New Motherhood, a Dictionary | Namrata Poddar

Illustration by Alexandra Beguez

Motherhood: Goddess squad gracing the walls of Hindu temples, wifehood and motherhood balanced perfectly in those slender waists and big breasts, ever ready to nurse. Motherhood of the Goddess Consort, a male fantasy like their Virgin Mother.

Motherhood: a border, a wall sundering your life into prebaby and post-baby days. Wait till he grows up, they say. It comes back—the physical mobility, the energy, the yoga, the reading, brunches with girlfriends, happy hour with colleagues, the love-making too.

Motherhood: your new role—now  that you’ve given them a legacy with a baby boy—as an addendum in their parties, neither the text you’ve aspired to be nor the footnote you used to be.

Motherhood: its own game of power in heterodomesticity, one you keep fighting for dignity, one you keep losing for sanity.

Motherhood: shield for your baby boy from the silence and self-hatred of those mother figures, wired to perpetuate toxic masculinity.

Motherhood: quarantine before quarantine becomes a global thing, worthy of empathy.

Motherhood: a feminine logic of love. How it strips romantic love of its luster, that transactional love between adults driven by a capitalist logic of profit.

Motherhood: an unending play of paradox, a dance in chiaroscuro.

Motherhood: Adi Shakti, primordial Goddess Mother, Creatrix to all that was, is, will be. How she empties you of the masculine drive to possess meaning. How she anchors you into the fleeting, into what is yet to be born. Your alignment with eternal becoming.


Namrata Poddar is a first generation Asian American writer of fiction, nonfiction and Interviews Editor for Kweli where she curates a series titled “Race, Power, and Storytelling.” For about two decades, her work has explored the intersection of storytelling, race, class, gender, place and migration; it has appeared in Longreads, Literary Hub, The Best Asian Short Stories 2019, Transition, Poets & Writers, Electric Literature, CounterPunch, VIDA ReviewThe Kenyon Review, (forthcoming) and elsewhere. Her debut fiction manuscript, Ladies Special, Homebound, was a finalist for Feminist Press’s 2018 Louise Meriwether First Book Prize, longlisted for C&R Press 2019 Book Award, and is scheduled to release from Speaking Tiger. She was a contributor to The Los Angeles Times where she focused on the art and sociocultural diversity of Orange County. Her current works-in-progress include personal essays on new motherhood and a microblog on Instagram (@stylegully) featuring stories of clothing, identity and diversity via South Asia. She holds a Ph.D. in French Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, an MFA in Fiction from Bennington Writing Seminars and Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Transnational Cultures from UCLA. She was raised in India, has lived in different parts of the world, and now calls Huntington Beach in California home.

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