The Mother’s Bill of Rights
Nothing, NOTHING is more important in your life than you are.
YOU are the center of your life.
Yes, even if you’re a mother.
It is still your life.
No one else can live it and you cannot live it for anyone else. And I don’t really care that our entire culture tells you otherwise, I am telling you right now that you have got to reclaim your humanity. You have got to stand in your personhood, stick your elbows out, and make some room for yourself in the center of your life.
We treat mothers in this country like they are inhuman and we expect them to be superhuman.
Mothers put their children above all.
Mothers give and never take.
Mothers do not need privacy.
Mothers do not have dreams until after their children have reached theirs.
Mothers do not have lives until after their children have left their house.
Mothers don’t need support because this is what they signed up for.
Mothers suffer gladly and willingly to give everything they have to their family.
Mothers don’t sleep unless the children are sleeping.
Mothers don’t eat unless the children are eating.
Mothers don’t exist except in relation to their children.
You are not a chauffeur.
You are not a chef.
You are not a maid, or a teacher, or a therapist, or a nurse, or a personal assistant.
YOU DID NOT GIVE UP YOUR PERSONHOOD WHEN YOU BECAME A PARENT.
You’re a human being and you have rights. It’s time to reclaim them.
The Mother’s Bill of Rights
The Mother’s Bill of Rights was born from frustration and faith. I am so very deeply angry at the way that mothers are not supported, or even truly seen in this country. And I do have faith that we can change things. It really doesn’t have to be like this. We can learn to have respect for all mothers and to see them as human beings with the full range of dreams, flaws, and fears that we allow everyone else.
ALL MOTHERS DESERVE RESPECT.
We’re all at different intersections of privilege and oppression, but we are all struggling against some universal ideas of motherhood that strip us of our humanity.
The rights listed in The Mother’s Bill of Rights are not the only rights we can claim, but they are the ones that fall within my realm of expertise. They are the ones I have struggled to reclaim for myself and that I see mothers struggling with every single day.
It begins the moment you announce a pregnancy, an adoption — the moment you tell people that a child is coming into your life. The world begins to erase you and replace your personhood with parenthood. The message is that having a healthy baby is all that matters — not your experience of pregnancy, birth, or bringing a child into your family.
There are thousands of books, articles, and classes available to prepare you for parenting. How many prepare you for the experience of motherhood? How many treat you like a person who still has needs, dreams, and desires that are not connected to or superseded by your role as a mother?
The idea that the child is all that matters is so embedded in our culture that we even use it to convince mothers with a maternal mental illness to seek treatment. Your children needs you to be healthy, we say.
You cannot pour from an empty cup, we say.
YOU CANNOT DRINK FROM ONE, EITHER.
As mothers, we give up so much. Sometimes we do this because society tells us to. Sometimes we do it because we think we should. Sometimes we cannot tell the difference between the two.
And that makes sense. This job is immense. It can be all-consuming. It is very definitely important and essential for all of our survival. We have to get this right.
The Pressure To Be Perfect
There is, of course, a right way to do all of this. It’s never the way you’re doing it.
Someone is always a better mother. Someone is always giving more. Someone is always doing it effortlessly. Somewhere out there is a mother who is living a perfect life with children who adore and are adored by their family to the perfect degree, a partner who splits the emotional load evenly, a career where they flourish, a home that is comfortable and clean, and a sex life that is the stuff of romance novels.
That mother also cooks gourmet meals, wears clothes that are comfortable, stylish and NEVER wrinkled, and somehow has time to document all of this on social media.
No, of course, that mother doesn’t really exist. Yes, that mother is the creation of America’s particular brand of patriarchal capitalism. She is young (but not too young), she is upper middle class, she is straight, she is white, she is thin, she is blond.
She lives in the heads of parents across the country as the mom who is doing it right. She lives in your head when you judge yourself for yelling, for eating that chocolate bar in the closet, for letting your kids eat processed food or watch tv, or…or…or…or…
The only way to fight the tyranny of The Perfect Mother is to find a way to set the real mother inside each of us free. We have got to start telling the truth about motherhood and our experiences of it. We have got to reclaim our personhood from parenthood.
Reclaiming Our Rights
I’m tired of jokes about a glass of wine being mommy’s best friend. I’m tired of the memes about how we will never get to pee alone. I’m tired of the inspirational quotes about how nothing else matters but my children.
No, I will not accept a life where I need alcohol to make it through the day.
Yes, as a matter of fact, I DO pee alone.
And YES, I do still matter. I did not surrender my humanity when my children were born. Neither did you.
One day you will wake up and realize that the way you are treating yourself, the way you are allowing yourself to be treated — is not how you would ever allow your children to treat anyone or to be treated. Maybe you already have.
Either way — this is for you. This is for all of us.
One day you may want to create your own Mother’s Bill of Rights. I hope that you do! Until then, here is mine.
The Mother’s Bill of Rights:
You, YES YOU, have the right to each and every one of these — and so much more.
What Comes Next
For the next ten days I will explore one of the rights listed here in more detail — what I mean by it and how it may apply to your life. I would love to have you join in the discussion!
Each morning I will host a live discussion on Mommy Me Time — my weekly Facebook Live show will happen for ten days straight. You can sign up right here to get notifications when I go live!
Get the conversation started right now by sharing about The Mother’s Bill of Rights on Facebook or Twitter with #momsbillofrights and let everyone know what right you are reclaiming today!
Download a pdf of The Mother’s Bill of Rights so that you can hang it on your fridge, put it into your journal, make it your desktop background, or just have it on hand as a reminder that you are still YOU.