I’ve been reading Adrienne Rich, Sara Ruddick, and Susan Maushart. There’s a lot to read about institutionalized motherhood and eading to the difference between authentic mothering and inauthentic mothering.
Institutionalized motherhood is what has been constructed in our capitalist, patriarchal culture. It is about being the perfect mother. It is about middle-class, heterosexual, married, white women staying home to cook and clean (buy buy buy) and not complaining about the labour involved in housework and childcare (so-called mothers’ work is useless and has no real value, despite the endless, strenuous labour involved).
For me authentic mothering is admitting to being tired, swearing, showing my emotions, and being unashamed of being unmarried and working-class. My inauthentic mothering comes out when I am outside of my comfort zone, and know others are watching me. It comes out when I am too tired to fight off the gender role training the world has worked so hard on instilling in me since pink balloons marked my arrival decades ago. It is obvious when I tell people, “Oh she isn’t usually like this,” as if it is my fault that my child, an individual person, is pissed off at the world sometimes.
Authentic mothering makes things a lot easier, in some ways. It is less tiring to pretend to be someone and something I am not. I don’t need to worry about buying the hippest mom and baby gadgets because I trust my gut, and my gut isn’t sponsored by any corporations. This mothering is allowed to change, grow, and compromise. This type of mothering is tailored specifically for my child.
However, this kind of mothering makes me an open target. I am vulnerable to people’s criticisms; I make myself stand out from the crowd. Some people don’t like to be questioned, and if the system works for them, they don’t want anyone shaking things up. I’m a sneaky citizen in motherhoodland. I have an awesome child who is confident and smart, when I’m not supposed to. Single mothers with tattoos, tiny bank accounts, and big mouths aren’t supposed to be good mothers – how inauthentic!
For whatever reason, I’ll keep being myself, and raising a daughter who does the same. This sounds strong, this sounds crazy, it is what it is. It is my authentic way.
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