This is the kind of questions that people like to play with. And of course there is no good answer to it!
How can you declare that you prefer one beloved person to the other? However, this question came up as I was discussing with high school level students and the majority of them were of the idea that in case of emergency, with only one choice available, you should save your mother. As the only adult and mother among them, I was the only one to want to save my child!
And thinking about it, this reinforces the idea that I have that, actually, giving birth, or raising children is a great part of the process of becoming an adult and growing away from your own parents.
This doesn’t apply to everybody. As obviously, a lot of people without children become responsible adults. However, for someone such as myself, children have been a great part of forcing me into adulthood.
Prior to becoming a mother, I had no clear idea of what life was about, I had no clear direction, no particular interest in my studies, I changed majors so many times, stopped in the middle of the year for no good reason, and so on and so forth…
I would have hated to have myself as a daughter! I can’t phantom my children doing half of what I did without me shouting at them. They made their own mistakes, but actually, I was able to bear it more than if it would have been the same kind as mine!
My divorced parents were very permissive. Too permissive! The structure I didn’t get from them, I got it from raising my children!
Don’t get me wrong, I had some moral values, thanks to my upbringing in various Catholic boarding schools and to my French education: when you have read Jean de La Fontaine, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Voltaire and many other great French authors, you can’t completely turn into a lost cause!
So I didn’t indulge in drugs or heavy drinking. I didn’t even drink actually, but I was out every night with friends throughout school and academic year!
I enjoyed writing and I loved theater, so I did many interesting things, I toured some African countries as an actress, I was even invited to New York because of my writings, I was not completely hopeless! But something was definitely off. It’s only after becoming a mother that I took my studies seriously, and finished my masters while working at the same time. My children certainly grounded me.
It is impossible to weigh the value of one life against another. Some Hollywood films tackle this issue with stories about the end of the world and who is allowed on board the only available end of the world proof ship. Most of the time, the president and the various authorities are the first to be saved, then the scientists in order to keep things running.
I don’t believe that your status in society gives you more human value: if I had to choose between saving a great singer or a great doctor, against a young random boy in the street, not sure I will go for the celebrity or the more useful person to the community, who could be a horrible being in his private life.
My own tendencies would be to save the younger ones first. And I wouldn’t mind staying behind because I have lived half of my life already. And I really want my children to experience motherhood too. Not that it is such a happy experience, except for the smiling early years, it is pretty much a series of headaches, and it can even be quite traumatic.
Nigerian writer, Buchi Emecheta, paints a vivid and so honest picture of what it is really like being a mother, in her great book, The Joys of motherhood.
Most part of it is exhausting, really, and I used to consider it as a trap, like some recent headlines do. But I can see that my daughters have helped me grow. Now that I am writing about this, I understand that motherhood has been my unexpected path, and at the end of it, I am founding myself.
And believe it or not, my daughters have transformed from monsters-like teenagers into beautiful young adults!
So, yes I will choose to save my children over my mother but fortunately, this kind of heart-breaking decision never happens in real life!