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Currently in American society, most mothers work at one point or another during the years they are raising their children.
The mothers we don’t see working nowadays are often homeschooling.
If we’re not homeschooling or working, people are likely to ask you when you are going to get a job at every family gathering.
It doesn’t matter if your husband already provides everything your family needs to live comfortably. It doesn’t matter if you’re actually working 125 hours per week on making your family’s environment, nourishment, enrichment, and happiness the best that it can possibly be, with a volunteer project or two thrown in there on the side because you’re an over-achiever.
It’s the principal of the matter: 21st century women are somehow expected to go to work.
Of course, it wasn’t always this way. Women didn’t join the workforce until the 1940s when WWII had sent all able-bodied men overseas, and womanpower was needed to build bombs and aircraft in factories. The government had no choice but to invent Rosie the Riveter and guilt-trip women into working while their children were at school.
Whether this was intentional or not, they have irreparably transformed the American family dynamic and with it the entire climate of our country.
“In 1940 women made up one quarter of the labor force (US Bureau of the Census, 1960). By 1997 women constituted nearly half of the labor force (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1998)… there seems to be a leveling off of these labor force participation rates in the 1990s… This may indicate that a threshold is being reached given the time consuming responsibilities of childrearing activities which disproportionately fall on women in families.” (US Census Bureau)
What’s interesting is how this has even trickled down into our children’s toys.
My children have a Barbie that was mine when I was little. She is a businesswoman. She says things like “Let’s have a meeting!” “Let’s get ready for my date with Ken!” “It’s payday! Earning money is fun!” “*ring ring* I have a phone call!” “*bleep bleep* I have an email!”
Now there’s nothing wrong with a businesswoman Barbie. I love that she exists. But she got me thinking: Wouldn’t it be nice if my daughters could have a Barbie who does what their Mommy does? I am a full-time stay-at-home homeschooling mom.
I checked. She doesn’t exist.
There is no “Mommy Barbie.” There isn’t even a homeschooling Barbie. (There are a couple of satirical articles claiming that there is, but there isn’t). There is a Babysitter Barbie, a Newborn Baby Doctor Barbie, a Paleontologist Barbie, several Presidential Candidate Barbies, even a Mary Kay Consultant Barbie.
Why does Barbie “do” every single career in the world (and even truly bizarre ones) except what I do for a living?
This realization left me feeling strangely sh*tty.
When I was eight years old, Santa asked me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I said, “I want to be a Mommy.” He looked at me like I had two heads. How, as a society, did we get so far away from honoring and respecting full-time motherhood?
Maybe, honestly, this is what’s wrong with everything that’s wrong with the world.
Motherhood is not just something—it’s everything. How our parents raise us determines almost everything about our personalities and who we are. How our parents (mothers) raise us can influence our entire way of being and understanding the world.
Our mothers brought us into the world and our mothers are usually the ones who teach us to be polite, eat well, do our work diligently, and be kind to others. If our mothers give us love and attention, but encourage us to be adventurous souls who do not fear uncertainty, who make our own choices and plow our own paths, we come closer to being balanced, co-dependent individuals in tune with our evolving worlds.
How our mothers raise us determines whether or not we view reality as something to be feared, or something to be embraced with love.
Jason Silva calls this “ontological design.” In his video The Vertigo of Freedom, Jason explains what this looks like in reality: “It means that the people you hang out with determine who you are. It means that the language you speak sculpts your perception of the world. It means that the culture in which you live shapes your worldview. It means that the people that you meet meet you in return and thus affect you. We are mediated beings.”
As a full-time mother, I can appreciate this, because it means that literally every moment I design and create for my children influences them and the people they will be for the rest of their lives. Every time I kiss them, smile at them, caress their sweet little faces, I am infusing them with love and teaching them to love others. Every time I help them dress their Barbies, I’m teaching them the joy of helping others, and the sweetness of spending simple time with those we love. It also means that every time I lose my temper, yell, hit, neglect, or disrespect them, I am confusing the Hell out of them, and not instilling responsibility.
There is no room for slip-ups.
Full-time motherhood is hard because it means controlling ourselves full time! It means we have to be on our best behavior constantly. When other people go to work, they might have to be professional, even formal, but they don’t have to strive for perfection because some tiny human is absorbing and integrating every single flinch and fart.
I take my motherhood seriously. I see it as a call to action—a call to be the best possible people that we can be. A call to create the best possible home and environment, for the sake of our children.
A call to be a nurturer, nourisher, caretaker, teacher, lover.
A call to suddenly become the center of another human’s entire life and self, until they have learned enough goodness from you to separate and be their own shining self, capable of exuding their own goodness into the world.
My three-year-old once spent an entire two minutes of a car trip kicking her legs up and down off her carseat and chanting “Mommy and Papi, Mommy and Papi, Mommy and Papi.” I turned off the radio and listened, because her sweet little voice made my heart sing.
We are her everything.
Many mothers work full time, part time, and work-at-home jobs, juggling that second-shift like super heros, but secretly feeling exhausted and quite possibly being half the mom they really could be.
What if things were different? What if WWII hadn’t changed America the way it had? What if most mothers still mothered full-time?
I have a theory about that, and it involves millions of human beings in the world being radically better people than we are now. Obviously, we can’t go back and change the past, but we can move forward into the future with knowledge in our minds and love in our hearts.
Mothers shape the future, because we shape our children, and our children are the future.
Who really has the power to save the world? Mommy.
Author: Stacy Mojica
Editors: Caitlin Oriel / Renée Picard
Image: Sarah Graybeal/Unsplash