My kids’ principal sent all the parents this video a couple days ago.
As with Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset research and Google’s Black Girls Code, which were also contained in my kids’ principal’s emails, I always assume that these emails from the school contain the essence of How Parents Are Supposed to Think. In this case, thinking of motherhood as a vocation of infinite sacrifice and privation is, in some ways, showing appropriate gratitude and respect before what is the center of the human experience. (My favorite pop-science book on recent human evolution, Sarah Hrdy’s Mother Nature, does the impossible and gives a feminist spin on evolutionary psychology that is, I think, largely correct.)
That said, you worry that this construction of motherhood- as endless martyrdom- enables the legal and institutional culture that makes motherhood such misery, that arrests moms for letting their nine-year-old play by themselves in a public park or for letting a thirteen-year-old babysit their preschooler. It also makes women with other options think twice or ten times before becoming moms, with mixed consequences for society as a whole.
In any case, Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and not-moms out there.