Motherhood is about more than babies


Motherhood and the possibility of becoming pregnant is a major difference between women and men and yet, or perhaps therefore, it is also a concept that every Tom, Dick and Harry judges women by. We hear the accusations so often we are numb to them. Comments like; you aren’t “mom enough” if you don’t breastfeed your child until so and so age. But you are also an irresponsible mom if you do breastfeed them until so and so age. Or if you don’t breastfeed at all. Some (male) doctor has come up with a new fancy term, “Attachment Parenting”. Be warned, woman. Progressive mothers should sign up for this one!

And oh-my-god, like, you HAVE to give birth sans epidural and later feed your baby organic home grown mashed carrot mousse and wash its poo-drenched hand-knitted diapers every morning before doing your Asanas. That’s mom-cred right there. However, don’t start working too soon after childbirth. Mind you, too soon could be anything from a month to the rest of your life depending on who is doing the judging. Shame on you, if  you don’t do everything the way your mother-in-law did. Now your child will grow up to be dysfunctional. And if god forbid, something happens to your child, it is your fault okay? EVERYTHING is your fault. Bad, Bad Mom.

I wish two things. Firstly, that men would stop creating images and archetypes on appropriate motherhood. No more Freudian/virgin Mary-type fantasies, or denial of having such. Secondly I wish that women (mothers or not) would think twice about judging other women’s mothering. Have your opinion on parenting by all means but unless a woman is abusing her child, stop, or at least be very careful about how you determine what is appropriate mother-behaviour. This judgemental attitude is damaging for women as a whole and it has been part of our social history for an unnecessarily long period.

The Motherhood instinct

And for christ’s sake don’t buy into this idea of mommy wars. Blackwomen, this is especially important. We can’t afford to be at no damn war with each other about mothering from home or going to work. In many African communities, a woman is made to feel worthless if she can’t have children. Let’s not contribute to this alienation either. I am not a mother, but I am not separate from motherhood. I menstruate once a month meaning there is a mechanism embedded within my normally human female body that symbolizes motherhood. I may have not felt the overwhelming urge to become a mother yet, nor do I think of having a baby as some intoxicatingly rosy bliss that would be the zenith of my life. But my reproductive system is not meaningless to me. Until and if my partner and I decide that we want a child, its cyclical activities and quotidian functions are a part of my woman experience. Motherhood is more than delivering babies, it is an instinct.

Of course the motherhood instinct becomes something more real when you have a child, but even women who remain childless until old age know what it means to be a mother. To love. To protect. To defend. To sacrifice. To be afraid. To be angry. To be vulnerable. To not be afforded the luxury of ambivalence towards the obstacles being put in the way of future daughters and sons.

Mother’s Day

Motherhood is a reciprocal act too. Sometimes I feel strongly how my mother and I are the same entity. Sometimes I am her mother. Sometimes I hear in her words a plea for me to protect her, to love her unconditionally. To do what a mother would do.

My mother, if you read this (and you will, because I will send it to you), I want you to know that just as you are, you are the most wonderful person that I know. The strongest. The most loving. The funniest. My closest friend. You are the woman with the big heart who enabled me to become free, to find my voice. And then learn how to speak it. I’m still learning. I will never stop. Learning. Yet as the Yoruba saying goes, “this is not my voice, it is my mother’s VOICE”.

And in a similar way, aiti kultainen, mommy dearest, it is your mother’s voice and all our mothers’ voices. It is the suppressed voice of womanhood.

Mother, I am inspired by your wisdom and your balance. By how you have found your harmony despite the injustices that mothers suffer in this world. I am inspired by how, through me, you aimed to prove that love can transcend the world’s divisions. By how you did all you could to remove as many obstacles from my process to self-realization as you possibly could. By how you gave up so much for me. By how you empowered me. I am so moved and grateful.

As a little girl I was old for my age, you and dad say. A child-parent. I laugh it off but it’s true. I was not an unhappy child, quite the opposite, but childhood was a waste of time. That’s how I felt then, not now. I was restless. Philosophical.  I felt different. Now I am where I wanted to be then. I’m at a social, spiritual and psychological pinnacle where the voice and the listener are finding each other. And it is the voice of you, of your mother, my father’s mother, and her grandmother, of all our mothers—it’s the voice that feels obliged.

Thank you, mother. Although this voice makes life a challenge, I am nothing without it.  If I stifled it I would be silencing you and all our mutual mothers who made us. I don’t think I’ll ever surrender to that, I need the guidance. I’m miles away from you, but this voice is wanting to wish you a more than well-deserved Mother’s Day.


Related links

Happy Mother’s Day To All The Women Who Made Me

Not Everyone Wants To Become A Parent

Mother’s Day Special – Melissa Harris-Perry

How I Went from a Heartless Bitch to a Sappy Cry-Baby

MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe

Women for Women International

“Dear Daughter…”: all the ways society hates little girls



photo by: austinevan

  • Dionne

    Love, love LOVE this! Your words on the instinct particularly resonate, something i´ve been reflecting on of late, perhaps the changing seasons, the moon or just growing! Agreed with all you said here, very aware of this innate part of being a woman (with or without child). We all carry this capacity as mothers, so thank you for acknowledging and sharing! X

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thanks sis! Spring is the season of new birth so don’t think it’s a coincidence that our motherhood radars are activated :)

  • Kathryn

    This is beautiful Minna! I am happy your mom had you as a child parent :) I didn’t realize that that is what I had been as well until I read that. And, that’s why I appreciate Jada Pinkett-Smith asking her daughter Willow if there was anything she could do more of as a Mom to help her realize herself:

    • MsAfropolitan

      You know, I’m not surprised to hear that Kathryn. It explains something that resonates with me in your writing and our exchanges :) Cheers for the comment and the link, sounds powerful, gonna watch it later on.

  • Val

    Hear, hear! Beautiful post.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thank you

  • Carolyn Moon

    This is a wonderful tribute to your mother and to all mothers. I was especially touched by your statement…”Motherhood is a reciprocal act too. Sometimes I feel strongly how my mother and I are the same entity. Sometimes I am her mother. Sometimes I hear in her words a plea for me to protect her, to love her unconditionally. To do what a mother would do.”

    My daughter sent a link of a picture of Diana Ross and her daughter Tracee embracing. It’s titled ‘We should hold them as they hold us’. The imagery is stunning and poignant. I wish I could send it to you.

    • MsAfropolitan

      I just googled the image title and my search brought me back to my site and your comment :)

      Thanks for the comment, sounds like your daughter was appreciating her mom too. You truly deserve it.

      • Carolyn Moon

        LOL..I can send it as an attachment but I didn’t want to intrude and ask for an e-mail address. You can’t be too careful these days.

        However, it was so beautiful the way she held her mother and the expressions on their faces. Your comment was a perfect embodiment of the imagery. Take care and keep soaring!!

        • MsAfropolitan

          I’d love to see it Carolyn, not intruding at all. I’m sending you an email now. Blessings

  • Indie

    I generally enjoy your posts and share much of the sentiment expressed here. However, the notion that a man is unable to contribute to our understanding of mothering either via developing the attachment parenting theory or otherwise is contradictory to much of my thoughts on the matter. If men are to become more active parents and contribute to a household in a role that is more involved than the traditional “provider” role, then they must have agency to re-imagine their roles as parents. This may require them to make a contribution into how women’s roles as parents may be re-imagined as well. Attachement parenting is not necessarily gendered and requires quite a bit of participation from an active father. Unsophisticated understandings of what it is might suggest otherwise, but it is an approach to parenting that is in many ways more egalitatrain and liberating for women than the traditional model. I agree that women should have agency, as individuals, to choose how to mother their children. However, men can make valuable contributions to our understanding of how to mother, just as women can make valuable contributions to our notions of what it means to be a good father. “Parenting,” as a mother or a father, does not have to be gendered.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thanks for your comment, one which I think raises a very important issue.
      I don’t have to my information the ins and outs of attachment parenting. Do you have any recommendations on links where I can get a good breakdown of it by the way? However, what I’m concerned with is the way it’s being popularized as yet another obligation for mothers to be judged by. It seems it’s being positioned for moms primarily not dads namely, example are you “mom enough” in TIMES.

      Regarding men’s input in parenting, I agree with you and not only is it a bonus to gender equality in parenting but it’s an absolutely vital missing part of it. But as I wrote, what I’m wishing is that men “stop creating images and archetypes on appropriate motherhood. No more Freudian/virgin Mary-type fantasies, or denial of having such.”
      So I’m weary of men who are approaching the topic with pre-conceived and problematic (for women) motherhood fantasies but by all means, I hope men who have “defreudianized” will chime in with progressive views.