Mother's Bill of Rights: Personhood
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 ONE: PERSONHOOD
Far too many of us have lost our personhood inside parenthood. We define ourselves first and last by our roles as mothers, not remembering that it is a role - it is not who we actually are. Your life is a diamond - motherhood is but one facet of the jewel.
So what do I mean by personhood? And how does our current culture of motherhood strip it away? First, let's define our terms. The Oxford English Dictionary defines personhood as, "The quality or condition of being an individual person". The key word here is individual. Your personhood is who you are, at your core. It is who you have always been and who you would be even if everything in your life was stripped away from you.
Who would you be if I asked you not to define yourself in relation to anyone else? If your parents, partner, children, siblings, friends, co-workers, etc all vanished tomorrow in some sci-fi happening - how would you describe yourself? What are the things that are YOU beyond how you give to the world?
Before you were a mother you were YOU. Who was that?
Personhood can be tricky for cis women who are socialized to see our worth largely through the lens of our value to the patriarchy. If the value of a woman is her fertility, her ability to contribute healthy children to the community, her ability to raise those children into productive members of society, then why would you focus on or encourage the reclamation of personhood by mothers? The goal of society is to socialize each woman to revere motherhood - and not just motherhood, but a specific brand of motherhood: sacrificial motherhood.
The Strong Black Mother who raises her children in the face of oppression with fierce love and determination - but no support. She never cries. She never breaks. She never stops to care for herself. She works (sometimes multiple jobs), she cares for her family (sometimes as a single mother), and she gives all that she has and is so that her children have the hope of a better life.
The Tiger Mom whose life revolves around her child's excellence. This stereotype began as a Chinese mother, but in the way of all things American, has grown to include any Asian mom. Her children are a direct measure of her worth, their success is necessary for her validation. Success here is seen as excellence.
The Pinterest Mom who stays at home to raise her children and spends her days constructing an elaborate, color coordinated, organic, locally sourced, and recyclable world around them. She can turn anything into a flash card and has a board for every age and stage of childhood.
These are just some of the types of mother you are allowed to choose from. For as unique as we all are, when it comes to motherhood we box ourselves in neatly and we pick sides.
Breast vs Bottle
Co-Sleep vs CIO
Homeschool vs Public
Schedule vs Free Range
Even when we break the mold we are careful not to go too far. You can find plenty of funny rants by moms online lamenting the lack of sleep, the loss of privacy, making jokes about how they don't know the first name of any other mothers at the school. You can use these things for comedic fodder. But be careful not to get too serious about it.
Don't mention the grief you felt as you moved from "me" to "mommy".
Don't talk about valuing time alone.
Don't say that you enjoy being away from your children.
Never, EVER complain about motherhood online or in person without starting with the 'good mom' disclaimer: Of course, I love them more than life itself, but...
RECLAIMING PERSONHOOD FROM PARENTHOOD
It is time for each of us to reclaim our full humanity from the culture of sacrificial motherhood. You are amazing, I promise. You have hidden depths, side-splitting silliness, you have untold grace, the warmest hugs, you have love & fire in your soul.
Your mistakes, your flaws, your trauma, your pain, your fears - they are sacred. Your ideals, your hopes, your gifts, your voice - they are sacred. A diamond shines because it refracts light through each facet. THROUGH EACH FACET. It takes all of you to shine.
You do not owe the performance of any type of motherhood to the world. You do not owe that to your children. You do not owe that to your parents, to your partner, to our society. It serves no one for you to shed your personhood and take up this costume of motherhood.
Inside your true self is a way of mothering that is generative and liberating.
Inside your true self is a way of mothering that is healing.
Inside your true self is the mother that your children need.
The person you are was born worthy of love, of respect, of care, of time, of attention. The person you are is more than enough. The person you are contains the mother you are and that mother is amazing.