There is a difference between motherhood and mothering. Motherhood can be defined as the state of being a mother and having the ‘qualities’ of a mother. Mothering, on the other hand, can be defined as the nurturing and raising of a child by a mother – in the way she desires, that suits her and her child.
Mothering is not defined by any quality, or whatever set standard; the woman defines that standard for herself and her child in a healthy way that she deems fit. Motherhood is patriarchal, while mothering is liberating. Motherhood can be burdensome, while mothering can be easier, eye opening and enjoyable.
My experience with motherhood was when I was pregnant with my second child; my son was not yet 2 years old and had to keep going to school. My husband said, Jumoke let this guy stay at home. I am not always around due to work related issues, please save yourself the stress of going that far with a pregnancy and pushing a buggy all about the place.
I was not happy with that suggestion; it was as if I was failing my son by not taking him to school every day. I kept pushing – even while I was sometimes on the verge of collapsing. Motherhood would not let me see reason with my husband’s suggestion. After all the society expects a good mother to sacrifice always for her kids. Sometimes while taking him to school, he would cry and scream, kicking and itching to be brought out of the buggy. Sometimes I would run (my heavily pregnant self) with the buggy wanting to catch the train. It was mentally tasking and physically draining for me. I was sinking every day, just because motherhood has a standard which every mother must meet. I wanted to meet that standard even as against my well being. This standard was set by a patriarchal society which expects the woman to suffer over her children, only then is she qualified to be called a good mother. And that standard is unattainable for today’s family and the challenges that confronts them.
This is why we have a lot of mothers-in-law who victimise their children’s spouse. This is one of the reasons behind it. Many of them suffered so much over their children; many of them gave up their dreams and aspirations; many of them stopped developing themselves, because they needed to take good care of their children and give them the best.
Many of them even endured years of violence and emotional abuse in their marriages. They ended up being bitter and, thus cannot easily relinquish their hold on the children they have suffered and given so much for. That is what a patriarchal society did to them, and we need to understand where they are coming from sometimes when some of them breathe down our necks.
Please do not get me wrong, it is good for a mother to sacrifice for her children. It is even empowering; lots of women discovered themselves while treading the path of motherhood. But as empowering as motherhood is, it could create a lot of havoc in a marriage, in a woman’s life and create more havoc in the lives of her children presently and in future. This is where mothering comes in. As women you need to learn how to practice mothering. It allows you to breathe, it allows you to be sane, and the result is beautiful and beneficial to the marriage, to the children and to the society at the end of the day.
Mothering allows a woman to care for her children in her own way, by her own rules and not by the dictates. It is not done by expectation of the standard of the society – where a woman is to always suffer over her children. Like the example I stated of myself above, I could have listened to my husband, and kept our son at home for the time being, till I was stronger or till I delivered our new baby. Alternatively, I could have waited till my husband was available to take him to school; but, because of guilt and the fact that I will feel like a bad mother that has failed her son if I kept him at home, I kept pushing and going till I became extremely weak.
Thank God for his mercies who kept me through that period. I could have ended up harming myself, or putting the new baby at risk. You see, sometimes some of the men even advise us women to take things easy with our children, so we do not exhaust ourselves; but as women, that maternal instinct will not make us listen. We go on, and on, and on till our relationships with our husbands begins to fizzle out. At the end, we just lose the connection with our partners.
I understand the fact that some husbands would force their wives to uphold the dictates of motherhood – against her wishes. This is not ideal, and not good for the overall well being of your wife. You need to support her in mothering the children. “While she is mothering them, you also should be fathering them.”
Mothering is awesome. It also helps a woman to raise children who are devoid of any form of entitlement mentality. They see their mother as one who keeps working to better herself and also better the lot of her family. They see her as one who is not limited. They see her as a role model and it sinks into them and affects their development into responsible adults who can also influence the society positively.
I encourage mothers today to balance motherhood and mothering. It is good to sacrifice for our children, at the same time we must not lose ourselves, while doing this. You do not end up as bitter and frustrated mothers, who see those children as the reason why we could not achieve some set goals and aspirations. This could be disastrous; it could create an unhealthy hold on the children when we need to let them go and also let them be.
P.S: Have you gotten my book Motherhood and the Society? It is available on Amazon, and for those in Nigeria, please reach out to me on Facebook to get your copy. Thank you.
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