It’s Mother’s Day today and I started to wax nostalgic on a post about the wonders of mother’s, about how our children are miracles and that in their eyes nothing can be more perfect than our own mother. I remember a moment growing up when we were swimming at a local lake near Pittsburgh, and my mom went swimming with us too. That didn’t always happen, and now that I’m older the thought of swimming in an unchlorinated murky reservoir with about a hundred kids who weren’t mine actually makes my stomach churn, so I get it. But in this moment, when she broke out of the water, her still long and still brown hair streaming down her back, there was nothing in this world or universe more beautiful than her. I remember my heart actually ached, she was so stunning to me.
For the record, she still is. Her hair is short now, and gray, but she is still stunning. And in my children’s eye’s I see that same love and admiration of their mother, my wife. So I started to write that post, the one extolling the children’s love and admiration of their own mother’s. At least the way it is for most of us. I saw similar sentiments all over social media and wonderful tributes to their own mothers, and in-laws, and honorary mothers. But I had this voice in the back in my head that kept nagging me, needling me for attention, asking one question over and over and over: Why don’t we do better for our mothers?
Honestly, why don’t we do better? Why are we not demanding better for our mothers and all mothers out there? For all women? When I see endless tributes to how much they love, miss, admire their mothers why are we not out in the streets demanding they get equal pay for the work they do? Why are we not rioting in the streets because the maternal mortality rate in the United States is one of the worst in the developed world, with the US ranking 138th with 19 deaths per 100K, according to the CIA and Unicef. For Black women in the United States, the rates are nearly twice as bad. When the pandemic hit, it was mother’s who bore the brunt of the economic impact with women quitting their jobs to care for the children who were home. 11.5 Million women lost their jobs, or opted to stay home, compared to 9 million men according to a Pew Research report posted by USNews. 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, any anywhere from 55% to 80% of all women are sexually harassed. Which means in all likelihood, your mother was one of those women.
This is just the beginning of the list. Look at how women are objectified, constantly under the “male gaze” and under constant scrutiny by mass and social medias, held to ridiculous standards. They are constantly dismissed in court cases, at work, at home, and by medicine. And of course, it’s not all women, but it’s still too many. So why? Why do we love our mothers with our whole heart, but look the other way when we plainly see all the problems they deal with. And more importantly, when they tell us these are problems themselves!
I have a theory, and basically it’s because we have seen them handle unbelievable pressure, pain, and loss and still smile and comfort their own children before tending to their own needs and wants. We’ve seen our mother’s, tired from a hard day’s work prepare dinner or help with homework, or soothe a colicky baby, or do all three. Breast cancer, the loss of loved ones, the abandonment of dreams to raise families without a second thought, the loss of a partner and raising children on their own, don’t seem to slow them down. At least not for long. We’ve seen them do all of this and keep going, so these societal ills don’t seem quite so bad because they’re not direct attacks. We’ve seen them deal with worse, and it’s getting better right? I mean look at what our grandmothers and great-grandmothers went through.
Except, of course, that’s not an acceptable excuse any more is it? We know we can do better. We know how much of a toll it takes on women, and the effect it has on the family. We have the ability to change all of the physical problems in short order, yet we do not. We can pass laws that would mandate equal pay at the federal and state levels. We can pass laws that provide free healthcare for women and babies, especially those who are disadvantaged. We can punish men properly for their abuse of women, but the biggest problem cannot be solved by passing laws and ensuring equality for mothers and women. We cannot solve the perception that women are both strong enough to handle all the world has to throw at them, but treat them like they cannot care for themselves because so many men think they are less. Especially the men who are in charge. Too many of those men think of them as less. Less intelligent, less able to handle pain, less athletic. Just less. And because we have done such a good job at making them think they are less, many women end up believing it too, and they often become the strongest deniers of their own equality, justifying that perception. What’s worse is they will also deny the existence of other mother’s suffering because it doesn’t fit with their own beliefs and experiences.
I’ve been married for almost twenty years, my wife has been a mother for fifteen of those, and I’ve seen all of these things occur to my wife at different times. I’ve seen her be objectified by men, I’ve seen her be passed up for promotion even though she was better qualified than others, who were men, I’ve seen her be dismissed by medical professionals when she expressed concerns about her last pregnancy, and she nearly died because of it. I have seen her at her best and worst, and her strength amazes me every single day. And makes me realize how much my own mother must have endured raising two bi-racial boys in the 80s in a small town where racism is a fact of life. A fact I only realized after I had kids of my own, and a debt I’ll never be able to repay.
Of course it’s getting better, and of course not all women are experiencing these things I described. Women are not a monolith, their experiences are as varied and intricate as any other human experience. But we, as men, need to do better. We don’t just need to listen to the woman or mother in our own lives that may justify our own perceptions, but to all women. We need to give them agency to make the changes that best benefit them, and support them in achieving those goals. We are built to protect our women, to guard them against harm, and the best way to do that is to listen to what they want, what they all want, and fight like hell to help them get it. I know I will.
Thank you, moms. I love you all, you are amazing, and you all deserve better, even those with everything.