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THE SILENT ROAR OF THE PROBLEM THAT HAS NO NAME

eating her young.jpg

This beautiful post was originally on Dr. Jacqueline Schoemaker Holmes' blog Eating Her Young on Feb 20, 2018. Check her out on Instagram @eatingheryoung

I’ve been thinking a lot about the #MeToo Movement and how important it is for women – any woman, every woman – no matter if you want to identify with it or not. For me, #MeToo represents all the hushed voices that women are compelled to speak in, all the embarrassing confessions, all the currency of the woman-centered underground railroad of truth-telling.

My entrance into motherhood has opened my eyes to a whole world of whispered truths and I can’t say that I am not still angry about that fact. Women are so used to shutting up, lest they not be believed, or worse, told that their experiences don’t matter, don’t “add up,” or are inconsistent with maintaining the privilege of those who do what they want to women’s bodies, their spirits, their minds, without so much as wrist slap. Women have whispered too long.

In addition to the #MeToo Movement, we see students rising up, challenging law-makers and politicians to do something about their safety in schools and beyond. They are tired of being ignored. They are tired of being constructed as unknowing, ineffectual, overly entitled creatures.

What the marginalization of motherhood and these movements have in common is the deep-seated ache in so many of us to speak our truths, come what may. There is so much exhaustion in all of us around being heard, that we need a collective groundswell to buoy us all up to again fight the good fight.

I read something recently about how the #MeToo Movement is a culmination of all the seeds of activism and organizing of the feminist movement(s) come to fruition and I feel like we stand on the precipice of something similar for mothers; for women who have too long walked through the trenches of oppressive expectation and who come out the other side changed but not better.

In 1963 Betty Friedan wrote:       

Each suburban wife struggles with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night- she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question – “Is this all?”

~ Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique

So how far have we come? Mothers everywhere ask, is this all, while simultaneously trying to be it all, do it all, take care of it all in order to fit a picture of perfection that was presumably built in the 1950s for white women of privilege that serves as a proxy for everyone today - in 2018. That’s a 70-year-old mind fuck if I’ve ever seen one.

Now I’m not trying to convince anyone that the state of contemporary motherhood is equivalent to sexual assault or school shootings; instead, I am trying to speak to what continues to be unspoken – the oppressive and marginalizing reality that is Motherhood with a Capital M. We have not come so far. We are not so different from our 1970s era mothers except that we are imprisoned by health recommendations that they were free of and miss out on the meaning that unifying with other women gave them in the heady days of the social and sexual revolutions. In short, we have not escaped the tyranny of the ways by which we must be women in order to be appropriate and proper. We have not expanded those boundaries as far as we should of since the time of our mothers.

Where is the space to be real, to be true to ourselves as humans struggling to find meaning, to find and have “it all,” to have the ability to be the kind of mothers we want to be outside of prescribed perfectionism? It is often sadly limited to wine-fueled evenings with other mommies that take roughly three months to organize because you are so swamped with your kids' schedules and running a house and a social calendar and are too exhausted to put lipstick on and stay out past 8pm. This is the reality of mothers of small children – this I know – and perhaps the reality of all mothers. But how would I know when women are encouraged to keep their motherhood experiences quiet, for fear of upsetting the apple cart?

Next time you fear telling another mother something I want you to ask yourself why? What is stopping you for telling the truth, your truth, of motherhood? Why can’t you hate it and love it and then hate it again? Why can’t you be human and a mother? Why do you have to be more human than everyone else while also being bestowed with the mandate that you must love motherhood for fear of, GASP, being a bad mother? What’s your definition of a bad mother? To what extent have you internalized the external voices that tell you to be quiet; that your personal issues are yours alone to deal with and that other women have it all together, or should have, if they wan to be a "good mother"?

We can’t let perfectionism and mompetition separate us. We can’t stay mired in the problem that has no name because we are actively not naming it for fear of being judged.

Name your truth. Speak it. Label it. Define it and tell it.

It will bring us together and together we can do anything.

For a “village” of mummies that offers a space to be real, join us at Mummy Voices on Facebook.  

Tavia Cosper