Sunday Reflections: We Are More Than Mothers, We Are More Than Our Bodies
I have written and deleted a post in this space for hours now. It seems like here we are on Mother’s Day so I ought to write a post about mothers somehow, but the words are not coming to me.
I am a mother.
But I am more than a mother.
I am Karen. I am a YA librarian. I am a reader. I am a dreamer. I am a wife, a sister, a friend, a daughter . . . I am a wanna be photographer and artist. I am an organizer. I am a passionate and sensitive soul who wants the world to be a better place. I am an advocate for teens and mental health awareness and hyperemesis gravidarum. I am a feminist.
We live in a world that’s very hard on women. We care much more about women’s bodies than we do women as a whole. We care about the ways in which women’s bodies look and whether or not they can bring new babies into this world. Women are supposed to sacrifice everything for these two things, to fit cultural beauty standards and to mother our children.
The other day I drove to work and a song came on the radio where a man sang, “your body is a blessing”. Not you are a blessing. Not your love is a blessing. Your body is a blessing. Shazam revealed that the song is If It Ain’t Love by Jason Derulo, in which Jason makes the common mistake of suggesting that good sex is love (“if it ain’t love, why does it feel so good?”) and of course celebrates the body of the women he is with. In and of itself, I don’t care. It could be a good song, but it’s also a part of a larger pattern, a message that is communicated over and over and over again (with a lot more overs in there): Your body is a wonderland, your banging body, your smoking body . . . . Beginning at a very young age we tell girls that their bodies, the way that they look, is of primary importance.
But it’s not just that you have to keep your body smoking hot, you also have to be the world’s perfect mom. People will start asking you when you are a teenager, “do you want to have children when you grow up?” I mean, I didn’t even know what I wanted to do for a career, how was I supposed to be able to make such a big decision about whether or not I wanted to have children. Then when I got married, forget about it, that’s all anyone asked: When, when, when, when will you have children???????? And women who don’t want to be mothers or for whatever reason can’t be mothers, the world is so very cruel to them.
Now I have children and I am supposed to sacrifice everything for them. My career. My health and safety. Time with my friends. Coffee, cola, processed meats and soft cheeses. Wait, that part is only while your pregnant, but you get my point. When you are a woman, your body is never your own. People comment on it. They touch it without asking. They want to control it. If we’re not careful, soon it will be heavily regulated. How soon before they pass laws saying that women of childbearing age can’t drink coffee or colas or processed meats and soft cheeses just in case . . . . ?
I am a mother. I am, more specifically, the mother to two little girls. It’s true, I adore them. I want the world to care about them, all of them. Not just their bodies. I want them to be honored and valued and respected. I want them to know that they don’t have to be mothers to matter. I want them to know that they don’t have to look “perfect” to matter. I want them to know that who they are is about so much more than fulfilling the sexual desires of a man or mothering a child.
We are more than mothers. We are more than our bodies.
We are complex, fully formed human beings with thoughts, feelings, passions, interests and desires.
We are multitude.
I love being their mother and I think that the greatest gift I can give them this Mother’s Day is to remind them that I am more than just their mother. I am a complex, richly nuanced person. And whatever path their life takes them on and whatever roles they choose for themselves, they are too.
Filed under: Sunday Reflections
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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