Karen Rinaldi makes some really good points in her New York Times piece about motherhood and how it is too often portrayed and thankless drudgery. Not so, says Rinaldi who begins the piece by explaining how she enjoyed hanging out with her own children on a recent vacation:
I was looking forward to uninterrupted time with my boys. We would spend days by the ocean and take trips to the boardwalk, where they would scream with delight while riding the roller coaster — the same one I’d ridden when I was their age, then ridden alongside them until Hurricane Sandy deposited it into the Atlantic. We’d ram one another with bumper cars; we’d ride the old-fashioned merry-go-round, waiting until my youngest son’s favorite horse, bright-blue Freddy, became available. Some days were sure to end in tears of exhaustion, but the tears didn’t outweigh the joy. Even on the bad days.
It’s true that too often moms are portrayed as slaves to their children and that motherhood brings no joy. Rinaldi explains that this narrative isn’t just cultural; it’s etymological, saying the word “motherhood” has evolved to become synonymous with “sacrifice.”
When we cling to the idea of motherhood as sacrifice, what we really sacrifice is our sense of self, as if it is the price we pay for having children.
Rinaldi wants to see this change and for people to see motherhood as a privilege rather than a sacrifice:
By reframing motherhood as a privilege, we redirect agency back to the mother, empowering her, celebrating her autonomy instead of her sacrifice. Granted, some of us have more autonomy than others. There are many mothers who would not have chosen motherhood, for financial or personal reasons. Still, by owning our roles as mothers and refusing the false accolades of martyrdom, we do more to empower all women.
It was also refreshing to see Rinaldi take on that popular concept that stay-at-home moms should earn a six-figure salary for taking care of the kids and the home:
Calling motherhood “the hardest job in the world” misses the point completely because having and raising children is not a “job.” No one will deny that there is exhaustion, fear and tedium. Raising a family is hard work, but so is every other meaningful aspect of our lives.
The language surrounding child rearing as a job surely derived from caregivers’ and homemakers’ efforts to be acknowledged as fulfilling an important role. And clearly raising children is one of the most important things we do — for both women and men — but that does not make it a job. In a job, an employer pays for services an employee agrees to perform. And there is a boss to whom the employee reports. In the case of parenting, who would that be?
Enter jokes about that “who” being the kid. But my kid has exactly $5.40 in his piggy bank and he’s not giving me a dime.
Rinaldi goes slightly off course at the end of her piece, trotting down the predictable anti-male path of suggesting dads don’t really do much and that parenthood is largely a women’s job. Certainly that’s true in some households but to suggest today that most men don’t contribute is just silly. Yet, overall, Rinaldi is to be applauded for encouraging a change to the “woe is me” narrative so prevalent in the parenting world today.