Let’s face it, what we think of and expect when we think of a priestess is vastly colored by the cultural impacts of the classical world. We are barraged by imagery of young maidens adorned in ritual robes isolated from the rest of the world in lofty temples in serenity or dancing in wild abandon. These are the kind of images that we have in classical representations that have carried through into neo classical and contemporary art. It is simply what we expect, especially for those following in worship of ancient gods of the classical world. For we also possess the knowledge that the priestess positions to be had were typically filled by maidens or elderly women past their sexual peak
and childbearing years. This adds to the expectation that priestesses should not be encumbered with families of their own. Simply because it goes against this vision that seems to be so cherished.
Of course, let us speak plainly and note that this had never been an expectation for men. Men were expected to marry and provide heirs. We see examples of priests with children frequently, and perhaps most notably through Calchas in the Iliad whose daughter was taken from him by the Achaeans and refused the rights of ransom for her return. More historically we know that the priests at Eleusis was a hereditary priesthood. So what is the difference? It is but a matter of culture. In the classical world it was expected that women stayed home and tended to the running of the household, and anyone who has had to do this without modern conveniences knows that this will occupy that person’s day before sunrise until sunset. Even the chore of maintaining the hearth pretty much guarantees that they are not going to be able to go very far from the house. Therefore women were by lot housebound the majority of the time, except for certain festivals, whereas the men had the freedom to have a life among his peers that would allow him to have a priestly occupation, trade, teach etc. Such freedoms were usually enjoyed to some extant by unattached maidens who often performed religious service for goddesses and gods of the state until they were of marriageable age. The laments of one mother in a play (the exact play escapes me) of her unmarried daughter who will be possessing no other choice but to serve Apollon if she didn’t find a husband soon illustrates this. It was fine and good thing to be such when young but as an adult women were expected to marry and be without such options.
Marriage is fortunately less of an issue in the modern era among worshippers, but still you might be surprised by how many priestesses are unmarried, though it seems a bit more common to have a domestic partner which may or may not include a romantic relationship. However it is not fussed over to any great degree if a woman is married, or so it seems. There are a number of married priestesses, though likely still in the minority. A lot of this is due to modern technology that makes running a household much smoother, especially for a household containing only adult members. The stigma seems to rest still with having children, even though this was not historically seen as the primary barrier anciently. Children were typically a part of marriage, so it was unlikely to see priestesses possessing them. However I would like to note that the Pythia did not get dismissed for raising Ion as her son. The stigma then us a modern one in which it has become the norm for religious leaders and clergy in the polytheistic community to be childfree.
The result is that priestesses who are mothers feel like they are being dismissed as being less of a leader and priestess because they have familial obligations. For any priestess to be told more or less to tend her children and leave leadership and priestly duties to others is a slap in the face.
It is not easy being a priestess and a mother any more than it would be to be a priest and a father. We have to make sacrifices in order to be able to serve our gods. We have to tighten an already strained budget to provide necessary supplies for worship, not to mention festivals that we cannot afford to make as lavish as we want. This includes sacrifice of sleep for rituals and Work after the kids are in bed, or catching up on communication with other priests and worshipers. To work on writing projects or any other projects we consider necessary Work for our gods. Those who serve are called to do so, and we work hard to follow our calling and be good loving parents. Nevermind that most worshippers don’t even want our children around. How many times has there been discussion of public events and organizers want it to be childfree. Ironically these children of priests and priestesses are growing up in households if such intense religious devotion and worship that there is a good chance of them becoming such themselves.
Modern technology gives a lot of aid to mothers being able to contribute on large scale as priestesses. We ought not to be considered less if a priestess or religious leader for being a mother.