“The Tone-Up” amplifies the voices of Muslim women who have something exclusive about Muslim women to talk or rant about. In this instalment, Wardah Abbas takes down the empty rhetoric on the societal value of Motherhood.
Unpopular Opinion: Motherhood should be the highest paid profession in the world
A few days before I signed out of Twitter, I tweeted the quote above, which unknown to me was going to be very controversial. Comments I received ranged from “Paid by Who?” to “Don’t we celebrate mothers more than three times a year?” Some even made reference to Bill Burr’s joke on motherhood, insinuating that the value of motherhood is exaggerated.
Motherhood, the art of raising complex human beings through pain and loss; a job which takes away from a woman’s body, sense of self, passions and interests. A job which is done round-the-clock without sick leaves and has been the circumstance through which a lot of women have passed away, became the source of controversy when I pointed out that it should be the highest-valued profession in the world.
They say that women are stronger for the things that they endure; that their value lies in their endurance. They say that a woman’s value lies in her becoming a ghost of herself rather than a person of blood and flesh. They talk about the woman as if she were a silhouette and not a person with emotions. This is what they told mothers who were abandoned to the streets with vulnerable children, literally having to beg for help from local communities. Many mothers simultaneously put up with the shame of being poor and asking for aid. Did these mothers see value in their motherhood at this point? Did they feel the sweetness of giving as freely as sunshine and rain?
There were days when their brains felt electrocuted, so violently defocused, and the pain, the emotional pain, were so all-encompassing they simply existed as a matter of will power. Yet the world told them that being mothers was the most valued thing in the world. Value – the regard, importance, worth, or usefulness of something, has been so abused when it comes to women. It’s the way the world pays lip service to the pain that so many women have to endure, glossing over it while flippantly throwing around the empty rhetoric that they are worthy just by being who they are.
Millions of women who have had to take a break from their careers to become full-time mothers go through all forms of abuse ranging from financial to physical and even emotional abuse. Some of these women are thrown out in the streets upon divorce or spousal death with little or nothing to fend for themselves. Most mothers, as a result of the difficulties they have to endure, lose the vital mental and psychological skills needed to raise healthy children. I have lost count of the number of times we’ve been through this conversation. But somehow, asserting that mothers deserve their own financial power & autonomy to secure their futures against poverty and that our communities should build structures for that, has become a source of controversy.
The word “Mother” is equivalent to the word “Umm” in Arabic. From the word “Umm”, several other words like “Ummah“- community and “Imam“- Leader are derived. In terms of the Arabic language, ‘mother’ means the origin of everything. It means The Essence. In several verses of the Qur’an, Allah refers to the Qur’an as Umm-Al-Kitab (Mother of the Book) and refers to the city of Makkah as Mother of Cities. In Islam, motherhood means matriarchy; a position which is at the core of family and society itself; a position of authority, leadership, respect and huge value. Little wonder Allah ranked the Ummahatul Mumineen – Mothers of the believers next to the Prophet (PBUH).
Today, in the 21st century, the societal value of motherhood has fallen flat. Motherhood has become so ill-respected and ill-regarded that mothers are deemed the least contributory to society. Particularly, mothers who choose to stay at home and raise their children are seen as an unnecessary drain on our society’s resources. Once she has given birth, the new mother is afforded very little in the way of financial or emotional support. She is encouraged back into the workplace as soon as possible, often far too early for both her needs and the needs of her child, because she is only deemed valuable if she works outside of the home and contributes materially to the economy.
Under the capitalist system, mothers suffer a great deal because the word “value” has become synonymous to “material worth”. This has forced mothers into adopting unnatural parenting styles such as “detachment parenting” “sleep-training”, “decreased breastfeeding”, not because there was anything wrong with the traditional system of parenting but because mothers today cannot cope with the primitive demands of their babies and the demands of our modern consumerist society at the same time. The 21st century world we live in today is so far removed from being able to meet the normal needs of babies. So we train them to fit into our busy lives, affecting the quality of human beings, and decreasing the quality of mental health.
If it is accepted that there is no job as important as raising humans, and with the same tongue, we raise the status of politicians, policy-makers and working-class people over mothers, we are slowly setting ourselves up for destruction. There’s no pandemic greater than this and it is a time-bomb waiting to go off. It is only a matter of time.
Motherhood cannot be said to have any value in a society where mothers have to toil so hard with little or no physical, emotional and financial support. The phrase “Mothers are valued” is simply just empty rhetoric in the absence of structures put in place to guarantee that mothers are well taken care of. To raise the societal value of motherhood, there needs to be a major shift from the current perspective. Mothers are much more than we make of them.
Wardah Abbas is the Founding Editor of The Muslim Women Times. She is a Lawyer, Writer and Social Justice activist.