Through the ages, anyone who was different or didn’t comply and who dared to defy the norms set in society was ostracised, beaten, burnt at the stake and much more. Things have definitely improved (thank god) however childfree women are still subject to judgment and criticism by many, especially by other women, who are the worst offenders.
When you look at what the expectations on women have been and still are, then it becomes apparent that mum seems to be the default setting. The choice we should all fall back on eventually. Why is that?
Social norms have always included women having kids or at the very least wanting to have them. Society, the church, your family, the media, your best friend and even your co-workers all tell us that is what is normal (whatever normal means).
We grew up modelling our behaviour on our mothers. We have dolls thrust upon us when we ourselves are babies. We are read fairy tales and watch movies that have a common theme of every woman aspiring to be a wife and mother.
Our lives should go something like this: go to school, graduate, find a partner, buy a house, get married, have kids, live happily ever after. That is the story we have been sold since we were born. That is what our parents did and their parents before them.
Our role models in society are mothers who are held up as the holy grail and put on a pedestal. Womanhood is defined by motherhood. It is the default setting.
When you talk about career, part of the conversation is often around having a career until you have kids then your world changes. (generalising here). Again, you are told that it is fine to have a career until you eventually fulfil your duty as a woman and have a child.
No matter what choices you make you should eventually default back to being a mum.
I remember going to a business event last year with about 30 other women. We all had to stand up and introduce ourselves. Every woman in the room defined herself by her status as a mum. I was dumbfounded as to why? Firstly, it was a business event so that should be the focus. And secondly, why did women feel they need to qualify themselves as a mum or non-mum? It should not make a difference.
In this day and age why do so many women define themselves by the status of their uterus? Being a mum doesn’t make you a better person. It should not define your identity and it shouldn’t impact how you are treated and the conversations you have.
Being a mum is simply one of many titles you have. Like being a business owner, daughter, blogger, wife, keynote speaker. Being a mum is part of who you are, not all you are.
I think it is time that mum was removed as a default setting and that we all redefined how we personally identify as woman because womanhood does not equal motherhood.