One of my favorite theorists, Bell Hooks, writes: “I came to theory because I was hurting—the pain within me was so intense that I could not go on living. I came to theory desperate, wanting to comprehend—to grasp what was happening around me” (“Theory as Liberatory Practice” 1994).
I’ve also sought out theory, turning to feminist theories of motherhood after I had my first child. My new social role as a mother completely floored me. I went from being a “me” to being a “we.” In future posts I’ll write about some of the theories that were helpful, like learning about the huge economic costs of becoming a mother in Ann Crittenden’s The Price of Motherhood.
The word “theory” often makes people think of something dry, abstract, or untested. My students often confess that they are afraid of theory. They’re afraid that they might feel stupid if they don’t understand it. Part of my job as a women’s studies professor is to introduce people to the idea that we can turn to theory to help explain the world around us. If you’re interested in how, why, and when societies became the way they are, then you’re interested in theory. If you’re interested in how social change can happen, you’re interested in theory.
Theory can come in many forms, including memoirs, autobiographies, and blog posts. These were the forms of “theory” or related to trying to understand what it means to be a mother that were the most helpful to me. Reading “momoirs” like Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year let me know I wasn’t alone. The magazine Brain Child gave me window into the complexities of women’s experiences in mothering.
Alice Walker’s essay “One Child of One’s Own,” discusses her mother’s struggles as an uneducated African American woman with a large family in the 1940s, and Walker’s own journey to write and be a professional woman and mother her daughter Rebecca.
These have been some of the narratives that have been the most important to me. What about you? What are some of favorite writings of other mothers, either in memoirs or in blogs (like one of my favorites, Lesbian Dad)?
BIO: Jocelyn Fenton Stitt an Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at Minnesota State:, and sits on the committee for the upcoming M.O.M. Conferenceand MAMA Expo in NYC. She has co-authored numerous books, including Mothers Who Deliver. You can contact her at Jocelyn.firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional Reading: Alice Walker