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Motherhood: A Sacrifice or a Privilege?

Earlier this month in a rather controversial article, Karen Rinaldi, a writer for The New York Times, boldly stated her opinions on motherhood. While many hail it as the ultimate sacrifice or the hardest job in the world, she sees it as a completely selfish decision.

Rinaldi, who I should note is a mother of two boys, continues, “The assertion of motherhood as sacrifice comes with a perceived glorification. A woman is expected to sacrifice her time, ambition and sense of self to a higher purpose, one more worthy than her own individual identity.”

When a woman decides to have children, the entire world has an opinion about it, putting all of her choices up for public debate. Nothing belongs exclusively to her anymore. Basically, if I become pregnant, I am immediately a political item. To me, this strange bounty that is placed on mothers raises the question, if our bodies are being constantly legislated what are we really sacrificing? Who is this all for?

“Motherhood is not a sacrifice, but a privilege — one that many of us choose selfishly,” Rinaldi states. It’s true that most parents make a conscious decision to have children, and while it will be a strain on your time, energy, and finances, for those who plan for a family, it’s an intentional and very personal choice. And with this choice, most assume that the benefits of parenthood outway the lack of sleep and cost of college tuition.

But for others, the choice is not so concrete. Rinaldi writes, “Granted, some of us have more autonomy than others. There are many mothers who would not have chosen motherhood, for financial or personal reasons. Still, by owning our roles as mothers and refusing the false accolades of martyrdom, we do more to empower all women.”

Society is changing (slower than I would like, but changing nonetheless), and our family dynamics are no longer locked into archaic structures, but those ideals still linger in the back of our minds. A father with a successful career is considered completely normal, but many still cringe at the idea of the dreaded working mother, who neglects her real job, raising children, for a paycheck.

We have all heard motherhood referred to as, “the hardest job in the world,” and naturally that phrase has taken on a life of its own. People repeat it and it becomes ingrained in us as an understood ideology. The words we use to define ourselves may seem insignificant, but they matter more than we realize. So when we start calling motherhood a burden or a sacrifice, it shrinks women rather than lifting them up. Maybe if we start calling it, in Rinaldi’s words, the “beautiful, messy privilege” that it is, it will seem like less of a job and more of a reward.

So what are your thoughts on motherhood/parenthood? Whether you have children or not, what comes to mind when you think of starting a family? Rinaldi ends her article by saying, “Only when we stop talking about motherhood as sacrifice can we start talking about mothers the way that we deserve.” Do you agree?

Featured Image by eren {sea+prairie} on  Flickr
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Janice Henshaw

    September 1, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    Good story! Like the way it’s put. It’s time to let women decide what they want to do
    and not let the how and why of what society expects from them as mothers interfere
    with their personal choices.
    Thanks you,
    J. H.

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