Motherhood is the complexity and the enigma of a woman magnified ten times over. They mysteries of a woman to a man is only a shell to the mysteries of the essence of becoming and being a mother. Everyone, having been born, has had a mother. It does not matter if there are people who have not grown up to be taken care of by their own biological mothers. The point is, if you have been born, you have a mother.
What makes a mother important? What makes their roles so hard? What is it about motherhood that draws so many people to respect women who have become one? Through an analysis of two works of literature, Nikki Giovanni’s “Mothers” and Gwendolyn Brooks’ “The Mother”, this paper hopes to provide a better understanding of motherhood and its different aspects.
The most basic importance anyone, even a child, would naturally derive out of the role of motherhood is the fact that it is the person who fills this role that has the responsibility of assuring the proper growth and development of another human being. A mother is the one, as dictated by society and culture, who takes care of the children. Even in the modern age, when women have taken on jobs and have also become breadwinners for their families, it is still the mother that the children look to for nurturing. This is probably because of the fact that the woman is the more sensitive half of the parent partnership. The mother is the one who soothes and teaches her children poems that last in their children’s memories until they have grown and have had their own children. (Giovanni) As Giovanni says about the poem taught to her by her mother during childhood, “I taught it to my son who recited it for her”
However, motherhood transcends the limits and responsibilities of simply nurturing the children’s growth. A mother is also a wife. As such, she also bears the responsibility of taking care of her husband. The hardship of being a mother is knowing that there is never rest. There is always someone to think about, to worry over, to care for. Although this is all part and parcel of motherhood, it is not taught. Indeed, it doesn’t need to be taught. This is one of the biggest hardships of being a mother: even when no one expects you to and even though no one has taught you to, you learn to love with such intensity that you give everything to your husband and children.
In “The Mothers”, one stanza describes the following scene: “she was very deliberately waiting perhaps for my father to come home from his night job or maybe for a dream that had promised to come by”. This shows the humanity of motherhood. A mother, although expected to be responsible for the lives of her children and husband, also has a life of her own. She is still a woman, a person, with dreams, aspirations, and ambitions just like everyone else. In the years before the women’s movement, a woman could hope for nothing more but motherhood. Jobs weren’t available for them and higher education wasn’t something allowed to everyone. Today, however, there are many women who are able to work and take care of their family at the same time. However, the primal need to nurture one’s child and to be the one to watch him or her grow up has not changed. The hardship of motherhood is thus added to. Women have to choose between fulfilling their dreams, fulfilling their roles of motherhood, or staying in the middle with both courses of action. There are compromises that need to be made and with any decision that the mother has to make, there will be something sacrificed. Deciding to continue working will mean sacrificing time she could have spent with her children. A woman deciding to have a child and becoming a mother might have to sacrifice furthering her career. It is only the mother who can say which sacrifice she would be willing to make.
One last aspect of motherhood that will be discussed is revealed in Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “The Mother”. “Abortions will not let you forget. You remember the children you got that you did not get. You were born, you had body, you died… Believe me, I loved you all” The emotion in the poem is clear enough. Motherhood not only extends to those women who took the time to actually raise the babies that came from their wombs. Motherhood even extends to those who did not have the courage to see through the act of giving birth. The connection of a mother to her child is so profound that it does not need to be made valid with the birth of her child. Having another human being growing inside of you is such an amazing event that it touches even mothers who have had abortions.
A mother who gives up her child even while it is in the womb, a mother who gives up her child after giving birth to it, a mother who gives up her child after raising it for 20 or more years, are all women who have attached themselves so closely to another being only to have that being taken away or separated from them. This is a pain that all mothers endure. A mother has to have immense courage and strength. She needs to be able to withstand the courage it takes to decide to dedicate her life to her child, to bring that child into this world. She needs to be strong enough to insure that the child grows up according to what humankind has dictated to be good and right and just. Above all, she must be strong enough to be able to let go when her child has finally grown up and begins a life on his or her own. Motherhood in all its complexity, and in all its hardships, remains to be one of the most amazing roles a human being can have in this world. Even with all that it entails, women the world over still look forward to becoming mothers.
Giovanni, Nikki. “Mothers”. Reading Literature and Writing Argument. 2nd ed. Missy James and
Alan Merickel. USA: Prentice Hall
Brooks, Gwendolyn. “The Mother”. Reading Literature and Writing Argument. 2nd ed. Missy
James and Alan Merickel. USA: Prentice Hall