'It is solidarity. It is action. It is care': why we need more honest portrayals of motherhood
Alice Kinsella, author of new memoir Milk, on why she believes honest depictions of motherhood are essential, plus our reading list of books that make the cut.
Poet Alice Kinsella's prose debut, Milk, is a powerful yet delicate mix of the personal and political, an exploration of her experience of early motherhood alongside a lyrical history of Ireland's relationship with its women. Here, she explains the need for more honest portrayals of motherhood, followed by our recommendations of books that offer just that.
Motherhood shocked me.
I was prepared. I knew what being a mother would be like. I would be overcome with love and superhuman strength, I would transcend to selfless angel, and I would smell like vomit.
This was an incomplete and not entirely accurate picture. I couldn’t believe I’d been lied to.
The representations of motherhood in popular media create a toxic and dangerous environment for new mothers. To complain about motherhood is to fear our children thinking they are unwanted. It is to seem ungrateful for the best job in the world.
Yet in our silence we become complicit in the shock and suffering of another generation of mothers.
When I became a mother, as with every other significant milestone in my life, I turned to books. I read books on motherhood, not the ‘how to’ parenting books, or medical books, but the other writers who were both struggling and in awe of the experience. In these I found glimpses of recognition, and yet the feeling that I couldn't quite see my own experience reflected. The feeling that I may have something small to contribute to this massive, endless conversation.
In some ways, it’s not possible to prepare. The changes in the body, the sleep deprivation, those unavoidable aspects – they must be rolled with, coped with the best you can.
But there are other aspects of new motherhood, the social and political playing across your new life, that are difficult only because we live in a society that does not value care.
Sharing our experiences and writing critically of the motherhood experience helps other mothers feel less alone, and more than that, helps to push forward to a society where mothers are properly supported. It is solidarity. It is action. It is care.