I recently read about some new research being conducted by Satoshi Kanazawa, the controversial former Psychology Today blogger. A Reader in Management at the London School of Economics, Mr. Kanazawa has “begun to present scholarship asserting that the more intelligent women are, the less likely they are to become mothers.” I'm sure there are thousands of women out there who would take issue with this statement. They know as well as I do that neither the length of my job title, nor the size of my paycheck is a reliable measure of how well I utilize my intelligence.
So, mother= dumb? Or put another way, intelligent= childless? I have to say, I am a bit insulted but not at all surprised. This is the same anti-child rhetoric that radical feminists have been spewing for the past five decades. They have all but said that motherhood is synonymous with slavery. If you have children, your life as you know it will be over. Okay, changed forever, yes, but not OVER. Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique in 1963, examining and confronting the role of women as stay-at-home mothers, and the seeds of discontent were sown. She argued that women had been coaxed into selling out their intellect and ambitions for the paltry price of a new washing machine.
Fast forward to 2013, where there is a movement several years in the making among women who are already mothers (many stay at home full-time or run part-time businesses out of their houses) to unveil the realities of motherhood. There seems to be a sense of indignation over someone not telling us that this was going to be so hard. In an effort to expose the truth that we don't have it all together, we have let it all hang out there: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Honesty is a good thing; it helps us understand that we are not alone in our struggles. While we shouldn't labor under the false assumption that everyone else is doing it all perfectly, I wonder if we haven't contributed to undermining our roles by talking about all the negative aspects of mothering.
I have certainly been guilty of this. I jumped on the bandwagon shortly after Colton was born, with a desire to debunk the romanticized version of motherhood we often hold before we actually have children. I was open about my struggles with post-partum depression, and the hard work of caring for a baby and then a toddler while my husband was away at work for 12 hours a day. Many women thanked me for being real and shattering the isolating illusion that being a mommy is nothing but pure bliss.
So, I was caught off guard when I began to realize just how negative I had become. I was doing more complaining about the daily tasks of mothering than pointing out the simple, ordinary joys. When I saw a pregnant woman browsing the baby aisles at Target and passed her with my two kids who may or may not have been dangerously on the verge of a total meltdown, I'd think "Just wait. THIS is what's in store for you." When people asked me if I'm having more children, I would be quick to say I'm a member of the "two and through club".
The message in our culture today is children are an inconvenience; wait to have them until you're "ready", or better yet don't have them at all. It was subtle and happened over time, but I found myself perpetuating this very same message. When a friend who was childless would tell me she couldn't wait to have kids, I'd encourage her to wait because once she had them her life would be completely changed- she wouldn't have the freedom to do whatever she wished, whenever she wished. I thought I was doing her a favor, but I was really doing her (and myself) a disservice.
When I write and speak more about the tantrums, the stomach viruses, and the sibling squabbles, I am conveying that being a mother is tiresome, loathsome, and something to be avoided at all costs. There are so many beautiful, sacred moments in the ordinary that I miss when I am focused on those details. I forget that my kids are two precious individuals God has entrusted me to raise, who miraculously grew inside me from one cell into a complex human being. After all, the idea that children are a blessing is as old as time. It is also biblical. And something I've sadly forgotten.
We definitely shouldn't try to live up to an impossible standard or ideal as mothers. That takes our focus off of our unique talents and circumstances, including the special children that we alone have been given to care for. Mrs. Friedan complained about this all throughout her book. This is one of the things the women's lib movement in the 60's and 70's was trying to liberate us from. However, fifty years later, what remains is that stay-at-home mothers still believe that there must be something wrong with them if they do not find great satisfaction in every moment of parenting and taking care of a house. What we are left with is that the value in raising children and managing a household has been stripped away, because they proclaimed that women can't find meaning in these tasks. They also succeeded in getting two generations of women to deny the distinctive, inherent qualities that set them apart from men and uniquely position them as life-givers and nurturers.
The term "housewife" or "mother" is what you make of it. You can either see it as a misery or a joy. We glorify God and experience His blessing when we accept and joyfully embrace his created design, function, and order for our lives as women. Society is all too willing to feed us the line that we should abandon the home in pursuit of our so-called real ambitions. We are sold a bill of goods that to give up our careers or other aspirations for raising children is, quite bluntly, dumb. The "war on women" is more like a war on mothers.
It is not unintelligent, though, to recognize that children are only this young for such a short amount of time, compared with the rest of one's life, and that during these crucial years our role as mothers is vitally important in shaping and molding their minds, values, and morals, along with instilling a sense of stability. As I muddle my way through these early years of mothering, I take heart that my actions, though not always glamorous or acknowledged, will one day produce a godly young man and woman. That is where I get my fulfillment, if you will. This is worth sacrificing all those other achievements for.