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Motherhood’s relevance in nation-building

Since the practice of giving out awards has become part of today’s culture, I propose that another award be created to honor outstanding Filipino mothers. It is time we elevated motherhood to an exalted position much higher than the “taken for granted” status it has been accorded in this male-dominated and often chauvinistic society.

As a lifetime career, motherhood is the crowning glory of the ultimate woman. Success in the professions is not complete if one ends up a failure as a mother.

This is, after all, International Women’s Month, and the opportune time to point out gender issues left untouched and unseen in official circles. Sometime in the mid-1980s, I strongly called attention to the need to quantify the work inputs of housewives and mothers. At that time, and perhaps up to now, they are not counted as part of the country’s labor force and therefore their efforts are excluded in computing the gross national product. It appears as though housewives and mothers do not contribute at all to the growth of the national economy.

This idea didn’t fly because it was ahead of its time and raised during a political period when the singular focus of attention was how to topple the Marcos dictatorship.

Today, I want to go a step further by pushing for the recognition of the role of motherhood in nation-building, particularly in nurturing and shepherding the youth toward self-reliance and meaningful citizenship.

It is rather unfair to simply consider women’s child-bearing function as a given fact of life. Those who excel in homemaking (as distinguished from housekeeping) and nurturing their families deserve a special place on the pedestals of civilized society.

So, International Women’s Month or not, the relevance of exemplary mother-teachers, particularly at a time of social ferment, must be underscored. At no time in the history of humankind is the family so challenged and threatened as it is now. In many countries seriously divided and devastated by social conflicts, children and families suffer the most. Governments and warring groups come and go, leaving behind irreparable damage in terms of lost lives, aborted futures of children, and cruelly separated families. Nations are locked in unnecessary combat because of cultural differences, but mostly because of insatiable greed and flawed political decisions.

Before this country grieves in remorse for its own sins, let the Filipino women now at par in number with the male populace contribute their talents and God-given gifts to the progress of this nation.

Let me allay the hidden fears of the machos that empowering women might exacerbate gender rivalry or, worse, increase the number of “Andres de saya” (henpecked husbands) in the country. This thinking is now passé.

Looming larger in the Philippine context are concerns far beyond bedroom issues and the gender divide. At stake is the future of our youth and the preservation of family values conducive to development and genuine national growth.

If each individual woman or mother-surrogate succeeds in molding a happy family, that is more than enough achievement than what a bunch of noisy and bungling politicians can do for the country.

Eva Maggay-Inciong taught history and political science in her younger days. She was once national president of the Philippine Association of University Women whose founders spearheaded the movement for women’s suffrage in the country. She also cochaired the Calabarzon regional development council representing the private sector.

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