My personal experiences has lead me to wonder that, if I feel this way just because I have children, how much more must others in our community feel disrespect, unfair treatment or wrong judgement?
I would like to relate some of my recent experiences that have had me spiralling into a feeling that I am a second-class citizen, just as examples of how society can affect one's self-respect.
I have lost count the amount of times I have stepped onto public transport, with three children under 5 years of age, and have walked off the service feeling disrespected and completely useless to society. On one occasion, I was blamed for making the driver three minutes late, due to taking a bit more time to get on the bus.
Another trip I took I was dropped off two kilometres from my usual stop because the bus had suddenly changed routes half way through the trip without notice. In tears I loaded my sleeping toddlers off the bus and lay them under a tree to keep sleeping while I tried to work out a way to get home.
On yet another occasion I became stranded yet again when all I received was stares from passengers and the driver as I tried to load my pram and children onto a bus.
These and other experiences over the past year have affected my confidence, particularly out in public. On buses, in shopping centres, tourist locations and in restaurants, often the stares say it all. These experiences have left me feeling like an inconvenience to society, completely undervalued and as though I am 'just' a mum.
After all, what use am I? As a trained primary school teacher, youth pastor, wife and mother of three beautiful boys, sadly on some occasions, I am left feeling barely human.
Immanuel Kant, a moral philosopher in the 1700s, believed that no matter what, all people are owed respect simply because they are people, free rational beings. Even though contemporary discussions question the ethics of Kant's theories, the basis of what he is saying so accurately aligns with the Word of God as Deuteronomy 6:5 commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves. 1 John 3:18 also talks about loving others with actions and not only words.
I believe that these underlie how we should be treating each other, a command from our Creator.
How do people with mental, physical, or emotional illnesses or more serious disabilities get treated in public places? And what about foreigners or immigrants? Are many judged instantly because of how they sound, what they look like or simply because they are a bit different from what many may class as the 'norm'?
And does this judgement then lead to disrespectful treatment? As a mother-of-three, I have certainly felt that I am negatively judged, for whatever reasons, and this has lead on many occasions to disrespectful treatment.
I do wonder what I have done to deserve it all. I know I have done nothing to deserve this sort of treatment. I know I am doing one of the most important jobs of all, bringing up a new generation and being able to give them love, security and a set of moral and Christian values.
I know also that in other societies, the role of a mother is revered. This keeps me going, but the negative reactions I perceive (although undeserved) make me all the more determined to make sure I refrain from casting judgement on others, and to treat all with the respect and love that they really are due.