parenting personal feminism

Am I a Mother First?

As a mother, should I view all else—my art, intellectual life, desire to help others—through the prism of motherhood?

Am I a Mother First?

Being a mother—a woman—and a creator is often at odds. As I am writing this, numerous women are struggling to keep their jobs and sanity while juggling different faces of parenting in quarantine. As I’m writing this, my husband is keeping my own child safe.

My son, in return, keeps my other half entertained–a blissful harmony obtained by the magical combination of California paid paternity leave and our family’s adamant determination to make things work.

As I’m writing this, I realize this is the first time in almost a year since I had a chance to sit down with my own thoughts. Just the two of us: me and the legion.

As I was brainstorming for my personal brand, I’d encountered a surprising obstacle–one with deep roots, unexpected manifestations, and an invisible relationship with my inner vision of self.

I wanted to identify myself in a few words, so I started with “artist,” “thinker,” “educator.” That’s how I saw myself at the moment. That’s what my galaxy demanded to proclaim about self.

Trying to shed all the superficial layers and get back to the highly advertised “true self” -- the quest we all refuse to give up -- I was close to summarizing myself. “And a mother,” I added to my list.

And the hell broke loose. Shouldn’t I put a mother first? Is it bad of me to have “a mother” almost as an afterthought? Can’t I view all else -- my art, my intellectual life, my desire to help others -- through the prism of motherhood? Isn’t that what is expected of me now? How dare I feel sad about it?! I AM A MOTHER!!!



But do I have to be “a mother first”?

If I follow this line of inquiry further, I find that it’s cultural. Isn’t it still true that of all the archetypes created by highly praised Western Culture -- that dictate our actions through collective unconscious (a.k.a culture) -- only two societal roles are reserved for a woman?

Man-created, man-curated and man-centered art, literature, cinema, and popular culture tell us the choice is yours -- you are either a mother or a bad woman.

Trapped in the world of the black and white binary, we often confuse motherhood with mother-Theresa-hood, not because of some hypocritical desire for saintliness but in opposition to the alternative -- to the image of a dirty, dark, sinful, and wild woman.

So, way too often, we have to wear this “I’m a mom first” mask to become acceptable. Because if you aren’t a mother, you aren’t an artist or a thinker either -- the metaphorical (and oftentimes quite literal) inquisition tells us.

As we see the clouds darken in 2020, with one disaster swiping us off our feet right after another, I try to remember that it’s always darkest before the light.

And as I look around me, I see more and more beautiful, powerful, soulful women deciding to shatter this stereotype and pronounce themselves as independent beings first and foremost. They, too, shed the layers of bullshit (a.k.a misogyny) physically, mentally, spiritually, and especially creatively.

And they want to experience motherhood through the prism of their humanity. Not the other way around.

As I’m writing this, I realize…

... I’m with them.