As an academic I feel that when I need to answer a question I must read tons of books and find a critical approach to the topic that reflects originality, coherency and consistency (or at least try to).
I know that theory works at certain levels and in some areas. In other fields, you just navigate blind, following your guts and intuition. When I first started to be interested in mothering and feminism I thought: “This is the first time I’m the object of my own research”. That thought made me feel relaxed and open to other points of view. Surprisingly, when I work in other fields, especially that of indigenous peoples and human rights, my original field of research, I find myself vindicating certain approaches vigorously and passionately, whereas when I talk about mothering and feminism I feel more cautious.
For me, mothering and feminism bring together aspects that are normally dismembered in my life, such as heart and reason, woman and mother, academic and mother, to mention just a few. In thinking about and living my feminist mothering I feel that I can listen to myself and make the decisions that I feel are right for me and my family without wondering whether they will make me look like a good mother or a good academic.
In doing this I find that don’t need to listen exclusively to my academic ambitions and go for a full time-job straight after my maternity leave if that does not fit into my current life and means a great deal of sacrifice for my family and myself. I can listen to my heart when it says that I want to spend more time with my son, and this does not mean that I am necessarily wasting my time. In this regard, feminist mothering gives me the space to be the woman that I want to be through listening to the different voices inside me.
Feminist mothering also brings me other joys, such as allowing me to look at our society and the public space through different lenses. This is definitely an intellectual tool and I really enjoy using it in different contexts, especially when I am teaching and writing. I like the works of Susan Douglas, Andrea O’Reilly, Celia Amorós, Carole Pateman, Hilary Charlesworth, Christine Chinkin and Dianne Otto, all of whom have helped me enormously to think about all these matters in a different way. Their writings have brought me some sort of intellectual spark that makes me think: “Yes, I knew that but I didn’t know how to frame it”.
Feminist mothering also means sharing this experience with other women, talking about it, thinking about it together, generating resources locally and internationally and creating networks through which to talk about how we feel and what we want. To me, feminist mothering means fully respecting the woman and mother that every woman wants to be, including respecting the space in which all our decisions, contradictions and experiences are created.
Finally, mothering and feminist thinking teach me that the chaos, the rush, the dazzling moments, the crises, the sense that you need to plan your day as a war strategist, and all the love involved are just part of the process. All these contradictory emotions are just “normal”, but they are not exclusively private in the sense that they need to be lived in isolation. Mothering is a complex experience that mobilizes women’s cultural, social and class identities, but it needs to be transferred to the public space, not for it to be publicly scrutinized but to share it in order to transform gender relations and patriarchal structures. This means that there is a lot of work to do, so we’d better roll up our sleeves and start working!