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Millennials had a unique upbringing, to say the least. Many of us enjoyed unplugged childhoods, and then we grew up at the same time as major advances in everyday technology. As we’ve all matured into adulthood and into parenthood (for some of us), it feels like we’ve collectively outgrown outdated beliefs about what it means to adult and parent.
While family life varies across cultures and households, American families in the 90’s/00’s, for the most part, lived under the same patriarchy that had a particular grip on society maintained by its influence on media. World events, political leaders, and general messaging to families during this time period affected the way we grew up, and not all of it was necessarily good. For me, this is so evident when scrolling through TikTok or Reels and I find myself relating to all the millennial content, from the funny ones to the ones based on childhood trauma.
Parenting, and mothering specifically, has been a lot of unlearning while also nurturing and being consistent for little humans. Raising children while also breaking old and negative thought patterns that stem from growing up in the 90’s/00’s is a doozy. I’m writing this during a specific week where I’m very reflective of my role as a parent. It’s that time of year between my youngest’s birthday and Mother’s Day, and I’m nostalgic, so you better believe I’ve been revisiting photos and journal entries. I like to use times like these to really think of my roles as my kids’ mother and their homeschool teacher. While I think there’s always some things I can do better, I also try to write out a gratitude-based list where I celebrate my strengths as a parent, including those moments where my kids let me know I made them feel good about themselves.
Books I’m Referencing on this Subject:
Whether you’re a millennial or not, motherhood is hard. I turn to books often, but especially when I need to be reminded that, although I’m a unique individual with specific experiences, a lot of the things I’m feeling can be universal in the community of caregiving. In other words, I’m not alone on this ride. Here are some books that I’m referencing on the subject of motherhood/parenthood. Some I’ve read before, some I’m in the middle of, and some are recent additions to my reading list. In reading these, I’m hoping to gather more perspective and inspiration.
Essential Labor: Mothering as Social Change by Angela Garbes
In Essential Labor, Garbes draws from her own family stories, and from current events (particularly the COVID-19 pandemic) to show how mothering is highly skilled and important labor, although it is undervalued in American society. She explores different assumptions about mothering, what it actually is, and what it has the potential to be. One of my favorite lines so far:
“Reimagining our approach to mothering can birth its transformative potential. Day in and day out, this work can be our most consistent, embodied resistance to patriarchy, white supremacy, ableism, and the exploitation that underlies American capitalism.”
How to Raise a Feminist Son: Motherhood, Masculinity, and the Making of My Family by Sonora Jha
This is a timely book that is for anyone who interacts with children, whether they are parents or not, but it is especially for people who take part in raising little ones. I had the pleasure of interviewing the author a couple years ago. Here’s what I wrote in my review, which I firmly stand by today:
Part memoir, part manifesto, How to Raise a Feminist Son is a confluence of the author’s life, her rich inner life, family life, and feminism. Jha deftly marries theory and practice in between stories and experiences that will knock the breath out of you. With discussions on media, race, sexuality, sexism, racism, and everything in between, the author leaves almost nothing uninspected. She writes through a trained feminist lens, and her love and empathy for her son and others is felt on the page.
Screaming on the Inside: The Unsustainability of American Motherhood by Jessica Grose
Through a journalistic approach and voice, Screaming on the Inside examines motherhood through discussions of pregnancy, identity, work, social media and the crisis of COVID-19 pandemic. Grose writes from her own experiences, and also brings in some historical context to help readers understand how we got here, and how the expectations of American mothers are unrealistic. Like most good non-fiction, this book promises to share some solutions for how things can change for the better. I only recently came across this one, but I needed those solutions yesterday.
Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto by Tricia Hersey
While this book is not specifically for mothers/parents, it is for people who subscribe to grind culture, and if we’re being real, motherhood is heavily equated with productivity. In Rest is Resistance, Hersey walks us through how rest helps reclaim power and directly pushes back against capitalism and white supremacy. Rooted in womanism, Black liberation, somatics, and Afrofuturism, the author includes stories from her life to advocate for rest. In our fast-paced, data-driven and sleep-deprived world, this book seems critical.
Editor’s Note and Addition
Hi, Natalia here. I don’t often add on to pieces but one book that really stands out to me and I think it fits perfectly within Nina’s already excellent list.
Momfluenced: Inside the Maddening, Picture-Perfect World of Mommy Influencer Culture.
In Momfluenced, Petersen talks in depth about the momfluencer culture with its pros and pitfalls and, as a Millennial who became a parent when Momfluencers were just really getting off the ground, this kind of cultural movement biography has been so interesting to read and how I approach and interact with the media I’m consuming. When you consider how you measure success as a parent, are we truly free of the yardstick that social media shows us? If we understand the psychology behind it, does that make us more conscious consumers? When we consider all of this, how does this impact how we internalize the performance of motherhood? Can’t recommend this enough as you think holistically about motherhood.