Motherhood or Freedom: That Is the Question

It is difficult to talk about motherhood outside of personal experience, as each woman’s circumstances, hardships and crisis points are different. What we can do is describe external elements that may allow or hinder that possibility.

The relationship between the woman and her role as a mother radically changed as women gained access to the academic and professional world. While this societal shift freed our mothers’ generation and made them into people capable of reaching the highest business and academic ranks, it simultaneously held onto motherhood’s burden.

From the 1980s onward, later generations grew up with mothers who slept four hours a day and, after grueling workdays, would come home to take on their other job: being mothers. This has happened not only in Colombia but also in developed countries that continue to turn a deaf ear to the reality of women, such as the United States. It is disheartening that this world power gives a measly couple of weeks of maternity leave and charges tens of thousands of dollars for a birth, imposes astronomical costs on child care and offers zero accommodations for women who want to be mothers.

This elimination of the freedom that motherhood brings has led to a cautious generation that must give up having children not to lose their sanity. This is partly because being a mother implies being a full-time babysitter, substitute teacher, trainer, nurse, and so on, which leaves no room for women’s career advancement.

Countries like Sweden have free childcare and a year’s maternity/paternity leave, among other things. But countries focused on hyperproductivity like the United States do not take the trouble to free women from the triple workday that raising a child away from the family entails and the financial inability to pay for a babysitter that comes with it.

Some private companies like Google have taken very concrete steps to support their female employees, such as paying for egg freezing treatments, for example. This way, they can focus on their work without sacrificing their motherhood in the not too distant future. But such instances are few and far between in a country where indolence reigns in the face of this burden that society continues to place on women. In this pandemic that has been raging since February, it has been the women — not their partners — who have sacrificed everything to put their children first. When what little was offered — free public schools — was erased from the picture, it became all the more clear that the state does not help professional mothers in this country at all.

Hopefully, a much-needed conversation will open as soon as possible in a country that prides itself on respecting and promoting human rights, especially now that the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris duo is taking over.

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