The Perception of Motherhood

I’m walking into class and my classmate turns to me to ask how my daughter is. She doesn’t ask how I am (which is usually pretty chipper by the way), but how the one year old is. The one year old who can’t talk and literally does the same thing every day. The one year old I love, but still.

I know that my classmate doesn’t mean any harm and it’s a common thing to ask of moms (any moms, be their children newborn or 36). But it still irritates me a little, because it’s as if I’m invisible now that she knows I have a child. She doesn’t greet anyone else this way. She asks them how they are, if they’re feeling tired because she noticed that they seem droopy, if they did the reading and what they thought.

When it comes to me though, all she sees is the word “mom” plastered across my chest, as if my entire universe revolves around my child, and after I spewed forth a human from my vagina I lost all aspects of my personality that weren’t maternal.

This isn’t her fault; it’s a social construct. As I’ve said before, mothers are expected to define themselves by their success through the lens of motherhood–and not just that, but specifically the lens of what white, straight men think motherhood entails (for more on this, see my article Gender Roles & The Expectation to Nurture).

My husband never has this problem. In fact, he has the opposite. People are shocked that at 24 he has a wife and daughter, that he’s been with the same woman for almost seven years. You know why? Because no one bothers to ask. He isn’t defined by his home life the way women are, because historically it didn’t matter whether they have zero to a hundred illegitimate children as long as he could get the job done.

Whereas women are less likely to be hired, especially if they have children, because employers are worried that they will be “distracted” and “unreliable” (most likely because when little Kenzie gets sick, guess who has to stay home with her and ply her with Tylenol?). But I digress. More on this next week. Look for Gender Roles & the Workplace.

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As seen here on Odyssey

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