Pete's Blog

More Grumping

As Mother's Day came and went, a Facebook friend posted a well-meaning message that, like so much in the world today, bugged me inordinately. It was, to paraphrase, that anyone who nurtures - a child, an old person, a pet, a garden - deserves to be called a mother and receive all the honor and respect thereunto pertaining etc. etc. I was raised to ignore Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day, and all the other "retail holidays" society has been burdened with over the years. Even so, this message, loudly taken up after the initial post, takes the "everybody wins" aesthetic further than it deserves to go. Because, while you can feed your cocker spaniel, visit your grandparents, water and weed your truck patch, one defining aspect of motherhood remains beyond your reach if you haven't experienced it. I'm talking about pain. Having been an acolyte to the process twice I can testify that the onset of motherhood involves states ranging from a continual mild discomfort to the truly terrifying and horrific. It is the sacrifice of a woman's physical autonomy in the service of mankind's highest impulse. It is James's "moral equivalent of war" but it is more than that, because all altruism, all idealism, all that is good in human nature comes from the experience or at least the contemplation of that sacrifice. So, please. I'm sure you mean well. And Heaven knows we all need encouragement in this world. But there is no moral equivalency between motherhood and gardening, okay? They may come from the same generous, life-giving impulse. But that impulse, evoked by the one, is embodied - literally - by the other.

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