I have been a mother for just over two years now, and a mother of two for almost two months. When my eldest child was born I considered starting a parenting blog, but didn’t because a) I was too overwhelmed with keeping my baby alive! and b) I thought there were many other moms out there writing about the same things that I would. I was on maternity leave for the first 9 months of my child’s life and during this time I read, watched and talked about nothing other than parenting. I have always been an avid reader but I found myself gravitating towards parenting books and blogs and agonized over things such as breastfeeding, infant sleeping habits, birth and post-partum health and something called “attachment parenting”. I joined parenting forums, facebook groups, and support groups. I surrounded myself with other parents (mainly mothers) and spent almost every waking minute with my child.
Then, suddenly, my leave was over and I found myself back in the company of adults again. I was a full-time graduate student, juggling an infant with no full-time child care arrangement. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, I found myself settling quickly into a routine which included doing my academic readings while nursing my baby to sleep. I began to read journal articles and text books, and occasionally found time for pleasure reading as well. When I found out I was pregnant with my second I vowed not to get sucked back into the world of parenting blogs and online groups, and to stay connected with “the outside world”. Instead, a few hours after giving birth to my second child, I found myself turning to my parenting groups for advice and commiseration as we were forced to leave the baby in the NICU. Soon, I was sucked back into the endless conversations about diapers, nursing and parenting and I forgot all about my plans to keep up with my academic readings while on maternity leave. But something was different this time.
Whereas the first time around I had found the parenting forums to be full of knowledge and wisdom, this time I found myself applying the same critical lens that I had grown accustomed to in my academic work. In addition, as a second-time mother I found myself just as likely to be giving advice as to be asking for it. As a result, I soon began to notice that the parenting forums which I had considered to be safe spaces for all parents to ask questions and discuss the challenges of raising children…were not created for all. I began to notice racist, gendered, homophobic and ableist language being used. I started to name these things and to engage in dialogues with others about the problematic assumptions being made. And I soon found that this type of critical discussion was neither welcome nor wanted.
After a number of threads got out of hand with name-calling and personal attacks against myself and other racialized or queer parents I realized that these so-called parenting groups, were in truth meant for white, cis female mothers. I was welcome to participate as long as I stayed in my place, and my attempts to bring awareness to the oppression occuring within the groups resulted only in my being labelled an angry, black woman (literally, repeatedly). I began to have anxiety when I logged into facebook and saw notifications from certain parenting groups, and my inbox was filled with private messages from racialized and queer parents who themselves felt excluded and oppressed. For a while, I simply retreated. I erased my conversations and comments and decided to hide notifications from some groups. There was only one group where I felt safe (eventually two because I found a feminist parenting group). I decided to stay in one of the local groups solely for the fact that it was a great resource for certain things, but I stopped engaging in conversations that had any potential to become problematic. I stopped naming oppressive language or posts. I began to search for blogs by parents whose experiences more closely resembled mine and I realized that parenting blogs are also more likely to be written by and for white mothers. And as this realization sunk in, I began to think about how much I had depended on these avenues for support with my first child and it saddened me to feel so alone and isolated this time around. It didn’t feel fair, and I wondered if other parents felt the same. So I decided that perhaps it was time to create this blog after all.
Perhaps somewhere out there is a mom (or dad) who is looking for a safe space to discuss their thoughts and challenges with parenting and although I don’t have all the answers, maybe I could help to create a space for them to do so. I hope that this blog will help someone out there, or will help me connect with other parents and feel less alone. And so I have begun this journey, and look forward to seeing where it takes me. Because all parents deserve to find a place to go to share, ask questions or simply complain about the stresses and challenges of raising children. I hope that this space will serve to be that place for some, but at the very least I have found a place to share my own struggles and victories.