What Do 21st Century Mothers Want?
Sigmund Freud asked the question over a century ago: “What Does a Woman Want?” Even though he'd spent “thirty years in research into the feminine soul,” in particular that mystery within a mystery, feminine hysteria.
Well, on Mothers Day, women want to be recognized for the daily sacrifice of bearing and raising children. In a life of proving daily devotion and care, they want a day where the devotion and care goes the other way.
Yes, yes, you say. But aside from that, what do women really want?
I think, as a result of my sixty-plus years of diligent research into the feminine soul, that the answer is simple, if trivial.
Women want what they are told to want. Pace The Taming of the Shrew, women are overwhelmingly conformable Kates, just like Kate's annoyingly cloying sister Bianca.
You know the type. They are just like you and me, the folk that dutifully paid our FICA taxes all our lives, and now we demand to receive our Social Security benefits, because we paid in all those years.
But some women can't take it. Something inside them rebels at the cloying conformity of Bianca; they are the “hysterics” that Freud researched so diligently.
Our generation is having a battle royal over women's wants. There seems to be a cabal of women determined to vote what their vaginas want, and vaginas want a Woman President. Anything else is a war on women.
What do women want? Do they want careers, work/life balance, “choice,” marriage, political power, children, STEM jobs, “safe spaces,” freedom, intimacy, love, respect, healthcare, sexual power, mystique, independence, relationships?
Many years ago, when I was a young engineer writing software in FORTRAN, my boss used to complain about programmers going off on tangents. It is a constant problem for software managers. Their software developers would much rather be turning a serviceable piece of software into a work of art than getting on with the job.
This is not just a problem in software; it is a problem in human social cooperation in general. Cooperation and satisfying other peoples' needs is work. We would much rather be doing something else, something more creative. Hello clickbait.
Many years ago I read a book by Carl Sagan in which he reminded his human readers that we shouldn't get above our station because 98% of our DNA was identical with chimpanzees. Liberals are always saying things like that, except when they aren't.
Try telling a liberal that our human culture shouldn't be that different from chimpanzee culture, in which the females bear, feed, and raise the young and the males defend the troop's territory in border wars.
In reality, that 2% makes all the difference. For in that 2% is our self-consciousness, our language, our reasoning, our ability to get outside the instincts of our genes and think and act out something different: to be something more than a conformable Kate. But it still doesn't hurt to remember where we came from.
But forget the 1%: There is all the difference in the world between 2% and 1%.
You can make women want careers and work/life balance and independence all you want, but the bottom line is still that most women must have children and raise them and get them off the nest, and men, the expendable ones, need to help to get that done.
Everything else is a distraction.
And yet it's the distraction that has made humans what we are, cranky individuals taking our eyes off the ball of raising the next generation, and going off instead to do something without permission.
Right now we are experiencing something of a cult of distraction, where we are ordered by our betters to celebrate the fringes, in sex, in culture, in identity. Anything short of celebration is “hate speech.”
I think that if you want to know what women in the 21st century really want, you should start with that ultimate 19th century woman, the writer George Eliot, who was raised an evangelical Christian, translated the atheist Life of Jesus and The Essence of Christianity from the German, lived with the already married George Lewes for 20 years and wrote the incandescent Middlemarch.
This woman who never had children ended Middlemarch with the following epitaph on her heroine Dorothea Brooke who did:
But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owning to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
Is that what women want?
Maybe they just want what Serena Belton in Julian Fellowes' Past Imperfect wants: “I love that you love me.”