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Thoughts on Motherhood


branch of a blossoming tree“What is Motherhood?” is a Brain, Child blog series, with original posts from our writers, and reposts from some of our most favorite websites and blogs, all answering the universal question—what does motherhood mean to you?

Literary Mama editors and columnists respond to our question “What is Motherhood?”:

Motherhood: guaranteed to make a solo trip to the grocery store feel like a tropical vacation.—Kate Haas, Creative Nonfiction Editor

Motherhood is being sick in bed with a stomach virus, and making it outside to meet the school bus anyway.—Amanda Jaros, Blog Editor

Motherhood closed a window, but opened a door.—Caroline M. Grant, Editor-in-Chief

Motherhood is a beautiful mess of contradictions and juxtapositions: it can make you feel both broken, and mended; free yet bound; it is bitter, and almost unbearably sweet.                                                                                                                                           —Alissa McElreath, Columns Editor

Motherhood is a living expression of hope for our future world.                                                                                                                 —Kristina Riggle, Fiction Editor

When you live in the Midwest, you mark time by wind chill and heat index and in inches of rain and snow. You consider road conditions before heading out to the basketball games, and you watch for lightning from the bleachers that surround the baseball diamonds and swimming pools.  You respect each of the four seasons, and you’re prepared—the trunk of your car is filled with boots, shovels, blankets, gloves, and umbrellas—because you know how quickly a calm evening can turn dangerous.

You weather the hailstorm, tornado, or blizzard and then you pick up the debris and rebuild what was destroyed. You begin a new day, but now, you appreciate the pinks and reds and oranges of the sunset, the brilliant blue of the noontime sky, and the sparkles of a clear night just a little bit more -and you remind yourself to make the most of each moment.Karna Converse, Blog Editor

I’ve learned that to float through the ebbs and flows of motherhood I must remember to honor self-care.—Kelly Sage, Ezine Editor

Motherhood has felt like an awakening and a call to action. Inherent to the idea of the maternal, I think, is the desire for fairness, equity, justice, and opportunities for our children; for me, this has translated from the particular to the general, from my own family situation to activist work on a larger scale.—Rachel Epp Buller, Profiles Editor

Motherhood: the delicate opportunity to see life reflected.—Christina Speed, Literary Reflections Editor

To me, Motherhood can be both grounding and disorienting, as exemplified in this untitled poem I wrote that originally appeared in Thunderclap! Magazine (2010):

Driving on a certain stretch                                                                                                      
of Victoria Park                                                                                                                      
right after Sheppard
and before York Mills
that bridge around the 401
my fingers tighten
around the wheel
although I’ve been this way
more than a dozen times
I don’t remember what comes next
and am grateful for the chatter
from the back seat
the proclamation, “Mommy, I’m done,”
as she tries to hand me
the granola bar wrapper.
I am home in that noisesteering towards the intersection.Maria Scala, senior editor

Motherhood: It is

It is a single giggle
that breaks up the monotony of eternal days,
when coffee and a ten-minute nap
are best friends of mine.
The one, I see too often,
the other not enough.
But quickly, too quickly really,
everything about those days changes.
And then, it becomes
the pain that radiates up the back of my leg
as I step on building blocks and Legos and Lincoln logs
and all of the imitation fruit that spills out of the play kitchen;
the one I spend hours putting together
on a dark, cold, Christmas night,
two years after they are born,
but before the next baby comes along.
That kitchen now sits in the cobwebbed corner of the basement,
forlorn and lonely, longing
for the day that future grandkids will bestow on it some love.
Because again, everything changes.
And now, today,
I move the pretend cash register to the side of the play space
since the kids, there are four in all,
have mercilessly moved on.
I’m surrounded
by American Girls and Barbies and Harry Potter and Minecraft;
the children reach for non-existent IPods and IPads and Furbies,
those material goods that I won’t allow—yet.
They ask for computer time and Doctor Who, YouTube, and Scratch.
But it’s not the things.
I’ve gotten past the things that have littered and defined my motherhood.
All of the toys and books and gadgets we bring into our lives when we
welcome these children—they are left behind me.
Instead, it is the sight,
the sounds, the scents;
the immense feelings of love and gratefulness that envelop me
each time the tiny, wiry arms wind around my no-longer-taut middle.
It is the sweetness of the smiles they send to me as they walk out the door,
the thoughtful look that passes across their faces
as they pause, once, to blow me the last kiss of the morning.
I catch those kisses, those smiles,
and place them inside the recesses of my heart,
hoping to store them for later;
for when they leave the nest I have built for them.
And when the time is right,
I will pull them out, along with the memories, good and bad,
and the joy of knowing what motherhood is.

Christina Consolino, Profiles editor


A mother’s journey to get her child to preschool when they are late:

“Look, Mama, a rock.”

“Yes, a rock.” I nod.

“I tro it?”

“OK, you can throw it.”

“Look, Mama, ‘nother rock. I tro it?”

One step.

“Oh, Mama! Look at dat one! I tro it!”

–Heather Cori, Columnist


Motherhood is Holding…

Motherhood is holding

a finger-long hand

a bum against your hip

a sandy rock from the beach and then another and another

a vigil

a single thought

your breath

your tongue

your belly in

a party for preschoolers

a bowl beside the bed

a bicycle seat

the car keys

out for something more

on to your ambition

worry enough for two, three, four

this fleeting incessant moment

that notion of letting go

and still holding.

Katherine Barrett, Managing Editor and Columnist


Literary Mama publishes literary writing about the many faces of motherhood. Since 2003, they have featured poetry, fiction, columns, and creative non-fiction that may be too raw, too irreverent, too ironic, or too body-conscious for traditional or commercial motherhood publications.

Literary Mama is for writers as well as mothers. They function as a collective of volunteer editors and columnists. The magazine was launched in California, but their staff is now located across the United States as well as in Canada, Thailand, and Japan. Their writers hail from all corners of the world.

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