As Madelynn was screaming that she wanted to take her half eaten breakfast (that took her 90 minutes to pretend to eat) in the car with her, I just kept repeating, ‘motherhood is a privilege, motherhood is a privilege,’ to try to get me through the moment. A few weeks ago I read a fascinating article on the idea of the privilege and selfishness of motherhood in the New York Times by Karen Rinaldi.

“I don’t believe for one second that motherhood is the hardest job in the world nor that it is all sacrifice” states Rinaldi. She continues that stating that motherhood “is all sacrifice reinforces the disempowerment of mothers and women.”

I read those lines and literally scoffed out loud, as I often heard even before becoming a mother, and then started to tell myself and believe that motherhood was in fact the hardest job in the world. At only a few paragraphs in, I was so intrigued by her stance that I had to read on, as how in the world was she going to defend that statement?

“The assertion of motherhood as a sacrifice comes with a perceived glorification. A woman is expected to sacrifice her time, ambition and sense of self to a higher purpose, one more worthy than her own individual identity. This leaves a vacuum in the pace of her value, one that others rush to fill.”

Though I do agree with the above statement from society’s perspective, I do not on a personal level.  I do not think I have sacrificed my own individual identity when I became a mom. Though I have a love for my children deeper than anything I have every experienced, I know I am more than a mom and I work hard to keep my sense of self.  I do believe that I sacrifice a lot of time, money and energy for my children but I do not sacrifice everything.

A recent quiet and relaxing evening with Madelynn.

“When we cling to the idea of motherhood as sacrifice, what we really sacrifice is our sense of self, as if it is the price we pay for having children. Motherhood is not a sacrifice, but a privilege that many of us choose—selfishly.  Selflessness implies that we have no skin in the game.  In motherhood, we’re all in.”

Brilliant.  I have so much skin in the game of motherhood.  I have experienced more emotions in the last 4 1/2 years than probably most of my life and the emotions run the gamut.  There are so many highs and but many lows as well and I am only a few years in.

“By reframing motherhood as a privilege, we redirect agenda back to the mother, empowering her, celebrating her autonomy instead of her sacrifice.  There are many mothers who who not have chosen motherhood, for financial or personal reasons.  Still, by owning our roles as mothers and refusing the false accolades of martyrdom, we do more to empower women.”

Yes. Yes.  I have so many times in the wake of exhaustion and frustration played the martyr.   I want sympathy, I want people to know how distressed I am, I want admiration.  And I often do this unconsciously.  People simply ask how I am doing and if I had a rough night with the kids,  I automatically reply with a diatribe on how the kids did not sleep and this and that.  But I must remember that these experiences are a privilege.   Yes, they are hard and tiring and frustrating.  I chose to have these beautiful babes and for Caleb, I went through 3 years of fertility treatments for this privilege.  I chose this.    I am also very aware that many did not chose motherhood or could not chose motherhood and I am grateful I had the choice.

“Calling motherhood “the hardest job in the world” misses the point completely because having and raising children is not a “job.” No one will deny that there is exhaustion, fear and tedium,  Raising a family is hard work, but so is every other meaningful aspect of our lives.”

This quote challenges me, the idea that motherhood is not a job.  I asked my husband if he thought parenting was a job and he said no.   He said he thought it was hard work but not a job.  In most cases, he feels that in a job, someone tells you what to do.  No one tells you how to parent.  I think parenting is a responsibility which is often synonymous with ‘job.’ The author is using the traditional definition of a job and that motherhood does not involve an employer/employee relationship, is unpaid and mothers are not reporting to anyone.     The author still mentions and advocates for paid parental leave, flexible working hours and more but “the cultural shift has to happen for policies to follow. Martyrs, after all, don’t need or expect public services.”

This brilliant article, though short was very impactful on my current feelings toward motherhood.  I am in a challenging stage, I am in the trenches, just like many others.  I have two kids under 5.  They require a lot of energy and attention.  They drive me nuts a lot of time.  They also bring me joy a lot of the time.  They make me laugh, they make me smile, they have taught me a love that I never knew existed.  I chose this and it is a privilege to be their mother.

What do you think?  Do you classify motherhood as a job?  Do you think society makes mothers martyrs?   I would love to hear your thoughts on this and if you want to read the full article:

As I was writing this blog, I also came upon her follow-up article since her initial article had so many responses.   That can be found here: A few people commented that it could be both selfless and selfish.  It is a sacrifice and a privilege. The topic was also brought up about fathers and why they are not included in these type of articles.   Again, fascinating.

Regardless if you think it is a sacrifice, privilege, selfless or selfish, even on the rough days, I am so glad these two chose me as their mother.