I used to wonder what it would be like to live in an era, like the sixties, when everyone was obsessed with change and taking a stand and whatnot. I wonder no more. Whether for good or for ill, it often feels like the world outside my window is a constantly-changing platform upon which a constantly-changing lineup of protesters are crying out against injustice, shaking their fists at the sky in emotional and usually quite heartfelt appeals.
The degree to which people today think their words matter - expect them to matter, no less - is actually kind of astounding. I don’t mean matter in the general sense of the word - we all know words have power. But I’m talking about a kind of mattering that makes the political landscape quake or changes the course of human history. Or just gains you a zillion followers on Instagram.
I remember the days - ha, I can’t believe I’m old enough to type that - when there was no internet. I remember KidPix. I didn’t get a cell phone until I graduated from college. I didn’t send a text message until after my first child was born. It sounds crazy, even to me. But what’s even crazier is that life was actually perfectly fine back then. (Here’s an interesting experiment: watch Seinfeld. It’s replete with casual reminders of what the world back then was like. It’s a bit reminiscent of watching a fairy kingdom through a knothole in a tree.)
The trouble with now isn’t the internet, of course. The trouble is how the internet makes us think about us. And how we think about ourselves inevitably affects how we think about others and the world around us. It affects our cultural narratives, our societal norms, our political agendas… it’s all a product of immense, and in my mind, often overly-indulgent, introspection.
Which is why all the protestations occuring of late can make a simple stay-at-home mom like me start to wonder if I matter. Oprah - yes, Oprah - once said that being a mother was the hardest job in the world. But motherhood has lost a lot of PR battles in the last fifty years, culminating in a generation today that finds itself torn when discussing topics of maternal bent.
And here’s where I’ve landed: motherhood is not only important, motherhood is good. Motherhood not only makes the world a better place, but motherhood will make you a better you. When my daughters are asked what they want to be when they grow up, and they both respond - now fourteen and nine years of age - that they’d like to be moms, I don’t feel a sense of guilt that they didn’t say their aspirations were to become CEOs or the first female president. I wouldn’t mind it if that was their sincere, heartfelt response - but it’s not.
My daughters want to be moms because they see me, also wanting to be a mom. I wanted to be a mom when I was a little girl, playing with dolls, and I still want to be a mom now.
And that’s my respectful dissent. That’s my countercultural stand: being a mom is fulfilling. I don’t need to have another job. I certainly can - and if I do, that’s great. But I don’t have to. And I don’t need Oprah to tell me that my role as a mother counts. The cultural narrative continues to move further away from celebrating sacrificial motherhood, but that doesn’t matter. That just means my platform for protest will only get a little bit bigger, and my decision to take a stand against that narrative happens with each bowl of cereal I pour and every load of laundry I do.