Saturday, January 10, 2009

Feminism and Motherhood

These questions teasing out the tensions between motherhood and feminism interested me on Bluemilk's blog:

How would you describe your feminism in one sentence?
A constant search for the possibility of balance between a creative professional life, and the reality of life as a mother, while nurturing a relationship with a partner and finding space to nurture oneself. Its a personal and political exercise.

When did you become a feminist?
Far too late! Not until I was about 19 or 20 when I was introduced to feminist academic writings by a artist/activist/performance artist at University. Thank you Bronia Ivanchuk

Was it before or after you became a mother?

What has surprised you most about motherhood?
The degree to which my feminist principles are daily compromised! Example: I find myself at home (again) today, minding my two children during the school holidays. I try to find space between a mother's duties [adjudicating arguments, making many small meals, washing, cleaning etc etc etc ] for life affirming, creative, and enriching activities...But the really surprising thing is that its precisely because my life is jam-packed with mummy-stuff that i am forced to be efficient with the other stuff. And that's the sad thing, I suppose. Work + a creative life become the other stuff.

How has your feminism changed over time? What is the impact of motherhood on your feminism?
I was far more militant when I was in my 20's. That was me at 'reclaim the night' marches, speaking at women's self defence demonstrations, and taking men to task for the way masculist thought infuses language, social mores and the world generally. Talking to men about gender issues has moderated my views somewhat. Also, to be honest, I have found a way to be more at peace with adopting the nurturing aspects of the female stereotype. Which is not to say that the propensity to nurture should not be shared by men.

What makes your mothering feminist?
Oh, Christ! I'm not sure i would make this claim of myself and my actions. Hmmm... But why not? feminism is no longer, and should never be a dirty word. I believe that the personal is political, so, when I conduct myself in the world professionally, I include my children. I have taken them to building sites, conferences and meetings. In these actions I suppose I am saying that it must be acceptable for women (and men too) to have a professional life and a family life, and that they sometimes overlap. I think its important that I show my young girls that while it might not be possible to 'have it all', it is possible to pursue a career and enjoy a rich family and social life.

How does your approach differ from a non-feminist mother’s? How does feminism impact upon your parenting?
I'm not sure I would hazard a guess at what a non-feminist mother is!
Do you ever feel compromised as a feminist mother? Do you ever feel you’ve failed as a feminist mother?
Motherhood is a series of compromises. Ive accepted long ago that life is long, and its OK to 'go slow' with my career while my children are small. I want to enjoy the time with my kids. Cliche? Perhaps...
Has identifying as a feminist mother ever been difficult? Why?
I suppose I have identified as both feminist and mother separately, rather than bringing the two terms together. I'm still thinking through what it is that a feminist mother might be. That may be intellectual laziness on my part, or just an acceptance of living one day at a time, fulfilling my responsibilities as a mum and trying to enjoy this at the same time as working part or full-time.

Motherhood involves sacrifice, how do you reconcile that with being a feminist?
Its a realistic sacrifice. To be both mother and careerist is to find yourself an early grave.

If you have a partner, how does your partner feel about your feminist motherhood? What is the impact of your feminism on your partner?
Guilt...but then again he is catholic, so it goes with the territory!

If you’re an attachment parenting mother, what challenges if any does this pose for your feminism and how have you resolved them?
My kids are a little older now (9 and 4) , so this is not so relevant to my situation
Do you feel feminism has failed mothers and if so how? Personally, what do you think feminism has given mothers?
At best, feminism has given women choices: to pursue careers and expect equal status and/or to follow the more traditional path of motherhood. Its the 'and' part that is the worrying element in this as its a virtual impossibility to keep all the 'balls in the air'. At worst, feminism has set mothers up for failure, as inevitably those balls get dropped. I know, Ive been there and dropped a few myself!


  1. jen. loving this. welcome to blogland. you found inner city garden and bluemilk and copenhagen cycle chic!

  2. Blogland is FUN! Thanks for the links :}