Teresa D. Goins
A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts. (Washington Irving, 1783-1859)
In light of Women’s History Month – and in the midst of a complicated health pandemic, when everything is scary and has terribly gone awry – let’s celebrate those precious beings we call “Mother.” Whether they are working or stay-at-home females, a Mother’s
contribution is incalculable; yet, her work is rarely appreciated and always goes “unpaid.” Let’s explore some statistics and enjoy 10 ways to honor the work of Motherhood, from an insightful Washington Post article written by Kimberly Seals Allers on March 13, 2020. *
Each March, countless accolades are given to women (suitably so) for their “firsts” accomplishments, their rising professional fame in the working world, but hardly ever, their impact as Mothers on society (whether they do Motherhood fulltime or squeeze it into their schedules before and after working hours). Recent Pew Research Center data reports that 86 percent of U.S. women between the ages of 40 and 44 are Mothers. Yet, we demoralize the Mother’s role in “infant health, childhood development, education, and the ongoing existence of the human race” by only celebrating her on Mother’s Day. Ann Crittenden, author of The Price of Motherhood, says, “Just because we do the work of raising children out of love and a sense of duty doesn’t mean that it isn’t real, hard work.” According to a recent report by Oxfam International (a global movement that fights inequality), Mothers would have made almost 11 trillion dollars in 2019 “if they earned minimum wage for their unpaid work.” This wage would cover routine housework, shopping for the family, childcare, and caregiving for elderly relatives – none of which is recognized by economists.
Oscar Wilde (author, playwright, and poet in late Victorian England) wrote, “people know the price of everything [but] the value of nothing.” No one should work for free, but society has accepted that premise for Mothers for centuries! As women, we must applaud our “work” selves but also admire our “Mother” selves. Joy Rose, a Mother studies scholar and Director of the Museum of Motherhood, says that we should strive to make women’s history and caregiving labor “a visible and accessible part of education – in history, economics, and liberal studies.” Only then can a real value be assigned to a Mother’s work. “Right now, [Mothers] are invisible, performing invisible labor” (Rose).
To honor and value “unpaid” Mothers, according to Allers, we should begin to master these 10 concepts: (1) Challenge the system. Revisit the values assigned to “care work” to advocate change; (2) Be well-read. Read titles on Motherhood in a historical, racial, or cultural context; (3) Advocate policy change. Support paid family medical leave, equal pay, affordable child care, and free preschool; (4) Start at home. Be an activist for Motherhood and its worth within your own family unit; (5) Implore social safety nets. Understand and campaign for policy implications that affect women and Mothers; (6) Include Motherhood heroes in your Women’s History Month celebrations. One example is Jane Addams who, in Chicago in 1889, founded the Hull-House, one of the first establishments to offer childcare for women who had to work outside the home; (7) Recognize powerful women who were mothers. Remember Sojourner Truth (and her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech in 1851), who had 13 children and took a white man to court for custody of her son; (8) Watch your words. In conversation, never say “just a mother” or “only a mother”; (9) Support Motherhood activists in the Arts: Mother: The Job supports message-inspired art, “Building the Future One Child at a Time”; and (10) And don’t forget our sons and daughters. Continue to teach the upcoming generations about the miraculous worth of Motherhood!
“Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (Proverbs 31:31). If your mother is in heaven, try more every day to be like her. If she is away, pick up the phone and tell her you love her. If she is near, hold, hug, and kiss her on the cheek. Hereto, whatever you do, cherish her! Happy Women’s History Month to all who have cradled us into this world. Your love and toil is appreciated!
* Kimberly Seals Allers is a journalist and author of five books; she writes about motherhood and the intersection of race, class, and policy.