What does this mean?
First we must answer the questions, What is Motherhood? What have I learned about Motherhood? What have I been told about what Motherhood looks like, what Motherhood should be?
Then, What must be unlearned? and Why?
Motherhood–not the act of being a mother, but rather the identity box that you move into the moment you become a mother–looks different in every culture. Each has its own expectations, societal norms, cultural realities. I can only speak for my own, my norms of motherhood within heteronormative patriarchal middle class white privilege. Although I strive to understand others’ realities, I can only speak from my own.
And this is what I know.
Motherhood is simultaneously an ideal of perfection and a deprecating reality. It is a place where we are permitted our wine and coffee and jokes about wine and coffee because it is commonly understood that coping strategies are necessary. Because everyday is coping. We react to our reality, we eat our chocolate to cope with our trapped lives and stifled identities. We are powerless to overcome our reality so we constantly seek escape.
We force ourselves to fit into a box of what we think is an Ideal Mother and negate everyone else’s boxes. Knowing our limits is of the utmost importance because we must DO MOTHERHOOD PROPERLY.
Why? Because we are told that motherhood isn’t simply being a person in a relationship with another new tiny person. That part, that bond, that powerful connection, is diminished in our society of biomedicine and sleep training. Even anti-sleep training folks push their version of the Proper Motherhood Box–they are very clear about what limits should be obeyed based on their Motherhood beliefs and identity instead of leaving room for everyone’s own reality and each unique mother-child relationship.
Instead of telling mothers how to behave, why don’t we tell those around them how to create the best, most supportive growing space for mothers? Why don’t we insist on breaking down those walls of isolation that mothers experience (because we are told that this is all an inevitable part of the experience) and break down the Box around Motherhood? Why don’t we talk about how powerful we are as mothers? About what a powerfully creative act we are doing every day? About how revolutionary it is in our society to value ourselves as powerful women? Why don’t we talk about all this?
Let’s start the conversation. I’ll be posting my own ideas about what we need to unlearn before we can fully experience being a mother as the powerful, revolutionary creative act that it is. Let’s hear yours– use the hashtag #unlearningmotherhood. And let’s blow open these boxes, these limits of what we think mothers should do or say or be. Let’s expand ourselves beyond what we even thought possible. Because what is more powerful than a fully authentic, self-realized Mother?