Throughout history, the concept of motherhood was not regarded as a natural function in humans. In her book History of Mothers and Motherhood in the West, historian Yvonne Knibiehler wrote that motherhood is “a completely social construction, defined and organized by building standards according to the needs of a population in a given time in history”.
She also states that “the journey of motherhood [also] played a key role in forming the concept of female identity, both individual and collective”. Nowadays, society has returned to view motherhood as a concept of female identity far beyond the essence of educating and raising a child. For some, it represents a set of values such as “being kind, honest, gentle and strong; a source of empowerment and unconditional love to oneself and towards others”.
But, for young women such as Nicole G. Ruiz, a Law school sophomore, motherhood means “diversity and the desire to give love and stability to another being in need”. Nicole included diversity in her meaning of motherhood because she thinks that “motherhood is not limited only to those who have a biological child, but to any person who feels love and worries for those people or species that come to our life needing the best of us.”
Definitely, the incursion of new values thanks to globalization have created “many advances for motherhood in terms of responsibilities, health and opportunities”, according to José Rodríguez Irizarry, coordinator for the Instituto del Género y Educación de Avanzada (IGEA). But also thanks to the teachings spread “through sex education, the fight for equality in the life of couples and gender perspective and the reconstruction of the roles imposed on women”, said Rodríguez.
This sets clear that in order to embrace motherhood, women have to be conscious that motherhood is a balance between “providing your child a happy and dignified life” and beating all the odds and challenges that come with it.
Is motherhood empowering?
Nancy Rathburn, a feminist author, once said that “a strong woman understands that the gifts such as logic, decisiveness, and strength are just as feminine as intuition and emotional connection.” These gifts are what sum up to what we know as the concept of power. A woman empowers herself when she has the power to decide, said Rodríguez; the power to say to herself that “I’m a woman as any other, even though I don’t want to be a mother”.
Society and women have to distance themselves from the premise that “they become women when they are mothers or that every woman had to embrace being a mother”. Nicole Ruiz says that “Women have to be conscious of the social and political context we live in”. She adds that “Women, like us, have the great opportunity to live in a culture where women can exercise autonomy to decide over her body and her future”.
In our time, motherhood has been shaped as a concept that not only mothers have the right to claim. If we think about the definition of motherhood, we are constantly embracing it in every act of goodness we engage in our lives, we worry for our loved ones and for some of us when our parents won’t be able to take care of themselves.
We become empowered by choice; the choice of being a mother, or not.