The Thinking 

“Motherhood is Selfish”

August 4, 2017

AS IF women weren’t demoralized enough when it comes to sacrificing ambition for motherhood and home, New York Times writer Karen Rinaldi comes up with a new twist on the Don’t-Waste-Your-Life-At-Home argument.

She says motherhood is essentially selfish.

Rinaldi, the author of The End of Men, writes:

The assertion of motherhood as sacrifice comes with a perceived glorification. A woman is expected to sacrifice her time, ambition and sense of self to a higher purpose, one more worthy than her own individual identity. This leaves a vacuum in the place of her value, one that others rush to fill.

Comment: Feminists rush to fill this vacuum with a sick inferiority complex and envy of men.

Perhaps because bearing children ensures the continuation of the species, it is often prioritized as part of a larger social contract.

Not such a bad idea.

Not only does this logic lead to an attempt to legislate women’s bodies, but also in smaller, everyday gestures, boundaries get crossed.

No one is legislating women out of the bedroom. “Attempt to legislate women’s bodies” is code for destroying tiny bodies.

Many friends tell stories about being touched by strangers during pregnancy, as if a woman’s maternal status turns her into a vessel to handle.

I’ve never ever heard such stories. In any event, if people are touching pregnant women, just tell them to stop! Is a woman so passive and helpless that she cannot control who touches her?

Written more than 30 years ago, Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” offers a cautionary tale of womanhood as sacrifice. In this dystopic novel, women are grouped according to the uses men determine for them: namely, sterile wives married for appearance or fertile “handmaids,” who are raped routinely for procreation. One male character declares that the woman must “learn in silence with all subjection” and that “she shall be saved by childbearing.” In this scenario, the act of motherhood is subverted for the benefit of those in power, and they get away with it because of the concept of motherhood as sacrifice.

No, they get away with it because of their conception of motherhood as soulless, not so far from Rinaldi’s. Anyway, we live in a world that is not “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Why bring it up except to engage in fearmongering?

When we cling to the idea of motherhood as sacrifice, what we really sacrifice is our sense of self, as if it is the price we pay for having children.

So every time a human being sacrifices for others, he give up his “sense of self?” Well, then a sense of self is a good thing to lose.

Motherhood is not a sacrifice, but a privilege — one that many of us choose selfishly. At its most atavistic, procreating ensures that our genes survive into the next generation. You could call this selfishness as biological imperative. On a personal level, when we bring into the world a being that is of us, someone we will protect and love and for whom we will do everything we can to help thrive and flourish, it begets the question, How is this selfless? Selflessness implies that we have no skin in the game. In motherhood, we’re all in.

How is this selfless? Because the person a mother begets is typically an entirely unique personality and not simply a clone of the mother. The child will pose challenges to her and require work to understand and aid to maturity. 

Rinaldi, who mentions her children only in the context of playing with them, does not easily grasp that though there are selfish benefits, and it is indeed a privilege,  motherhood requires self-sacrifice. It is easy to play with children. Not so easy to cultivate with understanding their innate personalities and help them in the practice of virtue with the aim of saving their immortal souls.

By reframing motherhood as a privilege, we redirect agency back to the mother, empowering her, celebrating her autonomy instead of her sacrifice. 

A mother who thinks of herself as powerful in relation to her children has great surprises in store for her. While she celebrates her autonomy, her children will celebrate theirs.

Granted, some of us have more autonomy than others. There are many mothers who would not have chosen motherhood, for financial or personal reasons. Still, by owning our roles as mothers and refusing the false accolades of martyrdom, we do more to empower all women.

If there are many mothers who would not have chosen motherhood, for financial or personal reasons, then they should not have chosen to do the things that lead to motherhood. Every woman who engages in procreative activity implicitly chooses motherhood until such time as the Rinaldis and other control freaks sterilize humanity.

The language surrounding child rearing as a job surely derived from caregivers’ and homemakers’ efforts to be acknowledged as fulfilling an important role. 

No, it derived from the long hours of hard work.

Fathers are rarely, if ever, spoken about in the same way that mothers are. It’s culturally acceptable for men to have children and professional identities without having to choose between the two. These unspoken biases run deep.

Children have intractable “unspoken biases” for being cared for by their mothers and women selfishly are fulfilled and even unselfishly ennobled by the sacrifices.

It reminds me of a friend whose husband complained about having to “babysit” the children while she went to dinner with friends. Has a woman ever “babysat” her own children? Things are changing, but the insidious inferences persist.

Perhaps the husband was tired because he was busy supporting the family all week or maybe he is selfish. But “insidious?” What ridiculous overstatement for such a minor phenomenon. If women don’t complain about babysitting their own children, isn’t that good? Isn’t that … selfless?

Calling motherhood a woman’s “job” only serves to keep a woman in her place. 

Here we get to the heart of it. “Her place.” It is a place Rinaldi does not respect. Otherwise she would want to be kept there — or at least honor those who are kept there.

The priorities of mothers who work outside the home are often questioned.

These priorities are questioned by women who work outside the home too. They are often exhausted.

It’s as if women are forced to choose between ambition (or simply earning a living wage) and family.

In the real world, they often must.

Update: I would like to summarize what Rinaldi has said here. In doing so, I am assuming that she is not a cunning propagandist but actually believes the vile nonsense she spouts.

She has said, by implication:

1. When she was pregnant with her sons, she became public chattel.

2. Her interest in her sons is selfish. She does not have love for them that transcends self. If she were to sacrifice herself for them, she would lose her identity and autonomy.

3. Some women who become pregnant with children like her sons are victimized by the state of motherhood.

4. Her husband and her sons are both beneficiaries of a worldwide male conspiracy against women that allows men all kinds of privileges (such as complaining about taking care of her sons) that women do not have.

5. Her mother — i.e., the grandmother  of her sons — is guilty of being a “self-satisfied” and annoying person.

6. Her sons drive her crazy sometimes.

What is all this but betrayal?

Now, either Rinaldi is just a cunning, heartless propagandist or she does not really intend these terrible, public slights against her family. What she intends is to earn some money.

And in order for a woman writer to earn money today it is absolutely obligatory that she offer sacrifices to the idols of feminism and feed the crusading, messianic spirit that helps overburdened women justify being away from home and maintains the power of the few over the many. But for this utopian drug, women would turn back. They would turn back from — or revolt against — the mandates of enslaving feminism and our usury-based economy, those being the mandates of curtailing the size of their families and leaving their homes to work for taxable incomes and pay for heavy indebtedness, thereby increasing the labor supply and reducing wages in a way that benefits business and the banks, but not families.

— Comments —

Jane S. writes:

Feminism has liberated men from the burdens of fatherhood as well. Now they spent their free time playing video games. The men where I work, that’s all they talk about. Men in their 30s and 40s.

Feminism has liberated us from even thinking about what it has cost them.

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