Op-ed, Martha Joy Rose May 13, 2019
Despite headlines and discourse, the most unchanging thing about motherhood is how much it doesn’t change. While parenting narratives in the public arena are more visible than ever, while books on mothers and mothering are written and published at a dizzying pace (see Demeter Press among others), and while activists and bloggers do their best to articulate the realities and difficulties of mothering, the truth will make you mad. Policies ranging from healthcare to human rights in the United States have not changed much at all in the last 50 years, and if anything, they appear to be moving backward at times.
This year’s Mothers’ Day came and went with the usual fanfare of compliments, cards, and lovely acknowledgments. But, the truth of being a woman, or a woman of color in America, can be very scary. Aside from the well-known, repetitive conversation around everything from our as-of-yet still unratified ERA to maternal morbidity rates, we observed a rollback of certain state’s abortion rights, and the constant pressure mothers and caregivers experience as they try to balance unrealistic expectations with work pressures. All of this occurs in the midst of corporate greed and governmental callousness which is reflected in our lack of family-friendly policies.
NPR: Weekend Edition, May 12, 2019
On why domestic demands on mothers actually increased in the mid-’90s
The expectations for motherhood suddenly … went through the roof. … One of the reasons that academics will cite for why this happened at the same time that [mothers’] labor force participation peaked was because there was a lot of anxiety about what was going to happen to the kids. All these moms are now in the workforce in greater numbers than ever: What’s going to happen to the children? So the standards for mothering kind of ratcheted up. [Link to ARTICLE].
As a woman, I am angry. But as a mother, I’m seething. There’s a robust conversation right now about the historical and present power of female rage as a tool for social change. A number of books, articles, and social media hashtags are pointing out that women are fed up. Instead of being silenced by patriarchal ideas of women’s emotions as “hysteria,” women are embracing their anger as a social and political force to be reckoned with. That is great news for women. But what about mothers as a key subset of women? ~Kimberly Seals Allers for The Washington Post 2019: [LINK to article]
There is a lot to be angry about. Women of color in the USA, who are pregnant, have the most to be worried about. Their prenatal care, birth care, and post-birth care are all persistently worse than their white counterparts. This problematic scenario can be linked to many ongoing issues related to systemic racism, socio-economic status, and the apparent lack of willingness for medical professionals to listen to the voices of these women. [Read more here in the news at this link].
This year’s Museum of Motherhood annual conference focused on “Rewriting Trauma and Birth.” We welcomed keynote speaker Khiara M. Bridges, who is the author of Reproducing Race. Her book smartly explores the social construction of race in medical settings and helps to examine the forces that coerce women into dangerous birth scenarios.
So, whether over-burdened by maternal workloads, subject to a medical crisis of deadly proportions or managing the anger associated with outdated policies that do not support women and families, something has got to shift.
Before we can identify solutions we must notice the problems and call them out. By naming and labeling the issues we have engaged in the first line of offense. Some people will voice objections. They will list the ways in which gender mirrors biology. They will do their best to keep enduring structures of power and privilege intact. However, we just keep raising our voices and turning up the volume.
Kimberly Seals Allers proposes several steps for improving the state of families in America. Some of those include obvious changes to healthcare. Others must focus on policy shifts that recognize unpaid maternal labor, as well as the development of affordable childcare options for working mothers.
So what has been going on for the last 15 years? Below is an article that was written by Jill Brooke for the Chicago Tribune during a burst of notoriety for the Mom Rockers who had set their minds on creating change within the home as well as the world at large. While the emphasis on using art and music for social change has amped up the volume on women’s issues, many of the problems these founding artists sought to address have remained stubbornly ingrained in our institutions, including the “institution of the family.” You can read more on this subject in the book, the Music of Motherhood (Demeter Press 2018).
Course development and educational programming that break the barrier on women’s (and gender) studies in the university and beyond are an important step in disrupting repetitive patterns that keep individuals trapped in hegemonic discourses and force the idealization of parenting roles. Here at MOM, we are striking back by pushing back. Giving a nod to the work of Guerrilla Girl Donna Kaz, we encourage those of you who are seeking some strategies for change to utilize her work to create activist platforms. LINK
” I have heard many people express their own powerlessness as they face threats to their rights and the rights of those they support on a daily basis. Perhaps you agree there is a need to understand how to organize and see results, on a local level. Maybe you search for activist knowledge and are hungry for something to guide you through the steps of creatively supporting a cause. PUSH/PUSHBACK will fill that need.”
The band Housewives On Prozac was championing pushback through music in the late nineties through 2008. Their song “Eat Your Damn Spaghetti” was a rallying cry for overwhelmed and frustrated mothers. You can watch the video below. Meanwhile, the MaMaPaLooZa Festival, which is ongoing in New York City and Sydney, Australia aims to create dynamic change through empowerment, education, and large-scale community events. Other super-important and amazing organizations (to name a very few), include MomsRising, SisterSong, and The Center for Reproductive Rights.
December 21, 2004,|By Jill Brooke, Special to the Tribune
“I tried to be the perfect mom but then buckled. It’s time for a little liberation, and I want to give moms permission to nourish a piece of themselves and then go back to wiping the kids’ noses, cooking dinner and carpooling.”
And what better way to launch a rebellion than rock ‘n’ roll? Link to ARTICLE.
Finally, let us ask the question: Why does America have the least-friendly family policies? The U.S. is the only country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) not to offer paid leave on a national basis.
“People think motherhood is inherently overwhelming because we’ve made that idea seem natural,” said Virginia Rutter, a professor of sociology at Framingham State University in Massachusetts and author of “Families as They Really Are.” “We normalize the hardships of motherhood. … This is now what’s familiar.”
We must continue to work together for the kinds of change that will benefit all American families and not just a few. The best way to do this is to advocate for intersectional, interdisciplinary education and activism that affects attitudes, policy, and the private/public sector in ways that support women and men and make the world an easier place for caregivers to navigate.
*Mamava is a company that hopes to normalize breastfeeding and support nursing mothers. One of their lactation spaces in JFK airport is the featured photo on this post. #Mamava #Mothers #MOM #JoinMama
Art by Tereza Buskova – ‘Clipping the Church’
In many cultures, even today, new mothers and their infants are subject to a period of physical seclusion or confinement from the rest of the world. During this time, the support of relatives and the local community plays a vital role in sustaining the family by caring for the older children, providing food and completing chores typically carried out by the mother herself. It is hard to imagine now that things were not so different for the generation of our own great-grandmothers.
No longer restricted by this custom, women today enjoy the benefits of improved healthcare, education and childcare options, which grant them greater freedom than ever before. Yet the stigma and judgment that come with pregnancy and early motherhood linger, whereas support of the local community has all but disappeared over time. Today’s society too often adopts a patronizing, utilitarian attitude which blinds it to the particular needs of parents and families. As a consequence, many new mothers experience feelings of loneliness and isolation from their social networks, unknown to them before. Some feel actively ostracised and judged when they should be encouraged and cherished.
Clipping the Church is a project based on an old English tradition in which parishioners ‘clip’ their local place of worship with hands and bodies and sing songs of a celebratory nature. The overarching aspect of this custom is inclusiveness and Buskova married it with the representation of motherhood expressed by the act of baking and sharing baked goods with family, friends and anonymous members of the community.
Dressed in traditional Czech outfits, ornate with sensuous red ribbons and elaborate baked accessories, two women lead a procession via Erdington’s High Street. Their white skirts are decorated with flowery patterns and bunched around their hips, emphasizing the connection with nature and its fertility. The work subtly harks back to the history of Erdington, which remained a rural area until recent times. Accompanied by two young girls and followed by a simple wooden frame made of celestial crust (sugary pastries based on an old Czech recipe) topped by a small figurine of Virgin Mary and carried on men’s shoulders, the procession was joined by a multinational crowd, old and young. All precincts vanished for the duration of the performance and the lively chatting was underscored by accompanying cello music performed by Bela Emerson, resulting in a festive atmosphere that resonated within the surroundings.
One of the most moving and symbolically saturated moments of the procession took place upon its arrival at St Barnabas Church’s gate. There, Frieda Evans, the parish priest and the artist invited the crowd to ‘clip’ the church. Despite its overarching religious connotations, the act of forming a circle around the church added a universal dimension to this Christian custom. The church, decorated all the way around with sourdough bread in elaborate shapes hanging on red ribbons from the building’s façade, echoed the human bonds created around the church. Prepared by Buskova and the community members, this simple bake became a gesture of kindness and generosity. With the act of sharing and consuming the celestial crust, ‘Clipping the Church’ was finalized. The custom was reinvented, becoming not English, not Czech, but an inclusive community act.
Tereza Buskova (b.1978, Prague) completed her Fine Art Printmaking MA at the Royal College of Art in 2007. Her intuitive practices capture and renew Czech folk traditions through a combination of film making, screen printing and performance. Buskova’s work has been exhibited at Rituals, David Roberts Art Foundation, London (2008); A Tradition I Do Not Mean To Break, Zabludowicz Collection, London (2009); Rituals Are Tellers Of Us, Newlyn Art Gallery, UK ( 2013); and Reality Czech: the Czech Avant-Garde, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2015. She has exhibited, performed and lectured in a broad range of different spaces including Lincoln’s Chambers Farm Wood (2010), Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo (2014), and Erdington High Street, UK (2016).
The Mom Egg Review – Words
Measure of Grace
by Caitlin Grace McDonnell
The longest person’s eyelashes were ten inches,
or maybe six. I think 8. She lived in China,
my daughter tells me, who is nine, like the youngest soccer coach, in Barcelona, which,
she says, is the best. The length of your integrity
is directly correlated to your forearm in prayer.
If you want to be seen as a woman, wear a string
of pearls. If you want to be seen as everything,
make yourself scarce. Math is comforting, my
daughter says, because the answers are clear.
Meanwhile, the length of time between school
shootings decreases at a rate comparable
to the disappearance of the words “climate change”
from government documents. Or the disappearance
of ice in the Arctic sea, or honeybees from warm
habitats. Yesterday, Sudan, the last Northern White
Rhino was put down in Kenya. The buds that bloom
beneath my daughter’s breasts are harder than
I remember on my own body, my own breasts,
whose alveoli no longer make milk. If you squint
at two women, they can almost be one.
Caitlin Grace McDonnell was a New York Times Poetry Fellow at NYU, where she received her MFA. She has published a chapbook, Dreaming the Tree (belladonna books, 2003) and a book, Looking for Small Animals (Nauset Press, 2012). Her poems, essays and book reviews have appeared in numerous print and online publications, including Salon, Washington Square, Chronogram and more. She teaches writing in Brooklyn, NY, where she lives with daughter, Kaya Hope.
The Museum of Motherhood, the ProCreate Project, the Mom Egg Review, and the Mother Magazine are pleased to announce the launch of a bi-monthly international exchange of ideas and art. M.A.M.A. will celebrate the notion of being “pregnant with ideas” in new ways. This scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the creative, the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. Download the Press Release here or read about updated initiatives. #JoinMAMA @ProcreateProj @MOMmuseum @TheMomEgg
Ruchika is the founder of A.M.M.A.A., Asia’s first platform for Mother Artists. She is a visiting professor at Ashoka University in Sonipat, India. We are sharing the Book of Drawing Marathon here in PDF Format. Please go to Ruchika’s website to find out more:
Also, the Procreate Project in England is proud to present a group exhibition featuring twenty short-listed artists of the Mother Art Prize 2018, the only international prize for self-identifying women and non-binary visual artists with caring responsibilities. The exhibition at Mimosa House, London will be curated by independent curator Marcelle Joseph, Zabludowicz Collection director Elizabeth Neilson, and Whitechapel Gallery curator Laura Smith. Find out more at Procreate Project online.
12 Princes Street
London W1B 2LL
Events are May 3- May 16th
The Mom Egg Review is hosting the MER launch at Poet’s House on May 18th from 4-6 PM in New York City, NY. Link for more information is here.
Breastfeeding education and support for new mothers is an important ongoing issue. There are many decisions and questions regarding breastfeeding versus formula feeding. A few of those include: should you alternate between both bottle and breast, how long should you breastfeed over time, what type of latching-on techniques should you use, when is the time to start pumping, how should you store pumped milk, etc.?
As a new parent, one’s lactation questions can be endless. Why is breastfeeding important? Why should parents care?
There are many reasons why breast milk is regarded as the highest form of nutrition infants can obtain. Mothers pass important nutritional antibodies through breast milk that have been observed to benefit overall infant health. Breastfeeding potentially lessens the occurrence of long-term health conditions, such as the prevalence of obesity, type II diabetes, SIDS, gastrointestinal infections and asthma. Mothers also benefit, as breastfeeding promotes a natural way to rebalance hormones and maintain weight loss after pregnancy. Long-term health benefits also include reduced risk of female endocrine-related cancers, such as breast or ovarian cancer, high blood pressure and type II diabetes. In the US, it is recommended to breastfeed exclusively at least up to 6 months after birth. However, average statistics have shown only 1 in 4 women does so.
Despite the bonding benefits of breastfeeding and the positive health outcomes nursing may have for both mom and baby, the decision to nurse is not always an easy one. Everyone’s breastfeeding journey is personal and unique. Often, individuals require support and guidance through the post-birth journey. Sometimes problems arise. Women can experience lactating difficulties, latch issues, sometimes health concerns or pre-existing conditions prevent the possibility of breastfeeding, and women who experience mastitis are often confused about how to proceed.
In the Tampa Bay area, support can be found at many local organizations including the Tampa Bay Breastfeeding Task Force. The Tampa Bay Breastfeeding Task Force is a nonprofit organization that hosts events for breastfeeding activism, they also provide support and answers to questions via their social media and website platforms. Events such as Breastfeeding Friendly Daycare Training, promote their #TBBreastfeeds and the Breastfeeding Normalization Campaign. TBB is also known partners in advocacy efforts with the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition, which provides support for breastfeeding as well as promoting state recommended resources for those needing more information. Their mission “is to improve the health of Floridians by working collaboratively to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.”
If you are in need of professional assistance or are looking for more information, the La Leche League of Florida and the Caribbean Isles connects volunteers with lactation consultants and local nursing mothers’ groups. The Tampa Breastfeeding and Lactation Center LLC or Breastfeeding Care and Consulting, run by Jocelyn Pridemore also offers consultations for new mothers. Different services are available at a variety of prices from high to low. Additionally, if you are seeking access to breast milk, check out charitable organizations such as Mother’s Milk Bank of Florida, which is dedicated disseminating pasteurized donor milk to those in need. They also welcome donations of breast milk. Please spread the word!
If you are interested here is an additional link to some helpful breastfeeding techniques:
Article info sources:
Web Links to Local Orgs and Lactation Specialists
Tampa Breastfeeding and Lactation Center LLC: https://www.breastfeedtampa.com/
Breastfeeding Care and Consulting with Jocelyn Pridemore: http://breastfeedingcareandconsulting.com/
The Florida Breastfeeding Coalition: http://www.flbreastfeeding.org/
The Tampa Bay Breastfeeding Task Force: http://www.tbbreastfeeding.org/
La Leche League of Florida and the Caribbean Isles: http://www.lllflorida.com/lalecheleague/
Mother’s Milk Bank of Florida: https://milkbankofflorida.org/
This article was researched and made possible by Alexandra Valdes as part of a service-learning internship with USF. Read more below or click the image to find out more about our student authors:
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