Motherhood may be the single most underrated human occupation in the contemporary West. It has not always been so. The vast majority of time that homo sapiens have walked the earth, they have been hunters and gatherers. Many communities throughout our existence, whether hunters and gatherers or beyond, have been primarily concerned with survival. Mothers are key to human survival. Artifacts from the earliest human communities such as the Cycladics in present day Greece include a substantial showing of fertility goddesses as well as replicas of female figures and ornaments. It is hard to imagine a community concerned with survival disparaging of motherhood.
My project is to show that it is under-appreciated, why it is under-appreciated, and what the solution is.
My thesis is two-fold. First, as the Aristotelian notion of the inferiority of women became the dominant view in the West beginning in the 13th century, so too, motherhood became correlatively under-valued. Second, during the second wave of feminism in the 1970’s, the valiant attempt to re-constitute appreciation for women was at the exclusion of motherhood: that the fight against discrimination of women, the fight for equal rights for women, equal pay for equal work, and a new and fair place for women in the workforce (all of which are laudable in themselves) was at the cost of women’s roles as mothers. On a practical level, the achievement of these goals was at the expense of women having large families, of their family life being publically lauded. Then the third wave of feminism has emphasized race, but no improvement has been made for the place of mothers in a just society. Hence, motherhood has seen a two-fold demotion over the past seven centuries, philosophically as well as socio-politically.
It is time for a reconsideration of motherhood. At a time in which the fabric of society is failing, people hunger for familial love and motherly affection. The human heart craves a mother’s love. Metaphysics is the best way to bring to light the nature of motherhood and its worth.