother hood like nothing else in this world…!!! Why is it that everything about ourselves finally boils down to our wombs? Aren’t there any other choices that we can exercise to prove ourselves in this world? Why is the answer to that even from someone like me a hesitant YES and not an emphatic one I don’t know…. Education has given us opportunities that our mothers could not dream of – yet we are unable to exercise them fully – we educated women live still in this “twilight” zone where we want to exercise the new choices AND continue with being mothers… “Either” “or” options are difficult to exercise but they give us a clarity of purpose in life. It gives us a direction to move with confidence. Otherwise we will never be able to live life by our rules. By no means am I suggesting that we should not be mothers – my opinion is that we should become mothers because we want to and when we are ready for it and not because our inlaws or the woman next door makes snide remarks about our child less state.
And frankly, folks, womanhood is after all a social construction- the biological aspect is only a side to it! Let us move our lives out of our wombs and into our heads.