🎵🎶Sweet mother, I no go forget you. For the suffer wey you suffer for me yeah. 🎵🎶
Mother’s Day has become somewhat of a mixed bag of emotions for me. This gratitude and love we feel for many of our mothers is partly because we have benefited from the sacrifice of their heart and/or back breaking labor on our behalf. But isn’t it weird that such a heavy sacrifice of blood, sweat and tears is not a one-off sacrifice, instead it is a routine one, typically expected from mothers/women over and over and over again? Once you start to pay attention, you realize that what it takes to be a ‘sweet mother’, according to societal standards means willing and constant self-harm in order to prioritize everyone else but yourself. Anything less and you’re a ‘bad’ mother.
We admit mothers do almost too much. Yet we continue to expect and celebrate extraordinary sacrifice from mothers/women. Why? Well mothers/women have been deemed the emotional and physical workhorses of caring labor, in addition to being equally productive members of society outside the home. Even when women carry more of the financial weight in the home, most men don’t pick up the commensurate amount of housework. Yes today, women provide more financially, but they don’t labor any less at home because even though this financial contribution of women lowers the supposed burden on men, the men do not typically use this increased bandwidth to take on more emotional/care-taking roles.
So we accept this double burden on women. We say we love our mothers deeply, yet when it benefits us, we don’t question the injustice of the automatic responsibility of labor of love placed on the woman. Instead we turn a blind eye because her suffering is for our gain. Then we spread glowing, flowery tributes about our mothers whenever we get the chance, instead of rallying against their huge emotional/care-taking burden and demanding that fathers also do their part alongside mothers in the home. Someone once tried to stroke my ego by saying to me “at least you get a ‘Sweet mother’ song. There is no ‘Sweet Father’ song”. As if the song somehow compensated for all my efforts and stress. I replied that they could keep the song thank you very much. On a previous mothers day, Unilever sent my daughter home from school with a gift of Omo detergent “for your loving mom”. I was so confused. Unilever did you send dads detergent too on Fathers day? Ofcourse not. Because washing clothes is a lovable, sweet mothers job. *rolls eyes*. See how we start to brainwash our future generations so the injustice thoughtlessly perpetuates itself? It all seems innocuous, until you see it as evidence of harm.
In Nigeria, the nationwide policy is that abortion is illegal unless it is done to save a woman life. Thus even under criminal circumstances like rape, women all over Nigeria are expected to continue to sacrifice themselves and their bodies when the rape results in pregnancy. When we learn to thoughtlessly claim our rights to our mothers suffering on our behalf, it’s an easy jump to claiming rights over the same women’s own bodies. Our society has decided that the function of a woman’s body as a vessel for producing children is more important than the traumatic, life threatening and life-quality altering nature of pregnancy and childbirth, or even seeing an unwanted pregnancy through (even if it is a pregnancy borne from rape). Yet again, the woman’s suffering is unquestioned and the focus is on someone else gain. Women have devolved into little more than ‘envelopes’ to nurture, protect, transport, and provide value on behalf of everyone else but themselves. Meanwhile, due to laws and attitudes such as these, in 2000 alone, unsafe abortions contributed up to 40% of maternal mortality in Nigeria and 13% of global maternal mortality rates. This is just one example of the perniciousness of the acceptance of suffering in motherhood.
Anyways, happy mothers day if it really is happy for you. Because let be real, it’s not happy for everyone. As long as the celebration of perseverance and strength of mothers is done not to placate women into continuing to accept unquestioned abuse while smiling. Suffering in motherhood, while real, should not be glorified as the standard for good parenting. Otherwise, we unduly yoke ourselves, and our children to this harmful standard. Mothers should be celebrated, but with an eye to alleviating and/or sharing the typically one-sided care-taking role that we have come to take for granted, by unlearning this bias and holding every parent equally accountable.
I think this Ariel ad fairly depicts the one-sided expectation of mothers. One correction I would make to Grandpa/husband though, – it’s your child/home too. You’re not helping Grandma/wife. You’re doing your part.