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15 November, 2009

The Cult of Mommon

Trinity posted a link to this article thing. And, man.

But let's talk about the greatest gift a woman can receive: being a mommy.

This pisses me the fuck off even more now that I have a Little Foot to look after. I mean, the gender-essentialist 'women are all about the baybeez' thing has always annoyed me, especially since I know plenty of women who aren't so much and a few men who are, and the amount of 'No, really, you should have kids (unless you're some kind of my-standard-of-defective, in which case you should never come within a half mile of one)' bullshit in this culture makes me crazy.

I'm not touching the rest of this stupid article, just that one sentence.

No, "being a mommy" is not a fucking gift. The magic stork did not drop by my place with a giftwrapped angelbaby who never requires anything inconvenient, okay?

You know where my baby came from? My innards. And I built her over forty-one weeks of nausea, increasing mobility impairment, heartburn, significant gender dysphoria, emotional fragility, and, admittedly, reprieve from my depression. Her arrival was two days of fucking back labor, frustration, blood loss, and twelve goddamn stitches done despite the fact that apparently my body will only consider believing in lidocaine for brief moments.

Gifts do not require twelve stitches upon receipt, people.

And that's not touching on people who had C-sections, who went through long-term adoption processes, who otherwise, y'know, worked and sacrificed and bled and paid for their shot at 'being a mommy'. Or a daddy. Or. That's not touching on people who have been locked out of parenthood because the adoption agency won't place with a gay parent. That's not touching on a whole lot of things.

Being a mommy is not something that was bestowed upon me like the halo on a medieval madonna painting, unlike what this sentence would like you to believe. This sentence, like all of the mommy-worship culture, wants to paint a beatific portrait of motherhood, the angel of the household proven with the babe-in-arms.

Being a parent is something that one does. And it's something that one has to do every single day, a constant choice, a deliberate act.

Deliberate consciously chosen perpetual commitments: also not gifts.

What makes me a mother is not mystical processes bestowed upon me by a benevolent universe because I have a worthy uterus. It is not some external thing that fluttered down and spread its wings over my family.

What makes me a mother is sitting here typing this blog post with Little Foot cradled in one elbow because she needs to nurse. What makes me a mother is bouncing her when she has bellyache, changing her diapers, giving her a bath. What makes me a mother is doing this even when I feel like crud because of my current state of illness. And, y'know, these same things - barring the breastfeeding - are the things that make the other members of my family parents.

I have always had a vocation towards motherhood, and always been aware of what that would require of me. I spent ages fearful about this, worried that my depression would mean that I was doomed to be a failure as a mother, someone who would not be able to properly care for my child. And frankly I resent the idea that the years of work and therapy and personal development I spent preparing, the nine months of gestation, and the weeks of recovery and childcare are a gift as opposed to a goddamn accomplishment.

And there is a trap in this "gift" language - if a mother has a bad day, needs someone else to look after the kid because ohmygodsI'mgoinginsaneIwillneverhavepersonalspaceagain or thescreamingthescreaming or ifIdon'tgettwohoursofuninterruptedsleepnowsohelpmeIwillexplode or whatever else - well, that's being an ungrateful bitch. Because motherhood is a "gift", you know, this magic thing bestowed upon the worthy and enuterused, and that means that one is obligated to bow one's head and cradle the baby and look holy so that the motherworship can commence, because how can we properly revere someone who has mud and blood in the sacred motherhood and who acknowledges that there are times that it is fucking hard to do and my gods, I'm pulling my hair out here need some time away, etc.?

The "gift" of motherhood is a trap, simultaneously erasing investment and effort and commitment and choice and dedication and making it unconscionable to express displeasure, talk about issues, have postpartum depression, express a realistic picture of what it is to have a baby. It erases the experience in order to replace it with something clean and pristine that can be adored without contemplation of consequences or actual respect for the real efforts of mothers.

I am not your fucking madonna-and-child icon, proving my worth for worship by placid acceptance of this bounty.

Motherhood is not a fucking present.

A baby is not lagniappe.

Little Foot is tucked up against my breast, one arm wrapped around it with her cheek pillowed on the nipple. When I look at her, she smiles in her sleep; if she were awake, she would meet my eyes and beam with a toothless grin, pure delight at being with me.

That is a gift.


EthylBenzene said...

Fantastic post!

" It erases the experience in order to replace it with something clean and pristine that can be adored without contemplation of consequences or actual respect for the real efforts of mothers."

Yes, this. I try to tell my friends who are parents how great they're doing from time to time, and to listen when they talk about how hard things are, because there's SO much pressure to be "perfect." And I mean, who the hell is perfect, anyway? Anyone who thinks they are a perfect parent? Is wrong.

Anonymous said...

"Gifts do not require twelve stitches upon receipt, people."


Anonymous said...

In addition to not being a "gift" it's not...well, special. Of course every child is special and it's a special experience for those who undertake it, but it is also something every single one of our ancestors, going back millions of years, did as well. Sexual reproduction - it's just one of the things animals do.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

It's amazing, you know: I'm the descendent of an unbroken line of organisms that survived to reproductive age!

SunflowerP said...

::applauds, stomps, whistles, and cheers::


Aqua, of the Questioners said...

Excellent post.

It's all part of the erasure of the physicality of the whole thing. I increasingly suspect that's because if society really had to face up to what women actually do physically by being pregnant and giving birth, it'd spontaneously collapse.

Vieva said...

*cheers as well*

Yes. This!

A gift does not cause so much pain, blood, sweat and tears to simply DELIVER and then years more to nurture.

The hugs I get from sleepy swuggies sneaking in to my room in the morning because he loves me so much he can't help but want to hug me? THOSE are a gift.

The third time in a row he fails potty training 101 and I have to clean it up? NOT SO MUCH! :D

mamacrow said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dw3t-Hthr said...

Dammit, mamacrow, I didn't mean to kill your comment. :( Trying to deal with a spammer.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Reposting what mamacrow said, because I can't fix it:


love is a VERB you know? so you don't feel like the prestine worshiped figure, and you're finding it hard to feel the warm fuzzies - SO WHAT. you still get up, and cuddle and nurse and change/wipe bums and read the same book for 50 times in a row whether you feel like it or not.

That's motherhood - 'Deliberate consciously chosen perpetual commitments' as you say.

THAT's love.

Labrys said...

Thank you. I am kowtowing at your feet for expressing it so much better than I ever could in years of parenting and having this sentiment-religio-infused manure tea sprayed in my direction. Thank you. Seriously thank you so very much!

mamacrow said...

No worries Dw3t-Hthr, thanks for reposting my comment for me :)

Rosemary Cottage said...

This is a fucking brilliant post. :-)

Would you mind if I submitted it to the "carnival of feminist parenting" at Mothers for Women's Lib? Or would you prefer me not to.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

No, please, feel free to submit it. It needed to be said, and having said it I sure don't mind it being seen. ;)

Murre said...


I was so glad to find my way back here today, and to read you including the work of adoption as part of parenting. It struck a chord as Orlando (who didn't mean to misread your post on the occasion of Little Foot's arrival!) and I have been been forced to choose very deliberately about interventions in my body (now) vs our lives (later) to enable reproduction, bodily or social, in the context of my having cancer.

thank you.

Dionna said...

Awesome. Simply, awesome. Thank you for saying this.

Dw3t-Hthr said...


My earnest wishes for your best health.

One of the things my lion and I have talked about for years is that a sire and a dam do not a parent make; being a parent is in the doing. I try to be very careful to include adoptive parents and adopted children in my mental conception of parenthood.

lindaschiffer said...

I have always believed that being a mother is a career -- if you work outside the home, it is likely to be a second career. I, myself, was not up to multi-careering and so did stay-at-home-mothering. Not a gift, a choice!

:) Linda

Denisemarie said...

Damn, this was a righteously good post! Thank you for putting these words into the world. From a grandmother who's sick to death of this mommy-as-saint thing that seems to have mutated yet again with a generational vengeance (like a fucking rapidly-replicating virus)... thank you.