Mother's Bill of Rights: Respect
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 SIX: RESPECT
Any way that you look at it we do not respect mothers or mothering in our society. We, the mothers, don’t even fully respect the work we’re doing as we do it. How many times have you needed a break that you didn’t ask for because you didn’t want to seem needy or weak?
How many times have you said, “I don’t know why I’m so tired”?
When was the last time that you stopped and took stock of all that you do as a mother? And in the face of what odds? And with what support? Do you see how very, very rarely you acknowledge yourself?
We like to say that respect has to be earned, and I agree that above and beyond the basic respect that we have for all living things it does. Mothers have more than earned our respect. And yet we refuse to give it.
So what would it look like if we respected motherhood and mothers? Well, we live in a capitalist system, so it would probably look like paying some type of base rate for mothering. Or, at the very least, tax exemptions much larger than they are now.
But that is at a government level – what would it look like interpersonally? It would look like an end to the breast vs bottle wars because we would each respect the other’s choice. It would look like the end of c-section shaming. It would look like the end of mom-shaming period.
Motherhood is constantly making choices, hundreds of choices every day. Imagine if as a society we respected a mother’s right to make those choices. Imagine what would happen if every mother had the information and support to make the choice that worked best for their family.
How do we survive this toxic mess of white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy that tells us that we must be productive or consumptive every moment of every day and that boxes us into how we are allowed to produce and consume based on our race? How do we live and thrive in this? How do we raise children in this?
We stop it. We stop it by acknowledging that we each have a right to respect. We stop it by giving ourselves and our journeys through motherhood the respect that we have each earned. By realizing that we have more than earned it.
We stop it by extending that same respect to other mothers. In person, online, when we are with them and when we’re not – respect as our baseline.
We must have respect – we MUST. Respect for ourselves, our choices, for our paths, our knowing, for our bodies, our souls, and for our hearts. We must also have respect for this work of mothering. For the time that it takes, for the toll that it takes.
Your worth is intrinsic. You were born worthy. There is nothing that has happened to you, nothing that you have done that alters this very basic fact: you are worthy of love, time, respect, and care.
It’s time for you to start acting like it. Reclamation begins with acceptance and action. If you truly respected yourself as a human being and respected yourself as a mother, how would you treat yourself? How would you expect to be treated?
What actions would you tolerate, or not?
Where would your boundaries lie?
How would you hold them?
What value do you place on your needs? On your time?
Do you listen to what your body needs? To what your heart needs?
This is about how others see us and value us, yes, but I am more concerned with how we see and value ourselves. We boil motherhood down to a series of tasks: laundry washed, dried, and folded, scrapes kissed, homework checked, miles traveled, money spent.
Motherhood is also love, worry, care, listening, sharing, giving, teaching. It is co-creating, every single day, the childhood that will form the foundation of an entire life. This is no small thing, and so much of it cannot be quantified. We can’t know how we’re doing in the moment, we must always hope that the hundreds of decisions we made that day will balance out for the good of our child, and of our family.
Motherhood is more than a job, more than a vocation, but it is not an identity or the sum total of our existence – it is a journey.
It is one that changes us. It is one that not all of us will survive. It is one that tests us.
It is one that we do not have to walk alone.
Maybe right now you cannot see yourself clearly, you cannot see that you are worthy of so much more than basic respect. When you can’t see it, I will remind you.