Today is the day that has been set aside for us to honour our mothers. It is a cliche to say that every day ought to be “Mother’s Day” because of all that every mother has done for every living human being. Even the mother who abandoned a child had suffered excruciating pain to bring that child into this world. The biological foundations of motherhood have placed constraints on ever woman who bore a child ever since the species began – and even before.
Those constraints were given sociological significance in terms of defining the “woman’s role” in every society. Who would stay at home and “mind baby”? In the last century, there were many proposals to rectify that situation. The communes of the sixties were one variant: the children would be raised in a communal setting, and everyone would be “mothers and fathers”. Similar to the ones that had preceded them in the 19th century, this innovation also died on the vine. The communist countries of USSR and Eastern Europe also tried to break the stereotype of women “tied” to the role of motherhood, without success.
In the present, with the increasing number of women in the workforce, seen as an inevitable outcome of modern economic development, there is renewed interest in reformulating the role of “mother”. In China, which is leading the former Third World into this brave new world, a facility to care for children is part and parcel of every new factory constructed. Their five-decades-old policy of “one child family” also played a big role in refashioning the relationship between mother and children. As Guyana embarks on a developmental path that is sure to give it a quantum leap into a modern economy and society with our oil revenues, these are issues that we should ponder over, and not – as usual – wait for them to ambush us.
But in the meantime, apart from the gifts that we, especially the men in our society, may offer our mothers today, we can also rethink our conception of motherhood, so that our mothers and all other mothers – present and future – can live happier, more satisfying lives. Today, violence against females has taken on epidemic proportions, and it does not appear that the official sanctions enforced by the forces of law and order are changing the status quo.
Days after Arrival Day, maybe it is time we take a leaf from the Eastern traditions, including that of India, which teach males to look at all women, excepting their wives, as “ mothers”. For males, such a perspective would place females out of bounds to fulfil their sexual fantasies outside wedlock. For women, they also would be in a position earn respect from males as full and equal human beings, and not be defined only through the sexual relation.
This perspective was beaten out of the immigrants as they passed through the “total institution” that was the plantation, as were the relations of respect between males and females in the African population, which was forced to serve as slaves in the previous centuries. What replaced those norms was the use of violence as a salutary device to elicit compliance. With the society patterned on the hierarchical and patriarchal relationships of the plantation, it is not surprising that violence, especially against women and other weaker groups in the society, such as children, remain stubbornly entrenched.
It is a greater tragedy that Mother’s Day is celebrated today, when the entrenched attitude of viewing women as lesser beings is still dominant in many of those presenting their gifts. The mothers and their children are being socialised into believing that this single act of propitiation on this single day excuses and erases the other three hundred and sixty-four days of neglect, abuse, and even violence.
The point we are making is that: if women in general, and mothers in particular, are to be given their due honour, we must revise our conception of “motherhood”.
Happy Mother’s Day!