Monday, January 10, 2011

The Equal Family

We've all met her.  The bitter, discontent mother who is never happy with her children or anything else in her life.  As soon as she hears that you are planning to have a baby, she will start telling you that your life is over.  Soon, according to her, your life will be a miserable abyss of housework.  Mom comes last, after all. 

On the other side, there is the careless mother.  She won't understand why you won't come out partying with her while you're pregnant or after you have your baby because she spends every weekend at the club.  Her baby waddles around in the same diaper all day, and her house resembles a toxic wasteland.  Mom comes first, after all.

Where is the balance?  We should not strive to be either of these mothers.  We are neither first nor last but equal

I have heard too many people say that mothers get the leftovers.  We have this image of the self-sacrificing mother, a martyr for sure, who has no interests but her family's interests.  She eats her dinner cold after serving everyone else.  She always takes a cold shower because she is the last to get one.  My question is this: why do we allow this to continue in the modern family?  Yes, motherhood requires sacrifice--but so does fatherhood.  Women are no longer subservient, second-class citizens.  Not even a stay-at-home mom should accept such treatment.  We should strive to be a family of equals.

As with the example of the second mother, we should not take this too far.  Sometimes moms will get the cold shower or the leftover food.  Such is life.  But it is vitally important that we take time for ourselves as well.  A bitter, miserable person is a sad example for a child.  Instead, we should teach our children about compromise, about working with one's partner to make sure everyone gets their share.  Everyone in the family deserves relaxation time. 

It is time that we stop bemoaning the leftovers.  Let's try making enough for everyone instead.     


  1. Balance has always been central to my personal philosophy and that extends to parenthood. In households where there are two parents, both should share responsibilities in a balanced sort of way according to each parents' strength. Husband does laundry and washes dishes while I cook and do the grocery shopping. Parenthood should be a balanced partnership.

    Balancing care of the offspring with care of self isn't easy, either. I will absolutely take care of Offspring first and myself second simply because she's a proto-person and is still learning how to do that for herself. But I will not be a self-sacrificing mother-martyr.

    Humans have big, helpless babies. (See also, NPR story: ) and in order to get anything done, we need help and community. We need someone to hand the baby off to while we have a hot shower or a meal or just to relax for a moment.

    So, yes! A thousand times yes, I agree with you.