Mother's Bill of Rights: Care
The Mother's Bill of Rights is a reclaiming of the rights that the current culture of sacrificial motherhood would strip from us. It is a commitment to ourselves and to our families that we will not diminish ourselves or them by placing these parts of us on the altar of motherhood. We will be whole human beings. This is the gift we give to ourselves, our children, and our world.
ARTICLE FOUR: CARE
When was the last time that someone took care of you in any way? What would that look like in your life? As mothers caring is our primary function and we show it in so many ways. We take care of scrapes and cuts. We take care of laundry. We take care of dinner. We take care of broken hearts and forgotten book reports and lost shoes and we take care of teaching consent and respecting boundaries and teaching them to love themselves and, and, and...
We take care of it all, but what we're really doing is giving, not taking. We are taking responsibility and giving care. We do this for our children, for our partners, for our families and our communities. We give and give and give. When do we actually take care of and for ourselves?
Who offers to care for the mother?
Mothers of newborns may get offers of care, but they are generally excuses for the other adults in your life to get to smell that brand new baby smell. And I don't blame them, the smell of purity and hope is intoxicating. But even that initial support fades after a few weeks as people pick back up the threads of their own lives.
So who offers care to the mother of the preschooler?
For the mother of the 'big kid'?
The mother of the tween?
The mother of the teenager?
We roll our eyes and sigh at how difficult each of these ages and stages can be. But aside from the second Sunday in May - when is a mother cared for?
When was the last time someone asked you how they could help, how you were doing, or what would make you smile? When was the last time that someone offered comfort? Who checks in with you simply to let you know that they are thinking about you and that they care?
We are so conditioned to see mothers as caregivers that the idea of mothers as humans who also need to receive care is revelatory. But you are not a giving machine. You are a human being who is worthy of care and who is not weak for needing it.
There have been a lot of conversations lately about the 'emotional load' of motherhood and the stress that it puts on mothers and on relationships. It is this assumed capacity for and proficiency with caretaking that makes the emotional load so heavy and so invisible. It is assumed that the mother will make the appointments, remember the clothing sizes, and keep track of the daily minutiae of family life. It doesn't seem to occur to anyone that the mother may not be the member of the family best suited to these tasks. It doesn't occur to most families to divide tasks based on personality, preference, or proficiency instead of gender.
Just as we do not respect mothers, we do not respect the work of mothers.
These caretaking tasks fall heavy onto shoulders already bearing the weight of societal expectations and a mother reaches for a glass of wine, a bar of chocolate, or a credit card looking for some comfort.
And we laugh.
We make memes.
We share viral videos with wine bottles turned into glasses.
It never occurs to any of us that we, the mothers, need care and comfort and support. But you do. We do. Each of us. Every human being needs to be cared for and you are still a human being, mama.
So how do we create networks of care and support?
I am not naive enough to tell you that you can easily find or create safe and supportive spaces either online or face to face. Humans are complex and community building takes vision, intention, and work. But I beg you not to believe the misogynist lie that women cannot build and sustain supportive communities. We do not always become 'mean girls'. It is not inevitable that you will be hurt or shunned.
To reclaim care in our lives we must first be honest about what we need and where it hurts. Reach out to your family, your friends, the people in your life who do care for you even when they don't know how to show it.
We cannot doubt the force and power of our online communities in our lives. They can be deep wells of caring and a balm for weary souls. Simply having a place to breathe a be honest about how our days are going can be healing.
Open your arms wide, mama, and let people love you. Your vulnerability is not weakness. Your need does not make you less worthy.
Ask for it.
You are worth it.
You deserve care.