I think of the mothers.
when I wake, and when I go to bed, and when I walk through this world. I think of the mothers and the mothering. so often we write a script that motherhood belongs to those who birth babies. we make exceptions
for some kinds of birth, and a little room for those who take babies in. ok, and then the ones who take not-quite babies in. or, sure, the mothers with grown children who keep on tending to grand babies. every once in a while,
we think to say sorry and nudge over a bit more for the ones who lost babies, or who can’t have babies, or for aunties. on rare occasions, we call folks ‘second’ mamas. oh, but we always make sure to equate mothering with
the raising of children.
as if we are not all invested in that work.
as if community building and healthcare and education and corner markets and libraries and parks and moments of joy and family meals and postal workers and acts of terror and toy stores are not working, in concert, to raise our children.
as if the news, with its despair, and politicians, with their vitriol, and neighbors, with their hate, and the streets, with their bloodstains just blocks from where we play, are not the very threads by which a child’s life is woven.
as if this sweet stillness of rainy days and the Saturday night dance parties and homemade crafts and glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling and the unspoken love languages of community + familial intimacy are not mingling with all the players of this beaten, bruised world to build a life for our children.
see, the act of mothering is an investment made on behalf of the future. not some idealistic, pristine world we might create, but the tangible, messy thing we are building before our eyes. each moment, every one of us is paying into the trust fund of our collective future, and the children are watching us with reverence and disbelief because we bankrupt their tomorrow with our today.
this is easily done because, in truth, little value is placed on mothering and motherhood. matriarchal joy, nourishment, achievement.. these are inconsequential in a society that prioritizes capitalistic gain, ownership,
power, and prestige over all else. motherhood, our collective work, is tasked with the weight of the world, and yet...
I am a Black mother. I am educated, professionally employed, poetic, creative, hilarious, snarky, stubborn, beautiful, insightful, a decent baker and a good cook, well-read, loving, and empathetic, too. in this society, I remain a Black mother, and my worth in this world is summed up in three little words every time. those are the boxes I check, despite my unwavering, fierce, even dogged devotion to mothering the children of our world — through art and literature and community and conversation and love and championing. the work amounts to little knowing it can be snuffed out in a moment.
motherhood stays political. it is social work. it is social justice work. it is personal liberation. it is freedom-creating. it is collective care. it is community wellness. and it is done by bodies, often womxn’s bodies, in a society where the body is political.
& we are crumbling beneath the oppressive weight.
who will hear us? who will sing a mother’s song? who will hold her as she grieves a world too caught in its march to power to pause for the life of a mother’s child? who sees a mother’s ache and casts it aside as unfamiliar? who cannot find themselves eye to eye with the mothering folk and beg for forgiveness?
I weep for the mothers who know acutely the agony of loving your own breathing, beating, seizing heart-in-human-form as it pumps and soars before you, a sparkling delight bound for excellence. each day of mothering brings the twin flames of aching beauty; so it is to love and slowly leave a creature you’ve nourished into existence.
but dear goodness: I mourn for the mothers who can no longer hold their children whose futures and lives have been stolen.
and we are all those mothers.
we owe society’s children the lives they have been given. we owe our children their rightful breaths. we have debts. mothering is not reserved for those who birth babies, for indeed we are all birthing and shepherding and raising a nation with our actions and inactions, silence and protests, love and love.
it serves no one to feel guilt and shame and embarrassment or even anger. our jobs as mothers are not to be in our feelings about the state of the world or the recklessness of our past selves or how hard it will be. the service we can provide is work, collectively, to create a future we can proudly gift our shared children.
what are you doing to amplify the work of grassroots organizations who mother our communities? how are you spending your dollars to mother the voices, livelihoods, and hopes of our children? who are you supporting with time and energy and money that may rise in matriarchal leadership and champion the children? how are you putting your body to work mothering justice and belonging and liberation for our children? what texts are you consuming to mother a more conscious self so you may better mother a society? to whom do you open your home and provide mothering friendship and love? how are you mothering a more just history into reality, interrupting the legacies of oppressive abandonment we’ve inherited?
I tell you: we are the mothers of tomorrow, and I ask you: what are you doing to raise a world that will not kill my child?
By Adrienne Oliver