Darrow Miller and Friends

Just Breaking: Motherhood Is a Cultural Invention!

motherhood a cultural invention says one college president“Motherhood is a cultural invention. It reflects a belief adopted by society that is passed down from one generation to the next.”

So writes Kathleen McCartney, president of Smith College, in “Time To Rethink Our Social Construct of Motherhood.” McCartney’s article appeared on the May 6, 2015 opinion page of the Boston Globe.

The idea that something as basic as motherhood could be deemed a cultural invention is nothing more than postmodern drivel, the abandonment of reason. It is non-sense.

The whale is worth saving, but motherhood is not?

Both modern and postmodern culture are obsessed with preserving and protecting all manner of animal life in its natural state. The trend is toward the idea that human beings are merely animals like all other creatures. Then comes an irrational twist—while we protect and preserve all animals’ natural lives, we are bent toward everything not normal and natural in human life: abortifacients and abortions, homosexuality, gender surgery, feminizing boys, all manner of hormonal manipulation, so-called same-sex “marriage” and parenting, test-tube babies. The list is long. What an absurdity! What could be more natural than motherhood? Some seem to be saying the whale is worth saving, but motherhood is not.

Recently we have examined the postmodern culture’s warping our understanding of the nature of human sexuality. Dr. McCartney’s piece calls for some examination of her claim. She writes:

Motherhood is a cultural invention. It reflects a belief adopted by society that is passed down from one generation to the next. In US culture, we hold to the idea that young children are better off when cared for exclusively by their mothers. Mothers are bombarded by this message in the media, especially in programming directed to them. [all bolded text represents added emphasis]

For McCartney, motherhood is a belief, just as “I believe in the tooth fairy” is a belief. “You believe this, I believe that.” There is no reference to an objective reality. Truth is relative. “You have your truth, I have my truth.”

Why do women pursue motherhood? Not because they are designed and wired to be mothers, but because they have been bombarded with a cultural message! McCartney seems to be arguing that “the idea that young children are better off when cared for exclusively by their mother” is just so much cultural baggage to be jettisoned.

Motherhood is deemed a barrier to contributing in the marketplace

What about the biological necessity of motherhood for the survival and propagation of the human race? Without motherhood, the human race would not exist. If all women ceased to have babies, in 100 years or less human life would disappear from the planet.

What about the biological necessity of the child to have nourishment and care from a mother?  A human child is other-reliant for several years (in contrast to other living creatures whose inferior level of development allows for a much shorter childhood).  And what about the soulish need of the child for a mother’s love, a mother’s touch, the face-to-face, soul-to-soul bonding that only a mother can provide?

Why does McCartney advocate such non-sense? Perhaps she means to support the postmodern agenda to rid the world of the “human cancer” that is “destroying the planet.” Perhaps she believes one’s value is only found in the marketplace and thus wants to discourage motherhood because it is a barrier to the marketplace and thus to a life of significance.

McCartney continues:

Our cultural construction of motherhood is rooted in a particularly strong American bias toward personal responsibility, reflected across our social policies. This is why, in the United States, my daughter’s three-month paid leave is considered generous. In Sweden, where new mothers are guaranteed 16 months paid leave, it would be laughable. The United States ranks last among 38 developed nations in paid parental leave benefits: we guarantee none.

So this cultural construction is an American issue. What about mothers in every other country in the world? What about mothers in every other generation of history? Is this only a social construction in the USA? Haven’t cultures throughout all time understood motherhood as a social construction?  Is this not just so much non-sense?

Note to Dr. McCartney: Since the beginning of human history, there have been mothers. This is a biological reality based on a woman’s design and function. It is also a transcendent necessity to propagate the human story and purpose. Without biological motherhood, there would not be a next generation of humans. Without the transcendent nature revealed in the design and function of females, human life would have no teleological purpose.

Adam named his wife Eve “because she would become the mother of all the living.” That act marked reality, the root of all that is sensible. McCarthy’s proclamation that motherhood is a social construct is utter non-sense, a grand illusion of postmodern thought. It is anti-science.

We do not live in a world of illusion (Maya, as the Hindus call it). It may be fashionable to pretend that reality is a social construct, but we still have to live in the real world, the reality made by God. No matter what people might say, on 9/11/2001, real planes flew into real towers of the World Trade Center bringing them down and killing over 2,000 people. This is the real world. Motherhood, on the other end of the scale, is another established fact of human existence.

Writer and editor John Podhoretz reviewed McCartney’s piece in his May 12, 2015 article, “The latest lunatic postmodern target: Motherhood.”

Motherhood is the opposite of a social construct. Like gravity, its existence makes possible our existence. One might say, in fact, that everything besides motherhood that involves the raising of children is a “social construct.”’

McCartney continues:

Mother’s Day is a good day to double down on the work required to reconstruct our conception of motherhood. An essential step is to make the invisible visible, helping young mothers and their partners realize that social constructions of motherhood are just that — constructions. By doing that, we can build the political will necessary for change.

Deconstruct motherhood would be more honest than reconstruct motherhood. Motherhood cannot be reconstructed, only deconstructed and that is what she and other postmoderns are doing. She is seeking to replace the bold—even radical—biological and transcendent nature of motherhood with a pathetic illusion of a world without mothers, children, or families.

Yes, she deconstructs the family, too. She speaks of “helping young mothers and their partners.” Not mothers and fathers, the combination needed to build a family, but mothers and “partners.” The term “partner” is gender neutral and commitment neutral. Whatever she means by “partner” we can be sure she does not mean a husband/father in a covenantal marriage with a wife/mother.

The postmodern mind reduces reality to a social construct. Such illusion flies in the face of reality.

It’s time to say Enough is enough. It’s time to boldly declare the truth: Motherhood is a sacred task, absolutely significant for the health and well-being of children, and the health and continuance of the individual, the family, the nation, and indeed, the human race.

  • Darrow Miller





print this page Print this page

Darrow is co-founder of the Disciple Nations Alliance and a featured author and teacher. For over 30 years, Darrow has been a popular conference speaker on topics that include Christianity and culture, apologetics, worldview, poverty, and the dignity of women. From 1981 to 2007 Darrow served with Food for the Hungry International (now FH association), and from 1994 as Vice President. Before joining FH, Darrow spent three years on staff at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland where he was discipled by Francis Schaeffer. He also served as a student pastor at Northern Arizona University and two years as a pastor of Sherman Street Fellowship in urban Denver, CO. In addition to earning his Master’s degree in Adult Education from Arizona State University, Darrow pursued graduate studies in philosophy, theology, Christian apologetics, biblical studies, and missions in the United States, Israel, and Switzerland. Darrow has authored numerous studies, articles, Bible studies and books, including Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Culture (YWAM Publishing, 1998), Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women for Building Healthy Cultures (InterVarsity Press, 2008), LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day (YWAM, 2009), Rethinking Social Justice: Restoring Biblical Compassion (YWAM, 2015), and more. These resources along with links to free e-books, podcasts, online training programs and more can be found at Disciple Nations Alliance (https://disciplenations.org).


  1. Joan Purcell

    July 2, 2015 - 8:48 am

    Speak truth to power. Speak it boldly. Speak in love. Speak or die!
    I’m with you, my brother.!

    • admin

      July 13, 2015 - 2:28 pm

      Joan, thank you for reading and responding with such positive feedback.

      Gary Brumbelow

  2. Joan Purcell

    July 2, 2015 - 8:56 am

    Motherliness and Fatherliness – an ecological balanced environment divinely orchestrated and providentially preserved. No human reasoning can understand its transcendence. “Claiming to be wise , they instead become utter fools”.(Rom.1: 22)

  3. Jon

    July 2, 2015 - 10:37 pm

    Rejecting God and His Word leads to intellectual insanity and eventual destruction.

    Thanks for this article.