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Social Networks, Isolation, and Changing the Story of Motherhood
Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of our core conversation, “Extraordinary Women Change the World.” In our last post, Heather Allard shared how tragedy led to empowerment. Today, Dusti Arab discusses the changing cultural narrative of motherhood - and the empowerment we can find after isolation.
The first year of motherhood is the most isolating of a woman's life.
If you're nodding, then you've been there.
My first year as a mama, I suffered from debilitating postpartum depression, got divorced, and struggled in almost every aspect of my life. Left reeling from the rapid changes and lack of support, I wondered if I'd made a mistake - my daughter deserved so much better than me. Working, putting myself through college, and figuring out the whole mom thing, it was one rough year.
Nine short weeks ago, I had my son. Totally different story. I fell in love with that little boy the moment I laid eyes on him.
So what was different? I had support. Most importantly of all, I knew other moms who understood what I was going though. Like how they understood mom-guilt. You know, that feeling when no matter what you do, you're falling short in one or more aspects of your life?
And they understood I wanted to do things differently. Unschooling, real food, the whole shebang - I'm kind of a crunchy mom.
If you haven't heard the term "crunchy" mom, the idea is basically that the "hippie" mom is making a comeback in a big way, thanks to better education, sustainability initiatives, and most importantly of all, a refusal to accept cultural parenting norms as the be-all, end-all way to raise children.
Beyond fun words like crunchy that let us come together in the name of being different, I think something incredible is happening here. As a population, we're refusing to settle. We're rebelling against a cultural narrative that no longer serves us.
Before now, the expectation was for moms to sacrifice their dreams and idenitities because motherhood = martyrdom. But no more.
There's a new story being told - a new way to parent - rooted in your unique identity as a woman and your ability to self-actualize.
Today, the most rebellious thing you can do as a mother is maintain your individual identity.
Why? Because if you can’t stay rooted in your own identity, how can you help someone else discover and cultivate their identity?
There are three core underlying trends in this new wave of parenting.
Even while technology is making us more connected than ever, we've never felt more isolated as mothers.
Supermom and the status-quo endorsed method of parenting is being rejected as Gen Y moves into the next phase of their lives.
With Gen Y moving into parenting, feminism has reached a point of critical mass where it is about to evolve in a major way.
With the rise of social networks, we can finally reach out to other. But usually we don't. Instead, we keep up the illusion of Supermom. We propogate the cultural myths we've been raised on, like the Myth of Obligation where we can't do X because we're Y - i.e. I'd love to pursue my dream of becoming a writer, but I'm a mom. Or the Myth of the Milestone. if I can just get X, I'll be happy.
You know better.
Technology is accelerating the need to keep up with the Joneses for anyone willing to buy into it. Mindfully choosing how we interact with these technologies is a key step towards better parenting and happier moms everywhere. That's why empowering and encouraging organizations and groups to help facilitate positive mom-to-mom relationships is going to revolutionize how we parent in the coming years.
As we harness social networks to work for us and help us meet our needs, we're also watching a new narrative form for parenting - doing what works for you.
Seth Godin's recent manifesto Stop Stealing Dreams is a reflection of one major way parenting is changing - we're rejecting a public school system that was built for creating compliant workers, not teaching our kids to think for themselves.
This is personal - but it's also intensely political.
The Republican primaries have made all too clear that women do not yet have the same rights as men, even in our freedom-lovin' States. The fact that women's reproductive rights are still a debatable issue is ludicrous.
I was raised on girl power slogans and talk that said I can do anything, and so was the rest of Gen Y. We were told we could have it all. And now, as we step into motherhood, that's what we expect and good luck taking it away from us.
Feminism is a part of our cultural birthright, no matter how loaded the word has become. If you're a woman, and you're not a feminist, you're disregarding the fact that men and women are not yet equal. Especially when we look at the insane expectations for moms, it's easy to see the female bashing still ingrained in our cultural norms.
The most interesting part is society can't even agree on what these expectations are. What does the infamous Supermom look like?
If she's a stay at home mom, depending on who you ask, she either doesn't have a real job or she should be completely fulfilled in her roles of wife and mother; and if she's a working mom, she's abandoning her kids at daycare.
Moms never win.
It's time to take a stand. Mothering isn't a role - it's a relationship. And the relationships that are connected to moms can thrive whether or not you work or stay at home.
A New Story Awaits
As humans, stories are how we connect with the world around us – in a physical and emotional context. If a story resonates with us in a powerful enough way, we’ll sense the greater truth that exists within it.
As Gen Yers and Millenials enter the realm of motherhood, a new story needs to be told.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to start telling your story. Share your struggles with someone, and listen to theirs. Just listen.
Because actively listening to women is one potent way to change the world.
About Dusti: Dusti Arab is the marketing specialist at Productive Flourishing. When she's not writing, she's probably at a coffee shop chatting with people she's never met or having a dance party with her daughter while belting out Disney songs. Her current project is Rebel Mama.