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Knowledge & News
Thought provoking topics and series, necessary news and information.
By Sharon Tonjes
This month, Collective has been tackling the question of “Where is mom in all this?” and also celebrating a month of women. But now, it is important, especially after Mother’s Day to recognize that not all women are mothers. Men have never, in this culture, been defined solely on their status as fathers, whereas women bear this burden, whether or not they ever bear children. Whether by choice, by luck, on purpose, or purely by accident, some women become mothers. In the same way, women can also not become mothers.
Traditionally, motherhood has increased status and value. Those who, for whatever reason, do not become mothers, are subjected to questions and comments such as, "Well, when are you going to give me grandchildren?” and “Hey, you're falling behind and your biological clock is ticking. Better get with it! You'll regret it later if you don't have children."
Men, has this ever happened to you (Well, aside from the grandchildren part)? Have you felt pressured to prove your worth to society by having children? I'm not talking about sexual prowess here, I'm talking about how "everybody" perceives you and your role in society based on your performance of gender, or perceived gender. Women who choose not to have children often get that "what's wrong with you?" look and attitude, even from other women, ironically. If a man chooses not to have children so he can focus on his career, well, that's condonable. The real irony here is that recent studies show when a man has children, he is perceived more reliable in the workplace; when a woman has children, she is perceived as less reliable. Contrarily, the culture insists it is a woman's sacred duty to procreate, and if she fails to do that, she fails. Period. Men are rewarded both for having and not having children; women get punished for either choice. This double standard is what perpetuates inequalities between genders, and holds women to an intangible model.
I'm not the one to write this blog, having chosen to have children. But since I raised the question about mom, I think it's only fair to acknowledge women as: valuable, powerful, and most importantly human, with or without children. Women should not be evaluated on their parental status any more than men are. I have several good friends who have chosen not to have children, despite the fact, in my opinion, that they would be wonderful moms. They have given "mothering" to more people than I ever will as a mom. Yet, why do I even acknowledge that? Why is their worth based on the amount of "mothering" they can give? Can we step back from that social construct long enough to admit that being a parent should not be the only indicator of worth, for males and females alike? Listen to the words of Paul: "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3: 28).” I would add, there is no longer mother or childless.
I hope that other women, who have more experience than I do, will run with this. I have not experienced it firsthand, I only know it exists in a powerful way in our culture. I only know that, as a woman, I want to stand in solidarity with my sisters, with and without children, as we strive for equality and justice for all.
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We value highly the metaphor of journey. We’re different people from different places and backgrounds, representing an intergenerational community, and we’ve traveled different paths. So, we agree not to make assumptions about the person across from us, next to us, or in conversation with us. We challenge ourselves to be sensitive, knowing this community includes a diverse group of people from life-long followers of Jesus, to people who are just now open to the idea that God might exist. We strive to avoid offense, ask good questions, articulate and explain our responses. We don’t assume fluency in bible, spirituality, or Church language, because we believe the message of Jesus is not for Christianity, but for humanity. So, we do everything in the spirit of love and grace.
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