This weekend I sat in a circle of women. Wise women who gathered to support my amazing friend, a spiritual guide and companion, who is seeking to expand her practice. The circle included spiritual leaders and seekers, grandmothers and mothers and aunts.
When it was my turn to speak, I found myself saying that I’d come because I believe in the power of women. I believe in the power of women in circles, in groups, in pairs, alone. I believe in women’s wisdom and women’s spiritual work. And, for my own part, I am so frustrated with my own inability to be useful: to find a place where my talents, my passion, my willingness to show-up-and-tell-truth can make a difference.
While my host nodded with me, other women in the circle took the time to say something else.
One, an active clergywoman, said: nothing is more important than the time you spend, right now, with your child. No work you might do is more important. You should focus on being a mom.
Another woman said: I heard you say you were frustrated and you know that being a mom is the most important job you’ll ever have.
I was so angry.
Angry and betrayed and incredulous.
Motherhood is not a career. It is not a job. Yes, it is work. Hard work. Important work. And I am honored and delighted and beyond grateful that I get to be a mom. But. Motherhood is NOT a career. Not for me.
If you met a stranger who had kids – a man – at a party, and he shared with you about being between careers and being frustrated with finding work, would you say: “well, you know, fatherhood is the most important CAREER you’ll ever have.”
Didn’t we have that women’s rights movement – that FEMINISM thing – like forty years ago? Haven’t we covered this gender shtick already?
And what about my daughter? Is it healthy for her to be my meaning, my purpose, my essential contribution to the long arc of human existence on this planet?
No, no, no. I don’t believe it is healthy for a parent to use children as their raison d’être.
I know that what my friend told me later (as I fumed) is true: the reaction of these women was about them, and not about me. Born in a different generation, motherhood as a career may work for them, or perhaps seems like the only choice. But I am still angry. I know what it feels like, as a daughter, to be a mother’s reason-for-being, and I resent it. I never liked being my mother’s everything, and I don’t want to lay that burden on my daughter.
And, call me selfish, but I WANT TO BE USEFUL TO THE WORLD. I have talents and gifts and passion and ambition and I yearn to make a difference. Not just in one life – my daughter’s – but to my community, to the world.
Someday, sooner than seems reasonable, the time of diaper changes and school drop-offs will have passed, and my daughter will be an adult, on her own. What will my adult daughter have learned from me, her Mutti, about what it means to be a woman, to be human?
I want my daughter to see her mother helping others, speaking out, challenging institutions of oppression, working for justice, nurturing community for future generations.
I want to be fully myself.
I want my daughter to be fully herself.
I want us to be what I know we already are: powerful, powerful women.
Is parenthood a career for you? Why or why not? What is your reason for being?