As Mother’s Day approaches I want to share my views of what the day means to me. I want to put the celebration in the context of my marriage of 56 years to my college sweetheart. When we met, her goal was to become a teacher; mine was to become a physician. In June 2016, we attended my 50th year medical school reunion and on May 14, we will celebrate her 56th year motherhood reunion.
I remember, early in our marriage when I was a medical student, on different occasions or social events, she would be asked “what do you do?” At that time, having given birth to five children in four and half years, she would proudly declare “I am a mother.” “But what do you really do?” was the follow-up question. Vacillating between frustration and anger, in a firm voice with a deliberate purpose, she would repeat, “I am a mother!”
I begin with this story to make a point of how far amuck we have gone in honoring motherhood and family. My intent here is not to devalue women who work outside the home but rather reassert the value and stature of those who choose motherhood as a professional choice. I am fully aware of the challenges facing women who are single parents and appreciate they have few options. The challenges of balancing a full time job and full time parenting are enormous. Their reality however, should not reflect on the women who have chosen to be “just a mother” nor should their motherhood responsibilities be judged as somehow inferior to their “other job.”
The devaluing of the mother profession began in the early and mid-1960s with the rebirth of “woman’s rights” and the confusion between “equal” and the “same” as men. Achieving the right to vote in the 1920 (woman’s suffrage) was an enormous positive for gender equality in our society. However, the modern “woman rights” movement is ostensibly attempting to define men and women as the same. This has frustrated many mothers, who are also women. They want their motherhood uniqueness recognized. Today, the more the “woman rights” movement progresses the more women are losing their power, control, respect and honor. There was a time when women/mothers managed the family household budget, the most common and significant budget and small business enterprise in the America. Unfortunately, today there is a loss of respect and appreciation for that role in our culture and society. The devaluation of the role of mother in America, fostered mostly by females trying to be the same as males, has contributed, along with many other forces, significantly to the loss of integrity in the family. Our current society with its secular logic and political correctness is undermining and devaluating the importance and professionalism of being a mother. This is true for the single parent mothers as well. The new “norm” is to resist or discount the designation of being defined as mom. The result — the American household, the bedrock of our society, is losing its most important asset.
To be called mother once meant being the first and most critical source of education for children. The title mother also meant managing, budgeting, and guarding the personnel health and wellness of the family unit. Mother was the primary source of most, if not all the critical skills imparted to children for life as responsible adults. We have underrated and undervalued the designation of being a mother and discounted the contribution the profession of Motherhood provides to our culture and communities.
The motherhood profession historically provided all of us a role model for our human interactions and our orientation to life. Those of us who have had a professional mother when growing up, and are now blessed by having a professional mother as a partner in our family, appreciate the critical contribution mothers provide to us individually, to our family and to our society. It is mothers and the profession of motherhood that teaches by example; demonstrates what it is to have empathy, dedication, commitment, and above everything else, love. Motherhood and mothers are God’s model for love on earth.
Motherhood begins with 9 months of exchanging glamor of style and figure for the discomfort of pregnancy. (From my perspective, my wife was most attractive and radiant when she was pregnant). It is followed by a lifetime of dedicated sacrifice, compromise and hard work (work, as a man, I could never have done as well—another example of the lack of sameness between man and woman even as we are equals). Professional mothers exchange the seductive attraction and glamour of the “business world” for decade after decade of open and willing sacrifices, disappointments, elations and pride as they turn a helpless newborn child into a productive human being.
As a physician for over 50 years, a father of six children, (five physicians and an LCSW), and a husband/partner of a truly professional mother, I fully acknowledge with great pride and humility that the best decision I have made in my 77 years is choosing my wife, who then chose motherhood, as her profession. Every day she fulfills her calling as a mother for our children (and now our grandchildren). From the day that our first child was conceived to this very day, she has been a mother performing her tasks with skill, knowledge, dedication and commitment. She has never stopped reading and studying and learning about family and kids. As a life long learner, she is the reason we have six successful children, all of whom are contributing to the betterment of others, and she has not stopped. Her wisdom and experience now supports the growth and development of our 22 grandchildren.
The point of this story is to encourage young women to become educated, prepared and appreciate the role of motherhood, along with whatever other avocation chosen. Don’t take the role of motherhood on until you are ready, informed and committed. Life changes, jobs change, interests change, but once a mother always a mother. You can be a physician, a teacher, a butcher or a candlestick maker and as time passes, you may vacillate between many professions and activities, but once you bring a child (God’s gift to you) into this world you are forever a mother.
Remember, the role that offers you more return of joy, pride and love than any profession a person, man or woman, can hold, is motherhood. It’s time we exchange political correctness for maternal correctness. Today, ask the mother of my children “what do you do?” and with a smile and a heart full of pride, joy and humility, she still responds “I’m a mother and a grandmother!”
Happy Mother’s Day, Patty!
— Sam (Papa) Romeo