(Segment 5 of 5, see previous posts)
REFRAMING MOTHERHOOD IN THE CONTEXT OF EQUALITY:
The Right to Time
Societies which have already advanced the education and rights of women have perhaps fallen into the trap of believing that equality means sameness. By constraining the lives of women to the same patterns allowed to men they deny women the fourth key ingredient for the discharge of motherhood: time.
By neglecting the needs of women to balance their contribution to the work force and society at large with their vital role as nurturers and first educators, they create a condition where women find themselves painfully overburdened by the demands of their dual roles. By not allowing mothers the needed flexibility and time for the discharge of their dual roles they have in effect de-valued motherhood and implied its functions to be obsolete. Sadly, they have found themselves paying the price of emerging generations drifting in moral center and vulnerable to multiple evils of rising drug use, crime, etc.
While women have become increasingly cognizant of their right to develop themselves and contribute to society, society has lagged behind in making woman’s entrance into the work force possible, under conditions that support — not undermine, the human rights of mothers. Every sector of society must undergo reform, to include women in their full status, not just as “equals,” but as mothers. A diversity of solutions will become apparent through examining those cultural patterns and practices so rife with inequality and oppression that have long crippled progress.
Within society, women and men can play complementary roles. While biology decrees that women are the bearers of children and that the primary orientation of the infant is towards its mother, there is much that men can do to become involved in the early nurturing of children. Men can also share in the housework and the exhausting physical tasks of caring for families. Societies which move towards a more balanced sharing of roles, a situation where both mother and father are able to be involved in nurturing the family and making contribution to society at large, will reap the benefits of healthier families and a healthier society as a whole.
The collective will to assign motherhood its rightful place in the global society will be found when the rights of mothers are seen as inalienable rights. Enlightened institutions, whether political or corporate, educational or social, will ask, as a set of guiding principles to their policy development, “What is just? What is fair? What will protect mothers’ rights? What will protect children? What will protect society?”
The true sign of the maturity of humanity will be when it arises to champion and safeguard motherhood, viewing this as the foremost vehicle for promoting the prosperity of humankind. “For mothers are the first educators, the first mentors; and truly it is the mothers who determine the happiness, the future greatness, the courteous ways and learning and judgment, the understanding and the faith of their little ones.” “No nobler deed than this can be imagined.”
15 “That the first teacher of the child is the mother should not be startling, for the primary orientation of the infant is to its mother. This provision of nature in no way minimizes the role of the father… Again, equality of status does not mean identity of function.” Universal House of Justice, from a letter dated June 23, 1974, to an individual believer. Bahá’í Marriage and Family Life, (Wilmette, Ill.:, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1997), page 54.
16 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, comp. Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, trans. Committee at the Bahá’í World Centre and Marzieh Gail (Haifa: Bahá’í World Centre, 1978), page 126.
17 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections, page 139.
Today – Perhaps even more interesting than a discussion on the rights of mothers would be a discussion on the power of mothers.
My mother had nine children (1 acquired by marriage, 2 miscarried and 6 which she bore herself). Among these were two boys, which she raised in a unique way. You see, my mother subscribed to the maxim “When men own the equality of women there will be no need for them to struggle for their rights!” (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 163). This means, to me, that as men take ownership of the principle of equality and decide to fight for it or to fight inequality, then women will find their rightful place in society.
So my mom decided to have herself a living experiment and very consciously raised my brothers to: defend the rights of women and the oppressed, to see their role in life as that of encouraging women to develop themselves, succeed and overcome. She taught them that courtesy was the prince of all virtues, that actions spoke louder than words, that their sisters were their equals, that their feelings were okay, to be embraced and respected. She never allowed them to be dehumanized or shamed out of them. She taught them to cook and to share in the household chores.
She used her power to change the world in the education of these two human beings (and their sisters) and boy did she raise some awesome dudes. They shine out with righteousness in every gathering, they’d rather coach women any day, and they are impatient with the immaturities of the world of men. They are changing the paradigm and those around them. (Sorry, didn’t mean to embarrass you guys).
There are so many good men in this world. And I would bet my bottom dollar that they were raised by some phenomenal women who consciously understood this power. Now, can we get the policymakers, the leaders, the young people, and the upcoming mothers to understand this power and harness it? It is a power as awesome as that of the sun.