A few friends of mine posted this in their facebook status this week:
"A real mother has to make sacrifices in her life to ensure her children are well taken care of and would make every sacrifice in the world for her children. She come first, always have, and always will! :-) Put this as your status if you're a devoted mother who will always put your children first...!"
It annoys me that, as a mother, I am expected to make "every sacrifice in the world" for my children, and yet, their father is not. Once a woman becomes a mother, that role is supposed to be her entire identity. I make sacrifices for my children, as I'm sure all parents do, but I do not make EVERY sacrifice for my children. One of the best lessons I can give my daughter is that women are whole people, not just mothers, and that we have interests and needs of our own too.
I am often annoyed that father's aren't expected to make such sacrifices, both in my personal life and in my academic research. My ex-husband can take the kids 2 out of every 14 days and it is considered normal, however, if I were to only take them every other weekend, I would be considered an absent mother by many people.
In my thesis research, I have found study after study showing how a woman's wage falls after having children, whereas a man's wage actually goes up when he has a family. Generally, it is women who stay home with their kids when they are sick or cannot apply for that promotion because they would have to work late or travel.
I would like to stop hearing about how we choose this role when we become mothers; that it is a personal problem that is based on individual family decisions. Domestic work and the paid work force are organized in a systematic way that makes it more profitable for men to be the primary wage earner. When we take a step back and look at the big picture, it is not about certain choices made by specific families; it is a systemic issue rooted in capitalism and the division of labour.
Mothers should not have to feel guilty for going to school, having a career, or pursuing their own interests. While children should be provided for and both parents are likely to have to make some sacrifices in order to ensure that their children have everything they need, I would love to see the day where the burden of childcare and domestic responsibility does not fall so heavily on women. I am not going to sacrifice myself, as a full human being, for my children, as that will only teach them to do the same.