Unlearn The Idea That Motherhood Must Be About Sacrifice

There is a day that I love and loathe at the same time. That day is any of the Mother’s Day allocated to mothers. 

The reason I loathe is that it is often a day that turns into shaming women who are not mothers and also implying that woman is synonymous to motherhood. While I’m happy that mothers are being honored for their often single handed efforts in raising children especially in African societies, I despise the comments from men.

One of such comments which makes my skin crawl has to be: “I love my mother for all the sacrifices she made for us”. The speaker of that comment would then go on to mention all the dreams that were forgone to take care of children. He or even she may go on to state how their mum always woke up by 4 am to prepare them for school while his father slept soundly. If they are feeling generous, they add that they love their mum because she gave their father her salary to make him feel “like the head”.

There are hardly comments about how kind hearted she is. There are hardly comments that celebrate her for moulding them into people that are brave and respected. There are hardly comments that speak to her ability to overcome negative situations and rise like a phoenix. There are hardly comments about how she encouraged them to stand up to bullies in school. The list of what mothers can be praised with is endless.

But why is motherhood about sacrifice and about wearing that sacrificial ability as a badge of honor? Why is it that mothers who are intentional about their careers are often shamed as those who do not love their kids? 

Why is that fathers who work and are intentional about their careers are not seen as lazy but as those who are working hard to provide for their kids? Why again, are mothers who demand help and avenues to recharge shamed as “lazy” even when they are equally working and may even be the breadwinners?

The sad truth is that we have internalized the idea that to be a mother means that one has to give of herself until she is sucked dry and stretched thin. While parenting as a whole requires that some things would be given up, it is an act of sexism that more often than not, only women carry the heavy weight of that sacrifice. 

When a man decides to be a stay home dad so that his wife can flourish in her career, he either is praised endlessly and she may be accused of “emasculating” him. However, when a woman decides to be a stay home mum either by choice or by circumstance, that sacrifice is never truly honored and she may be called a “lazy woman” who was just enjoying her husband’s money without doing anything.

Speaking with Iyunade, she explained that the reason why mothers often wear sacrifice as a badge of honour is because society demands that they do so else they’ll be criticised.

In her words: “I think the reason why it’s so easy for women who have children to get lost in motherhood is cause there are so many expectations from them. 

Because of the way women have been brought up, they need to meet these expectations so even when they have other things going for them, they don’t shine the spotlight on those things. They hide them and put their all into raising their children and they let those children know that you are all I have. 

So, they also let those children know that the sacrifices they are making are for them too and that their existence basically is for them. I see how children might not be able to see their mothers outside of being mothers. But then, I think it’s important also for mothers to be able to ground themselves on their personalities and understand that you are a person before you are a mom.”

The honest truth is that if we continually normalise sacrifice as something only mothers do, then it is not to be a surprise when those mothers grow into women who cannot cut the proverbial umbilical cord and let their children and sons especially be adults.

Women must be raised to have identities outside a man and a child so that they wouldn’t have regret and resentment for giving up their dreams.

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