As we approach Mother's Day in the U.S. and many other countries, it's a good time to ponder whether/how motherhood and productivity are connected or in conflict.

How does motherhood factor in to a life that matters?

This episode is being published a few days before Mother’s Day in the U.S. and many other countries. Mother’s Day is celebrated annually in many countries (not all on the same day) as a day to honor mothers and mother figures.  This got me thinking: how do motherhood and productivity interact? What does it mean to be a productive mother? Or a mother who’s productive?

I have raised five children with my husband. They're all grown, so we're now empty-nesters. But for many years, our lives were consumed with kids in the house. I stayed home with my kids for a number of years, homeschooled for 10 years, and it was a challenging and rewarding stage of life. Thinking back on those years made me ponder what it means to be productive as a mother. Does having children interfere with productivity or does it motivate us to be productive? These are some of the questions I was thinking about as I prepared for this episode.

My first thought: motherhood matters. Raising small humans to be happy, healthy, well adjusted grown humans is a noble and meaningful undertaking. It is worthwhile. Mothers' role in their children's lives is immeasurably important.

I do recognize that not all listeners have children. For those who don’t have children, the subtle (or not so subtle) elevation of motherhood can make us feel “less than.” Motherhood is important, but it’s not a prerequisite to a life that matters.

Whether or not you give birth to children, adopt children, marry into a family of children, or share all or part of your life with children of extended family or friends, any role of care and influence over children (whatever their ages) is a vital role in our society.

On the other hand, knowing the role is valuable and valued doesn’t make it easy. There are high expectations placed on mothers -- those imposed by society and those we impose on ourselves.

“The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.”
- Jessica Lange

To a point, I agree with what Ms. Lange says. Yet I cringe when I read this quote because it voices the ideal we all carry around in our minds, that makes us feel bad when we don’t feel unselfish, when we want something for ourselves. We feel like we're less of a mother if we want time alone or an accomplishment separate from our children. I think we need to take quotes such as these with a grain of salt knowing that it's expressing an ideal, and if you don't feel that way all the time, that doesn't mean you're a bad mother.

“A mother is a protector, disciplinarian and friend. A mother is a selfless, loving human who must sacrifice many of their wants and needs for the wants and needs of their children. A mother works hard to make sure their child is equipped with the knowledge, skills and abilities to make it as a competent human being. Being a mother is perhaps the hardest, most rewarding job a woman will ever experience.”
“The Meaning of Being a Mother”

Again, I agree with a large part of this quote, but my first thought reading it was, "No pressure, right?" It's as if everything rides on us as a mom, and most of us feel like we don't measure up most of the time. What if you don’t feel like this all the time? Does that mean you're not being a good mother?
United States


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