Wrapping up the Price of Motherhood

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

July 15, 2011

Playing with Toys at Grandma's
Playing with Toys at (great) Grandma’s house. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr.

A relative, a co-worker, a friend. All women. All of varied ages. All facing the same problem when their husbands pass away: not enough income to maintain their standard of living. That is, they will no longer receive their husband’s pension and/or social security income so the homes in which they raised their children will have to be sold. They will have to move into something smaller and more manageable or with relatives in order to afford basic things like shelter, food, clothing.

Sure, it’s not the worst thing that can happen in life. Life is full of changes, and we as humans have to do our job, which is to deal with those changes. But, that’s not really the right question. The question, more than is it fair, is, “Is this right?” Is it right to treat mothers this way?

This occupation, sometimes gifted by choice, sometimes not, often touted as the most important in the whole wide world — is one of the most relegated. The job to be least considered, understood, or recognized.

In a nutshell, it can be tough being a mom. You are gifted with these delightful beings, who you coach day in and day out to be respectable human beings. Collectively with a team of mothers, with whom you may or may not interact, and how does society pay you for joining in this social contract? By kicking you to the philosophical curb.

My mother applied for a credit card so she could have an easier time trying a small Mary Kay business when I was in middle school. She was listed as the secondary account holder on the joint account shared with my stepfather. This was her only bank account. The bank told her she didn’t count and couldn’t get a credit card.

I’m not an advocate of credit cards, but I am an advocate for financial independence. You may recall my distaste expressed in various posts about our patriarchal society. We live in a man’s world, and while many women before us have made incredible strides to break the glass ceiling or put 18 million cracks into it, our jobs are not done. This is what The Price of Motherhood calls us to do – keep on keeping on. We need to stand together, rise together, be moms together and support each other with our collective group wisdom to change this paradigm in which we’ve operated for too long.

When I think back to who has been there for me, it has always been my mom. My mother cries with me, talks with me, hugs me. She always has. Not my father. Not my step-father. Not my grandfathers. Not even my beloved uncles. My mother. This feisty, sassy, amazing woman who holds her opinions close, states her mind, and fights for the little guy in every avenue which which she works. She sacrificed so I could find out what my path is by talking on state aid, menial jobs, and not buying glasses for over a decade so we could clothe ourselves. This is what motherhood calls woman to do: sacrifice.

Now, I sit as a mother, and dammit, I want my sacrifices (collective and individual) recognized. We don’t sleep, we don’t buy, we eat what we don’t want for our husbands and our children. And, how does our social contract pay us back? Taking away our livelihood if our husbands die before us. Not allowing us the option for financial freedom if we’re listed as joint on a bank account. Punishing us into welfare if we decide our partners aren’t really the right match.

Do not mistake me. This is not a pity party. The Price of Motherhood should be a collective wake up call. We need to band together and make change. We need to demand more mothers in politics (and not just the ones with 28 foster children). We need to ensure our interests are heard. Why? Because what’s best for mom is best for the family, the nation, the world.

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