As a young child, raised as a girl, I remember assuming that I'd ultimately grow up to be married and have children. I thought that's just what women did. But as I got older, I learned, mostly from watching my older cousins, that I didn't have to have children or get married — I realized I had a choice. I realized that getting married and having children weren't the only ways to be successful in my own life. I also realized that being a mom wasn't the sum total of my life. Knowing I had a choice over what I wanted and what happened in my life helped me feel excited about my future. I could choose what I did, when I did it, and I could choose the people I shared those experiences with. However, when I saw Donald Trump's ad aimed at mothers, where his daughter Ivanka Trump says that motherhood is the "most important job" a woman will ever have, I was reminded just once again how wrong the cultural perception of motherhood is for me. As a mom of two, I know full well that motherhood isn't the most important job I'll ever have. And I'm furious that people think still think it is.
I've gone out of my way to avoid reading about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. I side-step watching video clips of Trump on the internet whenever possible. I go out of my way to ignore Trump's harmful, misogynistic tweets, his hateful rhetoric, the way Trump so easily insults any- and everyone. Whenever friends want to argue about Trump and Hillary, I am confused. Yes, obviously we need to vote for Hillary and not Trump, I think. What else is there to say?! But after watching his most recent ad, the one aimed to tug at the heartstrings of women like me — mothers raising children across America — I finally do have something to say.
To reduce who I am and what I want and what I've fought for in my life down to the sum total of "mom" is to diminish every piece of my person. I was someone before I had children. And you know what? I still am.
This is the first time I've seen one of Trump's ads, and I'm sure it was supposed to be uplifting and to come across as if Trump cared about women and mothers. In the ad, Ivanka Trump is front and center, discussing the her roles in life, proclaiming being a mother is the "most important job a woman can have." Maybe for her, being a mother is the most important job. Maybe it's her most important role. But to assume that all women want to be defined and categorized by the "job" we do raising children is not only a gross overgeneralization of how a man thinks women in our country see themselves, it's also a terribly sexist assumption to make. I cringed as I watched the half-minute spot, asking myself throughout what a man's most important job was, or what the women who don't have children see as their most important job. I wondered how Trump would measure the worth of women who, unlike me, did not or could not have children. I wondered what Trump thinks about women-led companies. I wonder if he views their entrepreneurship and drive as mediocre compared to their ability to procreate. I wondered if Trump even cares about them at all.
As someone who has held multiple roles in life with only one of them defined as "mom," I wholeheartedly reject the idea that motherhood is the most important role a woman can have. When I say that, it's not because I don't think raising children isn't important — of course it is, especially if you've chosen to do it. But to reduce who I am and what I want and what I've fought for in my life down to the sum total of "mom" is to diminish every piece of my person. I was someone before I had children. And you know what? I still am. I love being a mother, but I love the real jobs I have, the ones that pay me and support my lifestyle; the ones that make it possible for me to be a mother to my children. There are times I skip out on paying-work assignments to be a mom when my children need me, and there are times I skip out on my kids' performances to get my work done.
I made a choice in the same way my then-partner made a choice to become our children's father. Yet no one would dare tell him that his most important job is raising our kids. No one would dare suggest that being a dad is the only job that matters — so why is it any different for me?
Being a parent is probably the most important role I have right now because my children are still young and that requires me to be very involved in their lives. However, it's not my most important role just because I am a woman. I made the choice to be a mom and to make my children my first priority. I made a choice in the same way my then-partner made a choice to become our children's father. Yet no one would dare tell him that his most important job is raising our kids. No one would dare suggest that being a dad is the only job that matters — so why is it any different for me?
A lot of the women I'm surrounded by have decided not to have children and to instead pursue the things they feel are more important than raising little humans. I have so much respect and appreciation for their choices. I am so proud that my son and my daughter will see and know people who've made a life and choices so different from my own. A lot of the men I'm surrounded by have also made big life choices, and often I see them choosing fatherhood over their careers more and more. Gone are the days when women were expected to be the ones who are raising children. Gone are the days when I felt like I was told that raising and caring for my kids would be the most important thing I'd ever do.
If I'm aware of this, then why isn't the Republican presidential candidate? If we are going to say the most important role for a parent is their parenting, then lets not leave the role of fathers and partners and co-parents out of the conversation. Being a woman means you're more than your uterus, more than old-fashioned, traditional gender roles. I've fought hard to establish that I am capable of doing so much more than bringing children into this world. And it's a shame Trump can't see that.