At what point did motherhood become insignificant? When last could a woman state with pride when asked what she does that she is a mother? And, more importantly, why is raising children no longer an honourable vocation?
I grew up in the 70s and my mother stayed at home. It was comforting as a child to know that Mom was there if ever I needed her. If something happened at school, they could call and she’d be straight there. If I was ill, there were no issues or stressors about taking time off work – the biggest problem was calling up the doctor for an appointment.
I had heard the term “latch-key kids” but I couldn’t really fathom coming home to an empty house after school. I couldn’t understand why a mother wouldn’t be at home every day like mine was when I got home. I remember one day when my mother had got stuck in traffic on her way home from shopping. I got off the school bus; it was on the corner opposite the house next door. Her car wasn’t in the driveway. I was perplexed. I hesitantly walked to my front door as if something evil lurked about unseen. My heart was beating faster than normal. I tried the door. It was locked! I shouted for mom but no answer. I banged the door, still no answer. With every second, panic built inside me. I didn’t know what to do. This had never happened before. There was no precedent. I hadn’t been given any instructions.
Our neighbour on the other side must have heard me because she came out asking if I was okay. By this point I must have looked a right state. My heart was racing, my blood thumping in my head; panic, anxiety and fear were threatening to overwhelm me. The neighbour took me into her house and tried to calm me down. It didn’t work very well. I kept thinking what if mom came home and we didn’t hear? How would she know where to find me? Would she panic and feel like I did? I vaguely remember her arriving and apologising a lot. With my fears eliminated, I guess that part just didn’t stick in my mind as vividly.
I do remember thinking how awful those latch kids must feel coming home to an empty house every day. I knew I was glad I wasn’t one of them. I think part of me didn’t want to believe they existed. I used child logic to explode the myth. Who were these supposed kids? Where were they? I’d never met one. All of my friends went home to find their mother in the house waiting for them.
Regardless, I grew up and didn’t think any more about it. Until I had kids of course. My youngest is 13 and while talking with her the other week, I discovered that she too feels comforted by me being at home during the day while she’s at school. Then I think of when my eldest was a single mother with my first grandson. It wasn’t her fault; she had fled his abusive father. As soon as he turned 1 year old, she was forced to take up work. Without work experience and a degree, the money she could earn wasn’t enough to make ends meet. I was shocked! He was only a year old. He wasn’t even walking yet. I was disgusted that she was made to leave him in someone else’s care for hours every day. For someone else to spend that precious time with him when he should have been with his mother.
Is this the downside of feminism? I am all for equality of pay should a woman choose to work. But forcing young mothers and their infants to be separated like this is just wrong in my opinion. It isn’t just single mothers either. Many families cannot survive on one salary so the mothers have to work. So no, this isn’t a backlash of feminism – well not entirely. Is this the price we pay for living in a consumerist society? Partially I think. When decent housing is unaffordable on one wage that starts creating problems. When every year more and more products are introduced to the market – especially those aimed at children – the problem begins to mount. When the costs of basic necessities, such as food, rises and sometimes doubles, the problem multiplies. Where does it stop? Does it ever stop?
Bring back the days when men were men and provided for their family. Bring back the days when women could be mothers and housewives. Bring back the days when there was no pressure to parents beyond ensuring their children received a good education. But bring these things back along with all we have learned about inequality.
On second thought, lets create a future where families can choose who shall stay home with the kids. Lets work to build the single income to a level that can sustain a family regardless of whether it is earned by the man or the woman. Lets give ourselves more control over our own lives.
Lets make families the priority. Lets put the children first. Lets give them what they need!
Right now … how?!