Women are special, Christianity teaches, so special that they’ve been tasked with being wives and mothers – and this keeps them so very busy that minor things like preaching, teaching, and leading are assigned to the men (men don’t really want to do them, but somebody has to and it can’t be women). The importance of women being mothers is one of supreme importance. Except … America has very little if any at all paid maternity leave and the highest rates of maternal mortality at the same time. Not only that, but technology like egg freezing which would allow a woman to defer motherhood is unusual. One would think that if motherhood was the primary role of women, then the men who run the show might want to use all their knowledge and technology at their disposal in every way, shape, and form to support women to become mothers. But it appears, the primary goal is to create policies that limit a woman’s choices to the degree where they support young women becoming young mothers; but there are noticeable gaps that keep them from supporting older women. That tells you all that you really need to know about what Christianity thinks about women and what sort of special pedestal they have placed them on.
If Christianity really, truly believed in motherhood, it would work with women to make it happen in ways that women choose – it would support the woman who chooses to freeze her eggs to give her time to establish her career just as much as it would support the woman who chooses her family right away and not to have a career until later. It would support both younger and older women. It would be for making fertility treatments cheaper and more accessible and for the best adoption agencies out there to give children who are already born the best possible match for mothers who choose to adopt. It would have created the best maternity leave policies, be for paternity leave as well, and have the most extensive childcare network to help families care for their children in a day and age where both mom and dad are the breadwinners. It would make things easy for working moms and stay at home moms that run businesses from their home offices.
Christianity seems to like it’s own special version of motherhood best of all, a young woman graduates school and gets married right away, or might opt for college for the Mrs. Degree – but the sooner they’re married, the sooner they can start having kids – they don’t like any deviation from this plan – because it breaks from tradition. I guess what they fail to realize is that taking the scenic route doesn’t always detract from the destination. I guess they don’t believe it’s just as worthwhile for a young woman to fulfill her dreams and be a mom in her own way and her own time. Let’s also consider the rhetoric, the noble sacrifice of this traditional type of motherhood – how it’s constantly touted as the most godly way to live and most glorious way to reflect the relationship of Christ and his Church. Who can say ‘no’ to that sort of recognition?
But for how special and “great” this traditional path is, they have little answer for the dissatisfaction and regret so many women feel – and that’s likely because they don’t affirm women who could use a vacation (be a living sacrifice!), or who really want to know what could have been had they followed the other road (being a mom means giving up on your not-mom dreams!). They don’t have a whole lot of support for women in the day to day grind of it all (you’re doing a noble thing, what do you mean by you feel depressed? You should be thrilled!). And they also have little use for women who have done their duty, gotten the kids graduated, married, moved out, and have a whole lot of free time. (Seriously, we don’t know what to do with you. Go play bingo or knit something.)
All of this suggests that women are put on a high pedestal, but not too high. They want women to think they’re special, but not so special that extraordinary effort is required to improve their quality of life beyond whats commonly available. After all, if women are supposed to be mothers when they’re young, why bother making it easy for them to put off motherhood until they’re older? (Never mind that this equation involves two people and if the guys are dragging their feet, it’s the women’s fault for not being sufficiently enticing.) It’s so nice to be special, isn’t it?
Seriously, what would be the worst thing about paid maternity and paid paternity leave? Why not put some money into figuring out how to cut down the maternal mortality rate? What’s so wrong about supporting women choosing to be moms after their careers have gotten started? Why not establish top-notch adoption agencies and a pro-adoption policy? If Christianity really wants to promote parenthood, it’s going to have to put the full force of it’s might to support every form of it, and not just the one kind it likes. It’s going to have to vote in changes that make things easier for everybody – Christian or not.
Why, wouldn’t young women want to bear life if they had every opportunity under the sun to be sure that kid had the best shot of living well in some way, shape, or form? I was talking with a young woman the other day who chooses not to have kids because genetic anomalies in her family predisposes them to life-threatening medical conditions – why not put some money into the research it would take to correct flawed genetics and save lives that would otherwise have died?
At any rate, it’s important to stop shaming women who choose to walk their own path even if it’s not the heavily trod one. Motherhood shouldn’t be everything so much so that women who opt not to be moms are shamed and treated as inferior or lesser women or immature. And women who can’t have children shouldn’t be treated with contempt and scorn. Women should support each other no matter what twists and turns life takes – that means standing up for each other even if we don’t exactly agree. It’s really not the end of the world if one woman decides not to have kids – there are billions of other people on this planet who can still have them, so I’m pretty sure the world won’t come to a screeching halt.