Last segment on mothers rights: THE RIGHT TO TIME

(Segment 5 of 5, see previous posts)


The Right to Time

Societies which have already advanced the education and rights of women have perhaps fallen into the trap of believing that equality means sameness. By constraining the lives of women to the same patterns allowed to men they deny women the fourth key ingredient for the discharge of motherhood: time.

By neglecting the needs of women to balance their contribution to the work force and society at large with their vital role as nurturers and first educators, they create a condition where women find themselves painfully overburdened by the demands of their dual roles. By not allowing mothers the needed flexibility and time for the discharge of their dual roles they have in effect de-valued motherhood and implied its functions to be obsolete. Sadly, they have found themselves paying the price of emerging generations drifting in moral center and vulnerable to multiple evils of rising drug use, crime, etc.

While women have become increasingly cognizant of their right to develop themselves and contribute to society, society has lagged behind in making woman’s entrance into the work force possible, under conditions that support — not undermine, the human rights of mothers. Every sector of society must undergo reform, to include women in their full status, not just as “equals,” but as mothers. A diversity of solutions will become apparent through examining those cultural patterns and practices so rife with inequality and oppression that have long crippled progress.

Within society, women and men can play complementary roles. While biology decrees that women are the bearers of children and that the primary orientation of the infant is towards its mother, there is much that men can do to become involved in the early nurturing of children. Men can also share in the housework and the exhausting physical tasks of caring for families. Societies which move towards a more balanced sharing of roles, a situation where both mother and father are able to be involved in nurturing the family and making contribution to society at large, will reap the benefits of healthier families and a healthier society as a whole.


The collective will to assign motherhood its rightful place in the global society will be found when the rights of mothers are seen as inalienable rights. Enlightened institutions, whether political or corporate, educational or social, will ask, as a set of guiding principles to their policy development, “What is just? What is fair? What will protect mothers’ rights? What will protect children? What will protect society?”

The true sign of the maturity of humanity will be when it arises to champion and safeguard motherhood, viewing this as the foremost vehicle for promoting the prosperity of humankind. “For mothers are the first educators, the first mentors; and truly it is the mothers who determine the happiness, the future greatness, the courteous ways and learning and judgment, the understanding and the faith of their little ones.” “No nobler deed than this can be imagined.”

15 “That the first teacher of the child is the mother should not be startling, for the primary orientation of the infant is to its mother. This provision of nature in no way minimizes the role of the father… Again, equality of status does not mean identity of function.” Universal House of Justice, from a letter dated June 23, 1974, to an individual believer. Bahá’í Marriage and Family Life, (Wilmette, Ill.:, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1997), page 54.
16 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, comp. Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, trans. Committee at the Bahá’í World Centre and Marzieh Gail (Haifa: Bahá’í World Centre, 1978), page 126.
17 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections, page 139.


Today – Perhaps even more interesting than a discussion on the rights of mothers would be a discussion on the power of mothers.

My mother had nine children (1 acquired by marriage, 2 miscarried and 6 which she bore herself). Among these were two boys, which she raised in a unique way. You see, my mother subscribed to the maxim “When men own the equality of women there will be no need for them to struggle for their rights!” (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 163). This means, to me, that as men take ownership of the principle of equality and decide to fight for it or to fight inequality, then women will find their rightful place in society.

So my mom decided to have herself a living experiment and very consciously raised my brothers to: defend the rights of women and the oppressed, to see their role in life as that of encouraging women to develop themselves, succeed and overcome. She taught them that courtesy was the prince of all virtues, that actions spoke louder than words, that their sisters were their equals, that their feelings were okay, to be embraced and respected. She never allowed them to be dehumanized or shamed out of them. She taught them to cook and to share in the household chores.

She used her power to change the world in the education of these two human beings (and their sisters) and boy did she raise some awesome dudes. They shine out with righteousness in every gathering, they’d rather coach women any day, and they are impatient with the immaturities of the world of men. They are changing the paradigm and those around them. (Sorry, didn’t mean to embarrass you guys).

There are so many good men in this world. And I would bet my bottom dollar that they were raised by some phenomenal women who consciously understood this power. Now, can we get the policymakers, the leaders, the young people, and the upcoming mothers to understand this power and harness it? It is a power as awesome as that of the sun.

About rheaharmsen

Rhea Harmsen is a scientist, novelist and author of Language of the Spirit, a volume of selected poems. She has also released three novels, The Harvest of Reason, Intermarry, and God Created Women. Harmsen was born in a family with a black father and a white mother at a time when interracial marriage was still illegal in some states. Her parents gave her a vision of world citizenship that informs her writing and her lifestyle and has caused her to reject traditional views of race and gender. Harmsen's article "Science in the Hands of Women: Present Barriers, Future Promise" appeared in World Order in 1998 and provides the foundation for the story line for her novel The Harvest of Reason. She co-published the Monroeville Race Unity Forum Bulletin and authored many poems on racial topics, crystallizing the "conversation on race" in the novel Intermarry. Her work with domestic violence survivors in Puerto Rico inspired the novel God Created Women. Harmsen holds a doctorate in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She currently resides in Puerto Rico. Upcomming projects are described in her web page at
This entry was posted in educators, equality, feminism, global discussion, mother's day, mother's rights, mothers, national discussion, rights of women, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Last segment on mothers rights: THE RIGHT TO TIME

  1. Wandra says:

    How lucky you are to have grown up in such a family!!! How lucky for your husband and children as well! I’ve always believed that in the past, behind every great man was a great mother or some other influential woman. We are now at a time where such women can be out in front or at the very least, alongside their male counterparts. I love the idea of exploring the role of women in the realization of world peace. As Baha’is, we know peace is impossible without the application of the principle of full equality for women especially in the arena of education and political governance. Yet how often do we hear of the widespread use of torture and rape of women during political upheaval? (Check out Robin Chandler’s blog. ) Write on!

  2. I grew up in a pretty traditional family. Mom, Dad, everyone the same race in a pretty homogenous town. However, my mother did something pretty radical for the time. She REFUSED to teach me or my sisters how to cook, required only cleaning of our own spaces and encouraged use to avoid “home economics” in school, etc. She encouraged every interest, no matter how odd or short lived. We ended up rejecting the gender roles on our own in school, since they were never expected of us at home. Only after entering grad school in a male dominated field, did I see the world for how it really was!

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