Reality, If We Know It. My Personal Quest to Understand Motherhood

By Malkia Charlee NoCry
4th February 2013, 17:30 GMT

"Mother and Child" by Elinor Tourtellot
“Mother and Child” by Elinor Tourtellot

I don’t often write personally, but as a Feminist I know that the political is the personal, and thus its inverse.

I have always wanted children – and its something I’ve thought about for years, and this year I’m taking it seriously. I always knew, when I was ready to be a mother, I probably wouldn’t be ready to be pregnant by a partner, so I’ve decided to adopt. Its not that I’m not heterosexual (which makes getting pregnant easier), or haven’t been in very long and mostly complicated unions. In the past two years though, I’ve had a hard way finding myself, finding my purpose, and finding my value with and without a partner… And I think I’ve succeeded in retrieving myself, what my mother calls “that 9 year old feminist who growls”.

That growling 9 year old use to make choices and shape decisions based on the greater humanity the elders talked about; a love for nature and that advanced human capacity to nourish, create, and sustain.

So in thinking about this decision, I am in essence preparing myself to be a single mother, something that isn’t exactly praised, but rather seen as being an incomplete host. And to be a single mother without even having the option of the ‘Baby Daddy’ woes will be additionally isolating. My rights to adopt are protected, and thanks to pro-Gay legislation are defended (I thought important to point out how pro-Gay legislation is important to all of our rights as women and people).

But though rights are protected, that doesn’t mean a certain stigma and incredulity doesn’t arise when a young single feminist says she wants to be a mum.

The impetus to mother is something that I always took for granted as a woman. But as a feminist philosopher it troubles me that I’ve been unable to name or define where this feeling originates from. With the Alice Walker and Rebecca Walker riff coupled with the declaration by Third Wavers like Rebecca that feminism is antithetical to motherhood, one enters a third isolating category of being afraid to champion motherhood in the face of reproductive oppression. From economically forced Indian women surrogates, to global legislation against abortion, our biology as cis women, and doubly as heterosexual cis women is more or less a liability, and motherhood used as a platform for conservatism. To be a mother or to be a feminist? The two positions of woman were never ablated in my own upbringing. But one can not ignore, that whether you’re talking to a feminist sister at a coffee shop or a Catholic adoption agency – women face distinct biases when deciding to mother.

Nature vs Nurture? Instinct vs Politics? Or Am I Over Thinking It?
Nature vs Nurture? Instinct vs Politics? Or Am I Over Thinking It?

When Audre Lorde, our “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” penned the essay “Turning the Beat Around: Lesbian Parenting 1986”, a year after I was born, she was looking through a vantage point of rampant stereotypes, racist governmental policies, and the advent of the AIDS epidemic. Now, in 2013, with Black heterosexual women being the fastest growing HIV affected population, the fastest growing prison population, and also still battling racial stereotyping, the essay seems to speak more to the global Black woman population than the LGBT community. Audre wrote, “I believe that raising children is one way of participating in the future, in social change”. Yet, when she parented, it was after being married (albeit, to a man) and then she co-parented with her life partner, Frances. She wasn’t alone, and her children were hers, biologically. Her path was one that would be considered traditional by today’s standards – with Gay and Lesbian couples (because of that word “couple”) finding an easier time of adopting than single people…

it makes you feel as though you would be an orphan parent.

That can’t be good for children, can it? While Audre battled notions of parenting as being a capitulation to the encroaching evils of the world, Alice Walker was likening motherhood to servitude, in her art, taking on a broader sense of motherhood through womanism. While Walker champions the Mother Earth and children as valuable participants, her depictions of mother-child relationships with hellish needy kids (as in The Color Purple), and her 2005 novel Now is the Time to Open Your Heart, she describes the Valentine’s Day spread her children and husband put together for the mother as “nauseating”, repressive.  Rebecca Walker words keep replaying in my mind, I read this years ago but it still torments me:

“You see, my mum taught me that children enslave women. I grew up believing that children are millstones around your neck, and the idea that motherhood can make you blissfully happy is a complete fairytale…It was drummed into me that being a mother, raising children and running a home were a form of slavery. Having a career, travelling the world and being independent were what really mattered according to her.”

Am I afraid to live my life as a woman to my full potential? Is that what being a mother is, fear?

I was sitting in a spiritual lecture with philosopher Jonathan Clatworthy when the discussion of God – where is He, who is He – was bandied with the vigour of trying to dispel the masculine personification and to rationalise the human need to engage in the supernatural – the worship of God. Super-Natural… above nature is what that means, coming from the Latin which means “beyond”. From the lecture I picked up that a Paul Tillich described God as “the ground of our being”, leading a Bishop John Robinson to pen the theory of “Ultimate Reality”, that unsaid thing that triggers the emotions; feelings of transcendence; the conscious that acts at unexpected moments; the feeling of connectedness and eternity – that one cannot explain. Plato is my favourite old Greek sage with his “hierarchy of man”, with “GOOD” at the

Jillian Micheal's, biggest loser trainer, courts paparazzi from her adoption of an African child,
Jillian Micheal’s, biggest loser trainer, courts paparazzi from her adoption of an African child,

top, and Iris Murdoch‘s reassertion of the reality of good, a true reality that has always stuck out as the pinnacle and principle of my ethical path. Whether you prefer good to drop an ‘o’, there is something ancient and powerful about our quest on Earth for righteousness.

But this lecture didn’t help me as it served to confuse my mind a bit more… So is the want to be a mother a propulsion toward goodness, or simple biology? Do I have enough, without partnership to transcend the fears Alice had for Rebecca? I don’t have to explain to anyone rational why the negative -isms are without purpose; why one should sustain the planet they live in; why a better world creates better opportunity; why equality is not only moral but logical and constructive. But finding gateways to perpetuate this, ’tis when the process becomes murky… Then are we still bound to our conceptions shaped by a world that we steadfastly challenge continually? Unconsciously, yes.

Some may find this to be simple – why does anyone want to be a mother? Because they just want to. But you see, I have to question this, as those in adoption question me, with the additional caveat of “You’re a young, attractive woman. What if you do meet a man to marry, what about the children then?”.

Where would they go? I want to ask, but I know what they’re saying – that its an emptiness, not a fullness that has led me to this path. In some feminist circles the same is true, only slightly opposite; that whatever fullness I do have, the children will drain like a soul reaver sent from some demonic lair of swings and candies, armed with a perpetual tick to repeat the word “mum” every five seconds.

I’m in the camp that believes people like Angelina Jolie and Madonna, with their obsession with kidnapping children from far-flung locations, possessing no real regard for whether these children have parents, are not exactly propelled toward goodness, but rather importance. The children serve as a conduit for their need to be perceived as someone admirable… a kind of objectification of children really.

But this ‘children as instruments’ is not unique to these women – whether you’re married and you make the children a reason to hold another in romantic bondage or whether you’re a celebrity who has noticed you haven’t been mentioned lately in tabloid tv – children as tools tends to be more readily understood in society.

And I’m left with the innocence of thinking children are just for children’s sake.

We all see children abused, shot, stabbed, tortured, trafficked into slavery, and all other manner of destructiveness, and call it the times as we know it. Say things like suffering and oppression is “real life”, say its the way of things, and then try to avoid any true interaction with it, turn a blind eye to it, as it may touch our delicate sensibilities and flowers and sunbeam existences. But why is that more real? Scientifically, if a system, process or theory is ineffective or causes destruction beyond any real tangible productive use, then it doesn’t exist – it isn’t a discovery. Thus if we applied scientific logic to our current societal way of thinking, then we would too find that it isn’t reality. Its like the miasma theory of the spread of disease. Exactly, you never heard of it because it was proven untrue.

I don’t think this heinous way of being is reality… not in that spacey way that New Age guru’s declare on the Oprah Winfrey Show. I mean, this heinous way of being is not reality like junk science, Bantu education and all other forms of misinformation. To move from existing (which is now) to reality (which is the aspiration) we have to let that good in… the ultimate reality. Like Audre said, and Iris. We have to see goodness in both small and grand ways, or else we will in time detach ourselves from reality… Desensitisation to horror, annihilation of empathy.

Maybe that is why I want to be a mother. And perhaps that’s as good as any. If I lose myself in the process, so be it.

People have lost their lives to worst than a mothers day card.

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