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Motherhood: a Timeless Value for Humankind, a Choice for Her?

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Many a time when motherhood is referred to, the same thing or a similar thing could be said about fatherhood or, more generally, about parenthood. However, in this text I choose the convention of deliberations related to motherhood exclusively: its specific features such as the biological certainty of motherhood and the accompanying psychophysical commitment of a woman surely support my choice. It is also substantiated by an enormous change in the social and economic situation of women in the 20th century that has also affected their attitude towards motherhood. Today, motherhood is no longer perceived as “destiny”, the major determinant of women's fate, but instead it is, to a large extent, the subject of their conscious choice. The possibility of choice, in turn, triggers thought and responsibility.

The article is divided into two parts. In the first of them, which applies to the universal and the timeless values related to motherhood, I ponder an its role in the cosmic phenomenon of Life and in the giving of meaning to the existence of Humankind and individuals. I also consider motherhood as a gift and a sort of a social institution. I draw attention to the mythic, religious and mystic elements of motherhood: in all human cultures, even those remote, it was perceived as a miracle and a mystery, as a sacrum of human life.

The second part discusses a few tendencies characteristic of the present day: motherhood as a consciously made choice and the underlying rationale. Talking about the motherhood of famous women in public has become a social standard, and many of them are willing to disclose this aspect of their privacy and intimacy to the media. Women “regained voice” in speaking about their great and personality transforming experiences, as pregnancy and child birth are, as well as breastfeeding and attending a son or daughter in their development. In this part I also raise, though out of necessity – very briefly, the question of a few trends in the contemporary procreative medicine which, in the opinion of some groups of people, reflect the social needs and, in the opinion of others, men's “attack” on that aspect of procreation that by the law of nature remains the exclusive domain of women. I also underline the spiritual aspect of motherhood. In the closing part of my article I conclude that there are conflicting approaches to the perceiving of motherhood in the globalizing contemporary world: despite appearances of appreciation of motherhood, too many times it is talked about before TV cameras, and too little attention is paid to motherhood by thinkers, including women philosophers. The lifestyles found in wealthy western countries are not rather conducive to joyful and happy motherhood, since the contemporaries focus on “today” and not “tomorrow”. In world that rewards successes and quick careers motherhood means a withdrawal and a professional regression. In political life and at different levels of power much too often lip service is paid to motherhood, including that “difficult”; whereas women feel that there is too little friendly atmosphere, social safety and certainty about a further professional career after coming back from their maternity leaves.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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