Global Mama

If you haven’t had a chance to tune into the debate started by Mona Eltahawy in the current issue of Foreign Policy, you should. “Why Do They Hate Us” takes a scathing look at the “real war on women” in the Middle East. Eltahawy makes an impassioned case for why misogyny in the Muslim world needs to be named and dismantled. Her controversial article has sparked a truly global debate.

After reading Eltahawy’s essay, check out Eltahawy’s conversation with Leila Ahmed and Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC. (Thanks to Samhita at Feministing for posting about this, and bringing her own valuable perspective to the conversation!)

It’s such a wonderful conversation that I’ve changed my whole lecture on transnational feminism for a class tomorrow so that I can show it.

What I love about this interview: Eltahawy’s eloquence and passion. Harris-Perry’s deep understanding and on-point questions. Ahmed’s deeply thought yet gentle critique.

Eltahawy: “What I’m trying to do is go straight for the jugular. I’m shaking people into having a discussion.”

“The issue I want to discuss is the misogyny, which plays out in different ways, but ultimately it’s a mix of religion, culture, and law in these various countries.  What are we going to do about that?  At a time of revolution, when everything is in flux?  Let’s jump in and turn this [into a] gender revolution.”

Harris-Perry: “As an academic, I love nuance. As a media personality, I know that sometimes it is the straightforward, loud voice that gets it heard.”

Ahmed: “You see the glass as half empty, and more than half empty, and I see it as half full. […] I am focusing on the extraordinary people who brought down tyranny, regimes, absolutely dictatorial regimes, these are young people who believe in justice, who believe in liberty, who believe in free speech, who are out in the square risking their lives […] and my faith is in them […] I see both men and women participating in this fight, I don’t see young men hating young women […] I think we do have a new generation, and my trust is in them.”

Ahmed’s critique is valid, as is her observation that some readers might find their Islamophobic and anti-Muslim feelings confirmed after reading the article. But Eltahawy refuses to stay silent despite this possibility. She insists that women’s rights should not wait until after the revolution—because then it will not be a true revolution.

Eltahawy is right. Consider the history of anti-colonial movements and civil rights movements, which reveals the following pattern: even though many women have participated in the fight for freedom, their rights are often subsequently ignored.

Eltahawy rejects the idea that Muslim women need to be “saved.” Many women continue to be active in protests. But she wants other governments to understand that “it’s our culture” does not give a pass to women-hating cultural practices that were not created by women. Among other things, Eltahawy wants Egypt to pass a violence against women act.

What this conversation also models—and why I want to show it to my students: Eltahawy and Ahmed eloquently and respectfully disagree. Where do we see this anymore? These women (all three of them) are my heroes.



French feminist Elizabeth Badinter thinks so. I’m not completely convinced—though I think she’s dead on about some larger trends, including the way that natural mothering has increasingly become doctrine in certain circles. I review her forthcoming book, The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women along with an older book, Chris Bobel’s The Paradox of Natural Mothering, in the spring issue of Brain, Child magazine. Check it out!


Must-read post by Avis Jones-DeWeever about the tragic death of Trayvon Martin at MomsRising Blog.  There’s a petition you can sign here.

Amy Chua’s 2011 book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother caused quite a stir. Apparently it was also prophetic: one year later, U.S. readers have a new crop of books about how everyone else raises their kids. Everyone except Americans, that is: the Chinese, the French, the Argentineans, the Tibetans, the Polynesians… and so on.

The verdict? Let’s just say that in the Parental Olympics, the U.S. appears to be losing, and losing big.

Over the past year, the media has reported how the Chinese are raising children capable of crushing American students on standardized math tests. (When the parent in question is Amy Chua, one of those kids also turns out to be a concert pianist.) More recently, journalist Pamela Druckerman has filled us in on the superiority of French motherhood in Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting: a certain Gallic savoir faire seems to produce tots who eat everything and behave perfectly while their mothers take frequent smoking breaks. Later this month, we’ll be treated to a slightly different explanation about French maternal superiority, courtesy of Elisabeth Badinter’s The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women. Add to that the book I just finished reading, Mei-Ling Hopgood’s How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between), and even the most confident mama might begin to question herself.

As Allison Kimmich pointed out last month, these books “highlight our cultural obsession with motherhood, or the failings of American mothers.”

Even so, I confess to being fascinated by these books. I don’t know if that’s because deep down I’m insecure about my own mothering (and if I am, perhaps that’s as a result of all these books…?) or because I’ve always loved travel and the distance one gains from another cultural perspective. I welcome glimpses into other ways of doing things, particularly when it comes to parenting and family. I often wonder whether the “intensive parenting” practiced by many U.S. middle- and upper-middle class parents (mostly mothers) actually benefits kids—not to mention whether it places far more burdens on mothers and primary caregivers. (“Perfect madness” was how Judith Warner described it.) Other cultural perspectives can shed light on how we’ve constructed particular ideals of motherhood and family, and maybe even how we can change them.

Hopgood is the least judgmental of all of these writers. In fact, she goes to lengths not to judge (which can also be a problem if you forever wallow in cultural relativism, an oft-discussed topic in my Women’s Studies classes). Her book is a journalistic account of how other groups of people around the world approach various parenting practices: how the Chinese potty train early, how the Japanese let their children fight, how Polynesians play without their parents, and so on.

For example, did you know that Chinese toddlers are frequently potty trained by eighteen months, if not twelve? Or that Argentine children and their families regularly stay up until the wee hours of the night? How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm is full of tidbits like this.

If you’re interested in more detailed anthropological accounts of familial practices in other parts of the world, you should head straight to Hopgood’s bibliography, which contains some great sources. Or, if you’re more interested in a feminist critique of contemporary motherhood in industrialized nations, you should wait to read Badinter’s The Conflict. But if you don’t mind a breezy tour of what parenting looks like globally, mixed with Hopgood’s own personal reflections about her life as a transplanted Asian American new mom living in Buenos Aires, you should pick up her book.

Hopgood’s slightly more serious intention emerges in the final chapter. She’d like us to open up to other approaches to parenting, embrace a little more cosmopolitanism when it comes to family life, and let go of some of our judgment:

It’s unhealthy to enclose ourselves in parental parochialism, ruled by the plaintive, guilty insistence that there is a single, best way to raise children. We may or may not adopt what another family in another culture or place does, but we can take comfort in knowing that there really is more than one good way to get a baby to sleep, transport her from place to place, and feed her.

Kids are “amazingly adaptive and resilient creatures,” she writes. And there are “many ways to be a good parent in the world.”

One could certainly unpack “parent” to develop a more nuanced examination of how various cultural practices are gendered—or in some cases, how they might undo heteronormative, Western ideals of mothering and fathering. (Aka pygmy fathers turn out to be pretty interesting in this regard.) Come to think of it, Hopgood’s case studies might make some great material for my Women’s Studies students.

In the meantime, her book suggests some of the wide variations within the global landscape of parenting—as well as how parenting practices have morphed over time and continue to change today, from the U.S. to Argentina to China. And that raises an interesting question: if ideas about parenting are traveling across borders, like so many other things, is this global exchange altering how we think about what it means to parent?

I’ve been meaning to write about some of the books on my bookshelf for quite a while.  (As in, all semester!)  So here’s a quick roundup of a handful of 2011 titles relevant to motherhood globally:

Microfinance and Its Discontents: Women in Debt in Bangladesh, by Lamia Karim (University of Minnesota Press).  If you’ve been following microfinance, often touted as a cure-all for global poverty, anthropologist Karim offers a more sobering look.  You can read the great review in the current issue of the Women’s Review of Books (WRB) here.

Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, by Mara Hvistendahl (PublicAffairs).  Hvistendahl is a correspondent for Science magazine, and her thoroughly researched (and deeply disturbing) book examines the gender imbalance globally. Amy Agigian does a fabulous job reviewing it in the same issue of WRB, although her essay (alas) isn’t available online.

The 21st Century Motherhood Movement: Mothers Speak Out on Why We Need to Change the World and How To Do It, edited by Andrea O’Reilly (Demeter Press).  If you need to feel uplifted about all the social change brought about by mothers, look no further.  This comprehensive anthology includes articles about maternal activism from all parts of the world, including Australia, Ireland, Germany, Argentina, Iran, Russia, Canada, and the U.S.

Shattered: Modern Motherhood and the Illusion of Equality, by Rebecca Asher (Harvill Secker).  Journalist Asher examines the current state of motherhood in the U.K. and discovers that women are still left cooking the bacon and, um, pushing the pram.

Shadow Mothers: Nannies, Au Pairs, and the Micropolitics of Mothering, by Cameron Lynn Macdonald (University of California Press).  Macdonald, a sociologist, provides a fascinating look at the relationships of professional women with their nannies/au pairs.  Rosanna Hertz reviews both this book and Raising Brooklyn: Nannies, Childcare, and Caribbeans Creating Communities, by Tamara Mose Brown (NYU Press) in that same issue of WRB (enough already, I know.  But have you subscribed yet?).  Brown has also reflected on her own experiences as a mother studying nannies, which I wrote about here.


For those of you who haven’t yet listened to NPR’s recent series on Native American families and foster care in South Dakota, click here.  The first part aired last week when I was running errands.  I immediately parked my car so that I could stop everything and listen.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve done something like that.  I’m a multitasker to the core, but I couldn’t think about groceries with this story on the radio.  I couldn’t stop listening, partly because I could not wrap my mind around what I was hearing.

All Things Considered reporters Laura Sullivan and Amy Walters dropped several bombshells in their story.  Consider the following list of their “key findings” from the web version:

* Each year, South Dakota removes an average of 700 Native American children from their homes. Indian children are less than 15 percent of the state’s child population, but make up more than half the children in foster care.

* Despite the Indian Child Welfare Act, which says Native American children must be placed with their family members, relatives, their tribes or other Native Americans, native children are more than twice as likely to be sent to foster care as children of other races, even in similar circumstances.

* Nearly 90 percent of Native American children sent to foster care in South Dakota are placed in non-native homes or group care.

* Less than 12 percent of Native American children in South Dakota foster care had been physically or sexually abused in their homes, below the national average. The state says parents have “neglected” their children, a subjective term. But tribe leaders tell NPR what social workers call neglect is often poverty; and sometimes native tradition.

* A close review of South Dakota’s budget shows that they receive almost $100 million a year to subsidize its foster care program.

What is going on here?  How is it possible that Native families are still being torn apart?

Native parents and grandparents have fought to keep their children for decades.  The United States began taking Native American children away from their families in the 1800s, sending them to boarding and missionary schools that would “civilize” them and cause them to assimilate into Anglo-American culture.  Native American activism in the 1960s and 1970s helped to bring this era to an end—but clearly many Native children remain vulnerable.  While some children may need a more stable home than the one their parent(s) are able to provide, it’s hard to understand the numbers in South Dakota: Native children comprise less than 15% of the population but more than half of children in foster care; 90% of Native children are sent to non-Native families or group care when they are legally supposed to be placed in the care of other Native Americans.

Louise Erdrich writes about a single Native mother, Albertine, who fights unsuccessfully to keep her child in the powerful short story “American Horse.”  Albertine’s passionate love for her son remains invisible to the social worker, Vicki Koob, a well-meaning woman with a “trained and cataloguing gaze” who sees only evidence of poverty and alcoholism as she surveys their small house.  She wishes to “salvage” the boy from his surroundings—as if his home is a trash heap or his family an impending shipwreck.

What if Vicki Koob were able to see what Erdrich sees?  What the reader is compelled to see?

Patricia Hill Collins argues that placing the experiences of mothers of color at the center of our vision enables us to understand motherhood differently.  In “Shifting the Center: Race, Class, and Feminist Theorizing about Motherhood,” she writes:

Whether because of the labor exploitation of African-American women under slavery and its ensuing tenant farm system, the political conquest of Native American women during European acquisition of land, or exclusionary immigration policies applies to Asian-Americans and Hispanics, women of color have performed motherwork that challenges social constructions of work and family as separate spheres, of male and female gender roles as similarly dichotomized, and of the search for autonomy as the guiding human quest. […] This type of motherwork recognizes that individual survival, empowerment, and identity require group survival, empowerment, and identity.

For these mothers, the biggest conflicts aren’t found inside their homes.  They lurk outside: the institutions and structures and ideologies that threaten to tear families apart.  So for Native American mothers (as for enslaved African-American mothers), “getting to keep one’s children and raise them accordingly fosters empowerment.”

So please, check out the story and leave your thoughts below.

The Arab spring took a different turn in Saudi Arabia with today’s #Women2Drive campaign.  Organizing via Facebook and Twitter, Saudi women hit city roads in protest of the ban on women’s driving.  Many of them asked their passengers to film their drives and uploaded the videos to YouTube, following the example of Manal al-Sharif, a single mother who posted a video of herself driving solo last month:


Manal al-Sharif was arrested and jailed, but this didn’t stop other women from taking the car keys.  The New Yorker has aggregated several of the videos from today’s campaign here.

The right to drive is one of several rights denied to women in Saudi Arabia, the only Muslim country in which women cannot drive.  In a powerful opinion essay about this act of civil disobedience, Farzaneh Milani argues that restricting women’s mobility is about more than driving cars:

It is about dominating, excluding and subordinating women.  It is about barring them from political activities, preventing their active participation in the public sector, and making it difficult for them to fully exercise the rights Islam grants them to own and manage their own property.  It is about denying women the basic human right to move about freely.

And while The New York Times reported that today’s protest was hardly earth-shattering—apparently only several dozen women drove—I prefer to think of them, as Milani does, as freedom riders heralding future change:

the women defying the ban on motorized mobility are in fact demanding an eventual overhaul of the entire Saudi political system. They want not just to drive but to remap the political geography of their country.

I would only add that I’m not surprised that Manal al-Sharif is a single working mother. You go, global mamas!


Seems like quite a few other folks have been reimagining the possibilities of Mother’s Day as well!

  • In “Mother’s Day is more than a greeting-card holiday,” Karen D’Souza also returned to the origins of Mother’s Day and wrote about how Julia Ward Howe imagined a day of peace.
  • Nicholas Kristof urged readers to celebrate by “saving” a mother and in a separate essay, pointed out that investing in family planning worldwide would result in 94,000 fewer women dying in pregnancy each year.  (Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of the rhetoric of “saving”—it’s something we spend a lot of time critiquing in my Transnational Feminism class—but I deeply appreciate how Kristof continues to remind everyone that women’s “issues” are indeed newsworthy.)
  • Also in The New York Times, Stephanie Coontz observed that “it’s too bad that nostalgia for a golden age of motherhood that never existed still clouds our thinking about what’s best for mothers, fathers and their children.”  At Ms., Laura Paskus urged readers to honor all mamas—including “immigrants, single, young, queer and low-income” mothers—on Mother’s Day.  And over at Strollerderby, Rebecca Odes drew attention to all the nannies who help mother children, and who should be a part of Mother’s Day as well!

In the spirit of infusing new meanings into Mother’s Day—and in keeping with the Mother’s Day Challenge I issued to myself and interested readers—I did two things.  Right after eating brunch, and sending flowers to my mom (about whom I’ll write more later), and right before going on a family hike, I gave to two organizations:

Mothers’ Day Movement.  Founded by six women who were “shocked to learn that $14 billion was spent in the US in 2010 on Mother’s Day celebrations including flowers, cards and meals,” they selected Shining Hope for Communities, a Wesleyan student-founded organization working in Kibera, Kenya, as the target of their 2011 fundraising efforts.  (The co-founder and president of SHOFCO, Kennedy Odede, grew up in Kibera.)  I am totally impressed that college students founded SHOFCO, and I remembered well the insightful opinion essay, “Slumdog Tourism,” written by Odede in The New York Times last August.

Save the Children: Every Mother Counts campaign.  They have a midwifery training program in Afghanistan, which ranked as the worst place to be a mother in their Mothers’ Index.  I like the emphasis on training.

I didn’t quite make it to writing any letters to my political representatives as I had planned… but I figure that Father’s Day is around the corner, and I’m planning on pitching a surprise to my husband after I serve up his brunch: co-authorship?


Just in time for Mother’s Day, Save the Children has published its twelfth annual State of the World’s Mothers Report.  This report includes the Mothers’ Index, a ranked list of 164 countries around the world.  Like last year, Norway tops the list for the best place to be a mother.  Afghanistan is worst.  The U.S. fell three places, to number 31 on the list.

In other words, the U.S. ranks closer to the bottom than the top of the 43 developed countries examined in the report.

Of course, as the report reminds us, the numbers don’t always tell the whole story—an individual mother’s situation can vary greatly within the same country.  Nonetheless, national-level comparisons do suggest trends and provide overviews that can provide a valuable framework for digging deeper.

For those of us living in the U.S., these national numbers should give us pause.  Why didn’t mothers in the U.S. fare better?  And why are we falling in the rankings instead of improving?  These startling numbers complicate the rosier picture of motherhood and family that many Americans tend to hold.

The first reason for our low ranking is our maternal mortality rate, an issue I wrote about last month for Girl w/Pen and Ms.  As the State of the World’s Mothers Report points out, the U.S.’s rate for maternal mortality is 1 in 2,100—the highest of any industrialized nation.  In other words, a woman in the U.S. is “more than 7 times as likely as a woman in Italy or Ireland to die from pregnancy-related causes and her risk of maternal death is 15-fold that of a woman in Greece.”

Other reasons for our low ranking include the under-five mortality rate (forty countries beat us on this one) and the percentage of children enrolled in preschool—only 58%, making us the fifth lowest country in the developed world for educating young kids.

Finally—surprise, surprise—our country lags in supporting working women with children, and in creating pathways for women to political office nationally:

The United States has the least generous maternity leave policy—both in terms of duration and percent of wages paid—of any wealthy nation.

The United States is also lagging behind with regard to the political status of women. Only 17 percent of congressional seats are held by women, compared to 45 percent in Sweden and 43 percent in Iceland.

This report made me feel a lot of different emotions about the state of motherhood in the U.S. as well as globally—shock, anger, outrage—not to mention gratitude. I’m fortunate enough to have healthy kids and privileged enough to be able to pay for things like health insurance and preschool. Given the state of things for many mothers, this is no small potatoes! And yet, the more I thought about this report and my reaction to it, the more I began to think about how important it is to use feelings to propel us to something more—understanding, wisdom, action, and working together.

This view of motherhood lies at the origins of Mother’s Day.  Long before Hallmark made sentimentality synonymous with Mother’s Day and restaurants began the tradition of the Mother’s Day brunch (neither of which I plan to reject come Sunday!), Julia Ward Howe imagined a very different kind of occasion.  In her 1870 Mother’s Day Proclamation, she called for a day when women could come together and work towards peace.  In the aftermath of the violence and carnage of the U.S. Civil War, she called for women to

…meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means

Whereby the great human family can live in peace…

After grief, counsel.  After sorrow, solidarity.  After remembrance, action:

To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,

The amicable settlement of international questions,

The great and general interests of peace.

So here’s my Mother’s Day Challenge to myself this year: after enjoying whatever treats my family makes for me, and feeling lots of warm tenderness toward them (note to kids: you will be good), and making sure I have time to write in my journal, and calling my own mother on the phone—I’m going to do one thing, one action, toward addressing one of the issues raised by this report.  I haven’t decided what, quite yet.  But here are some ideas I scribbled down this afternoon, a personal list to start my brain juices flowing:

  • Write a letter to one of my representatives about some of the issues that really matter to mothers and families.  (Education!  Parental leave!  Women’s health!)
  • Send money to Emily’s List.
  • Write an opinion essay.  Send it out.
  • Go to a protest, like this one sponsored by Mothers & Others United in the Hudson Valley.
  • Find out more about the campaigns to connect kids across the borders of class and geography—the UN’s Girl Up and Save the Children’s k2kUSA are ones I’ve recently run across.  Think about how to plug my own family into these networks.
  • Find out more about efforts in my own backyard.  (I could start by actually reading all those items in my church’s bulletin!) Ask someone how I and my family can get involved.
  • Make a donation to one of these campaigns, or one of the many organizations working for women’s rights and healthy families.
  • Write down in my calendar that I will bring up all these issues up again on Father’s Day.

I invite anyone and everyone to join me in this challenge.  Share ideas and actions from your own list.  (And be sure to watch the video about Julia Ward Howe below, released from Brave New Foundation in 2009, which includes an inspiring reading of her Mother’s Day Proclamation.)  Happy Mother’s Day!

With a heavy heart, I write in honor of two women who spent much of their time writing and thinking about motherhood.

Two weeks ago, feminist philosopher Sara Ruddick (1935-2011) passed away.  The author of the highly influential Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace, Professor Ruddick focused attention on the day-to-day activities of mothering (a practice she did not restrict to mothers).  In her obituary, New York Times reporter William Grimes writes that she

developed an approach to child-rearing that shifted the focus away from motherhood as a social institution or biological imperative and toward the day-to-day activities of raising and educating a child. This work, she argued, shaped the parent as much as the child, giving rise to specific cognitive capacities and values — qualities of intellect and soul. Doing shapes thinking, in other words.

He quotes Andrea O’Reilly, scholar and founder of Demeter Press and the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement, on the impact of Ruddick on the study of motherhood.  Professor O’Reilly cites Maternal Thinking (along with Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution) as “the most significant work in maternal scholarship and the new field of motherhood studies.”  In 2009, Demeter Press published an edited collection of essays, Maternal Thinking: Philosophy, Politics, Practice, that explored the impact of Ruddick’s book on maternal scholarship.

Her ideas influenced many fields.  On the Feminist Law Professors blog, Pace law professor Bridget Crawford writes that Ruddick’s influence “was seeping into feminist legal theory” and provided the groundwork for much “contemporary legal scholarship on caretakers and vulnerability.”  Her loss is felt by many of us who have been deeply influenced by her thinking about mothering.

Although I did not know Sara Ruddick personally, I did know Jessica Nathanson (1968-2011), a contemporary and a Women’s Studies colleague who passed away earlier this week.  Jessica was an inspiring human being.  She was a smart, creative, and accomplished professor, writer, and blogger, and a generous and committed mother, friend, and activist.  She fought breast cancer with an indomitable spirit.

I first met Jessica at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference, where she was an active member of several groups, including the Feminist Mothering Caucus.  She always had an incredibly thoughtful and perceptive answer, whatever the question.  (And as a newcomer to the Feminist Mothering Caucus, and later as a co-chair, I asked her many questions.)  Over the years, we had several opportunities to talk about mothering, research, creative writing, blogging, teaching, job searching, and trying to fit it all in.  But, I now realize, not enough opportunities.  Nowhere near enough.

Jessica thought a lot about motherhood, parenting, and work.  She co-edited a book with Laura Camille Tuley, Mother Knows Best: Talking Back to the “Experts,” published by Demeter Press in 2009.  Her book gives voice to mothers who contest what “experts” have to say about motherhood and mothering.  I reread her essay this morning and was brought to tears by her voice: smart, honest, and fierce.

Jessica wrote her essay, “What Mothers Don’t Say Out Loud: On Putting the Academic Self First,” when her son was 2 ½–a time in her life when she was finishing her dissertation, interviewing for academic positions, and starting her first full-time job as a professor of Women’s Studies and Director of Women’s Studies and the Women’s Resource Center at Augsburg College.  In her essay, she writes honestly about the conflict between her need to live an intellectual and creative life, and her need to be close to her young son.  She writes movingly about the pull of her body towards her son, about his need (at times his demands) for her body, and about the embodied dimensions of mothering young children: the physical intimacy of hugging, breastfeeding, and simply being near one another.

But she also claims her own need to write, create, and teach.  While the “struggle for a life of the mind” can be difficult and exhausting, it’s also essential.  The ability to continue creative and intellectual work sustains us; it is what enables us to parent.  She realizes that

If my academic self struggles for a life of the mind, and my mother self is rooted in a contested body, then allowing myself to be an academic mother helps to resolve this split.  It also makes me a better mother.  Teaching and research give me a creative and intellectual outlet.  Because I am engaged in activities that support my selfhood, challenge my intellect, and provide a creative outlet, I can come back to mothering refreshed and energized.  If I can live my own life for part of the day and then spend time with him, I can really be with him, and enjoy him, and be a better parent to him.  I am not an engaged mother when I don’t have this time.

Her call at the end of the essay speaks to me now, from the moment she wrote down these words to the present moment as I read them, thinking of her and her family and all the people who knew her, learned from her, and loved her.

We need to speak this truth to ourselves and to each other: the sacrifices involved in motherhood do not need to be complete and self-annihilating.  Putting the academic self first is not selfish.  It is an honest investment in mothering.

Jessica, you are deeply missed.