In her lifetime a woman takes on a range of roles. However, it's her roles which are in relation to others (most of the time, men) that she is asked to live up to the most. Countless are the articles which go, "A woman is a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother so..." My gripe is with the word "so" here. It makes the respect that a woman deserves contingent on her relationships and not on her own capabilities/values/strengths (or just by virtue of being a human being). I have a problem with conditional respect. And I have an even bigger problem with making these roles a to-do list that all girls are supposed to check to become women. This is where motherhood comes in.
Women who can't or don't want to nurture are not less worthy because of it.
A few months back the President of Turkey said during a speech on International Women's Day that, to him, a woman is above all else a mother. Implicit in his statement is society's general view of women as incomplete till they reproduce. It tells you that her purpose on earth is to be the producer of the country's future citizens, the mother to men who will go on to become leaders, scientists, doctors and global shapers. That her primary and most coveted quality is that of a nurturer. It undermines everything else women have to offer to society and the world at large.
While it is true that women can nurture should the occasion arise, it is not what defines her. In fact, there is no one quality that can define women because women are not a monolithic group. Women who can't or don't want to nurture are not less worthy because of it. What's interesting to note is how society makes "attentive and caring" the default for mothers and "goofy and irresponsible" the standard for fathers. This double standard puts the onus of parenting on the mothers while taking away all the responsibility from dads. It is also an insult to the many excellent fathers who take pride in their parenting and are committed to the well-being of their children.
Women are constantly told that motherhood should "complete" them. Those women who do not agree with this idea are seen as heartless and cold. If you as a woman feel that motherhood does complete you, then I respect that and stand behind you. But no one else has a right to tell anyone that birthing a child is what will complete them. My personal opinion is that nothing in this world will ever complete you. This world is vast and it has a myriad experiences to offer in our short lifetime. How can one feel complete then with just one aspect of their life?
Let women define themselves. Give them the breathing room to be more than just their womb.
Motherhood is put on a pedestal and those who don't measure up and "mother" are seen as lesser women. While we should have nothing but love and respect for our mothers, we should not box them into just motherhood.
Let women define themselves. Give them the breathing room to be more than just their womb. Have higher expectations of them rather than the usage of their reproductive system. Allow them to chase their dreams and passions without having to worry about checking a to-do list of ideal womanhood. Tell yourself and others that a woman is, above all, a human being. Then watch the world become a better place.