Updated: May 21, 2022
As we head into the Mother's Day weekend, I think of all of the moms who have been doing double and triple duty this year, working from home, home schooling their children, and still putting food on the table every night. I don't mean to sound so completely 1950s and old school, but the one thing I've noticed during the national Shelter at Home is that in even the most modern families, there are still a lot of unspoken expectations around home-making that fall silently to the mother. Even with both parents home, the mother is still doing all of the cleaning, housework, and cooking--unless she's made a serious deal about it and co-opted her family members.
I'm not trying to minimize the work of other family roles. Fathers and children also have important contributions (although I think our expectations can be quite skewed). And similarly, in families with two mothers, or two fathers, or other gender constructs, I'm not fully talking about sexuality, so much as the fact that someone in the family tends to take on the archetypal role of the Mother. That is often one woman, and even when there are two moms, there is one woman who will default into the socialized role, rather than totally remaking it.
Even if a mom is working from home, she's still expected to drop all of that to care for a child in distress at any moment, if kids are in the picture. Dads traditionally get to choose their response. It might often be, "I'm working!" whereas a mom is seen as 'bad' if her response is anything other than instant action.
If a house a dirty, other family members or mothers will look toward the mom as the one who dropped the ball.
If a relationship breaks up, society will often wonder first what the mom did, or why she didn't have the strength to stay, how she could do this to her children, etc.
I know I'm going down a dark rabbit hole here but stay with me. Our mothers are strong. They have been through so much. Mothers, even imperfect ones (aren't we all imperfect), knit together a family. They can also tear it apart. But fathers have that responsibility too, and we need to stop perpetuating the story that it's ALL on the mother. We need to teach our men and boys something different. We need to train them up to understand how important it is for them to dialogue with their loved ones about preconceived expectations, and teach them to hold more complexity and humanity around the role of Mother.
When i first had a child, my son's father assumed that I would be the one to put him to bed every night, and to soothe his every hurt. I changed that belief quickly because what would that teach my son about being a man, if he can not also be nurturing? My son's father was surprised, but willing to try it another way, and then he came to love how being a father allowed him to express tenderness in ways that his male social & career circles did not always foster.
However, the shocker for me was realizing how widespread this perspective is that a man's place is outside of the home, and a woman's place is within it. So many men the world over believe that women deal with the home stuff, and as long as they're making some money to give to those women, then they can do whatever they want. It doesn't work that way. This kind of mentality is an enslavement mentality. It's a consumerist mentality. It hurts relationships because there is no true dialogue about roles, purpose, vision, and co-created future. This same mentality creates victimization, and abuse.
Women, as we celebrate Mother's Day this weekend, I ask you to think about the expectations and unspoken agreements you see around the mothers in your life. Include yourself in this, whether or not you are a mother. To honor mothers, consider opening a dialogue with those around you about what motherhood means, and how mothers--ALL of the mothers--can be more deeply served, supported, and healed.
Blessings! And Happy Mother's Day!
DAILEY LITTLE is a healing practitioner, transformational life coach, ordained Priestess, and teacher who founded Healing Heart Reiki to help others navigate life with joy. She teaches classes in healing and mindset from a magical peaceful corner of the world in Northern California. For more info see: www.SantaRosaReiki.com