Motherhood Is a Political Category

And you’re not wrong to feel disenfranchised by it

Image: William F. Campbell/Getty Images

Image: William F. Campbell/Getty Images


‘There’s a word I love, “matrescence,” which describes the psychological process of becoming a mother. Psychologist Aurélie Athan brought it into the mainstream after discovering anthropologist Dana Raphael’s work; both women had seen the need for research about a mother’s interior state when functioning as a person, rather than only as a carer for a child.

What I like about the word is that it teases out the fragile, private metamorphosis of self from the glom of “childbearing” and “mothering” and “motherhood” that takes up so much psychic space. My child is nearly seven; every cell in my body is supposed to have regenerated since I gave birth, but I still feel in transit, like a planet or a bus.

At the same time, the world seems to trundle along. Despite a wave of books about the challenges of motherhood crashing on the shore of publishing these past few years, little seems to have changed materially for the mothers I know. And the more I talk to people, the more unyielding the challenges appear to be. The self may transform, but the system stays the same.’

A polemic over at Medium’s Human Parts.