A recent review of This Is Us in Babble detailed the marriage-wrecking fight between Jack and Rebecca, the two characters set up in all the promos to be the “perfect parents” in a loving marriage. The reviewer dubbed the fight “the scene that spoke to stay-at-home moms everywhere” because over the course of the argument Rebecca expresses a fear our culture presumes is native to all stay-at-home mothers: “the fear that they have disappeared in their roles as mothers and wives.”
It’s a stupid rationale based in the notion that “mother” and “wife” are somehow the equivalent of “accountant” or “secretary” or “engineer.” Mothers and wives don’t complete tasks and move on. Marriages don’t end when couples look at each other and go, “Okay, you’re better people now, my work here is done!” Mothers don’t just look at grown children and exit the room a la George Costanza after cracking the perfect joke. Americans, and Westerners in general, simply can’t comprehend the fact that getting married and having children are two life choices that cannot possibly be measured in terms of a job or career. Why? Because we’ve been taught to value our lives in terms of jobs and careers.
The writer at Babble goes on to detail that this “fear” is driven by a mother’s belief that “she’s sacrificed everything she loved about herself for her kids.” Love is sacrifice. Everyone from Mama Duggar to the crazy cat lady will tell you about the sacrifices they’ve willingly made out of love. It’s stupid to think otherwise and selfish for that matter. She goes on to detail that mothers take their sacrifice especially hard because they backseat their personal “dreams” (in the case of This Is Us Rebecca wanted to be a singer) to raise children. This tired argument is one we’ve come to accept without question, but we shouldn’t, because it tells us a lot about what’s wrong with our culture. Specifically, this argument tells us that we are encouraged to value our own lives more than the lives of our children, our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.
Call it “job,” “career,” or “dream,” the idea is the same: No one, especially not your child, should not be the prime recipient of your time, care or love. This is why unions can’t defend employees who leave job sites early to pick up their children from daycare. This is why women are being pushed back into their offices mere weeks after giving birth. This is why so-called “family advocates” are pushing for universal daycare and preschool. Because this is us: A generation of women raised to dwell in their own inflated egos. This isn’t feminism, this is narcissism and it’s killing our culture.
Relationships are about sacrifice, but they are also about growth. Most parents (the good ones, anyway) will readily admit that they have grown along with their children and that following their child’s lead has inspired them to develop new interests, try new things and overcome old fears. To throw all that away in favor of the tired, dry pap of, “I could’ve been a star!” signals the narcissist’s defeat. We’ve become so self-obsessed that we’ve forgotten the age-old fact that the selfish always lose. And our kids are the ones paying the price.