Yesterday, as has been the Mother’s Day custom for many years, all mothers (and single fathers) in the congregation to which I belong were asked to stand. Also, as became the custom only recently, Prince Nico Mbarga’s classic, “Sweet Mother”, was played for a few seconds while the congregation sang along.
While the song played, I pondered the lyrics in my mind for the first time and began to wonder whether I have really suffered for my child. Why didn’t I feel like I had? Had I merely forgotten? If I have not in fact suffered for my child, doesn’t that make me a bad mother or a “less than” mother at the least?
The more I thought about it, the more I rejected the idea that my value as a mother was determined by the level of suffering I have undergone for my child. I started to resent the notion of mother-love as martyrdom.
You can imagine how pleased I was to read someone tweet later in the day that she didn’t want her value as a mother to be based on her suffering! I’m not the only one who feels this way!
I don’t want my son to cherish me for what I “suffered” for him compared to his dad. Yes; because if we are honest, all this “mother suffered this and that” is in contrast to father’s often non-existent suffering.
Of course, nobody can be to me what my mother is. I appreciate everything she has done and continues to do for me even now that I am myself a mother, but I don’t want to live as she did.
You see, my mother, like many mothers I know, shouldered way more than her fair share of the parenting load. It was almost as if fathers were for donating sperm and paying fees and bills. Everything else was mumsy, and that was a very great “everything else”. My dad has no idea, no idea, what it actually takes to raise a child that turns out well. My dad is a good man, but without my mother’s diligent effort and sacrifice, I would not be where I am today.
As such, it is understandable that I owe her more than words can say, and I would move the world for her.
However, let us ask ourselves, is that kind of parenting the ideal? If it isn’t, then are we being careful not to perpetuate it? When we hail a woman for sacrificing her dreams, her passion, her wellbeing, her very self, just so she can raise her children well, we inadvertently tell our daughters that this is what being a mother means, and aid them in setting low standards for the men they will raise children with. And so we set ourselves and future generations up for misery.
Don’t we just wonder when a father says he is “babysitting”? Does a mother ever say that? Of course not, because somehow the children are her responsibility and whatever he does is just assisting her, right?
It requires a lot of unlearning, but we must begin to see the problem with this kind of pattern.
Can we build families where fathers do their own share of parenting, where they are as involved in their children’s lives as possible? Where fathers know each child’s personality, favourite subjects, teachers, meals, and colours? Where fathers understand their children’s fears and dreams just as mother does? Where children feel as free to talk to Daddy as they do Mummy?
At the very basic level, we need fathers who recognize that when the baby cries at night it is crying for a parent, simple.
Of course then, Mother will be worshipped less, but that’s okay because it means she will be more human, and that’s good for her and for everyone really.
Many fathers today have stepped up to the plate. I, for one, would not be half the parent that I am without my husband’s full involvement in parenting. Everything I did for our baby, he also did: bathing, rocking at night, diaper changes, food preparation and feeding, you name it. Even at the exclusive breastfeeding stage, I was able to express into a bottle for him to feed later while I went to the salon or enjoyed a nice Saturday nap. I had a partner in every sense of the word, and best of all, he did it without any sense of “helping” me. He was simply parenting his own child.
And that’s why I didn’t feel particularly special while listening to “Sweet Mother”; the description fit my child’s father too.
In the end, a mum is a mum, and a dad is a dad, and each one should be special and adored because of that, not because one “suffered” more than the other. I hope that our children will not cherish mother over father simply because father was less invested, sacrificed less, or was less of a parent. And if we share the burden and sacrifice, let us also be ready to share the joys and honour.
When Father’s Day comes around, let it not merely be the day we gave fathers so they wouldn’t complain or be jealous of mothers. It is my desire that our children will celebrate Father’s Day with as much genuine and sincere gratitude and adoration that they celebrate Mother’s Day.