Mama's Writing

Christina Santi | Mama’s Writing

Mama’s Writing is Raising Mothers’ monthly interview series, curated by Starr Davis.

What recent writing accomplishment(s) are you most proud of? Was this accomplishment shared and supported by your children?

I have a personal essay titled “Humming for a Hero” in the upcoming inaugural issue of Gladiolus Magazine. My son is only five years old, but he is the center of the essay, and it covers our music listening sessions, which are a source of joy that powers my ability to mother, work and write amid living with major depression and anxiety disorder. 

Tell about a time mom-guilt emerged (or emerges) in the midst of your writing process.

Mom guilt encapsulates my existence– it’s 76% of my therapy sessions. My writing process is non-linear and never has been. I jot down ideas and piece together bits of my life weeks, months, and even years out. I feel the guilt most when I am in one of my rabbit holes and reading pages on pages of references that may amount to one sentence in a piece. I often feel like I could better utilize my time playing with my son or giving him attention so that he’ll have those memories to hold close in the future. Especially if I end up scrapping the work or it never leaves my journal. 

If you could go back and give yourself advice before becoming a mom, what would it be?

Though there are many ways to do something, you know your child best and sometimes it’s necessary to cut out the chatter. It will alleviate a lot of the outside stress or worry from people making comparisons to how you mother that can sometimes become overwhelming. Trust that you can figure things out and utilize advice only when you absolutely need it. 

What topics, artistic channels, or forms have become present that were not there before in your writing since becoming a parent?

Since I became a parent I began to write poetry and test the waters of my prose style with writing long-form pieces. I find myself writing more about generational cycles. As the mother of a Black boy, I also give more grace to Black male figures in my work because I often grapple with how the patriarchy will still shape my son despite all the work I do as a feminist momma. 

Do you ever find yourself dealing with censorship as a mom-writer? Explain your thoughts on your children eventually becoming acquainted with your work.

I am the daughter of hip-hop, censorship is not in my lexicon. Because I mostly write personal essays,  I let go of the idea of shame or the pressure of what others think about my writing. Otherwise, I would never be able to do what I do. When my son comes of age to understand my work, I hope it gives him a glimpse of the whole woman that I was/am outside of being his mom. I cannot wait to sit down with him and talk about my life and ideas. People are complex, layered, and contradictory and it’s one of the lessons I want him to learn.

How has parenting bolstered or inhibited your creativity?

Parenting has been the greatest bridge for my creativity. It’s the most difficult thing I have ever done and as my partner says it often feels like an unpaid internship. My son is the jolliest and most innovative person I know and he has become a mirror for me to stretch an idea or write the things. I have learned that almost nothing goes according to plan but you can make everything work.

Was there a noticeable shift in your writing before and after parenthood? If yes, how so?

After parenthood, I began to write more creatively and submit things that would often just live in my notebook. I have also become more introspective and analytical of the world I want my son to inhabit. A noname quote that guides my writing now is “I feel like someone dreamed the world that we’re in, so why can’t we dream of something else?”

How has the internet influenced you as both a writer and parent?

The internet is where I found my community (think back to Blackplanet and Sconex). In my teens, I would make daily visits to the B2K forum to read and write fanfiction. It was a place for me to find people who were into the vast array of things that I was into, and that birthed my professional writing career. As a parent, it is also where I have found my community of mothers who are gentle parenting, advocating for our kids and just being resources for it all. 

How have other mother figures you have encountered in your community influenced your parenting? Your writing?

The former head of my department at work, Krishana Davis was also a mom writer and though I never expressed this, her dedication to being an overall badass who reads, writes, and gets things done influenced my passion to want to make a career of writing again. She also made me feel seen in a way no one has seen me and trusted my work before. In terms of parenting, other mother figures such as my mentor Michelle Martinez have influenced me to understand that motherhood is not a limitation but rather a window to what you can achieve.

How do you balance motherhood/parenting and finding the space to write?

In 2019, when I was a culture writer at EBONY, I asked Gabrielle Union this question about balancing motherhood and her career. She told me: “I talk a lot about the myth of ‘balance.’ You can’t be everything to everybody because [one of those things] isn’t going to be amazing.” Ever since then, I go into each day setting a priority of what needs the most and best from me. Often times it’s my son and when it’s my career or my writing, I also know that those pathways will lead me to create better opportunities for him. 

Who are your writer-mama heroes?

Of course, the enigmatic Toni Morrison, who taught me to wake up before the sun and kids to get my freshest thoughts on the paper. Jamaica Kincaid, whose novel The Autobiography of my Mother I go back to time and time again. Nefertiti Austin, Candice Braithwaite, Lauryn Hill, Solange – really any writer-mama who has been able to use their pen to tell enticing and emotive stories. 

Christina Santi (she/her) is a multimedia communications specialist and creative non-fiction writer whose work centers on advocating for equality and equity for Black people, particularly Black women, and the complex waters of navigating the intersectionality of race and gender. She received her MA in Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism at The New School. Her work has appeared in Ebony Magazine and more. When Christina is not writing or reading, she’s museum hopping with her 5-year-old or obsessively explaining to others why Frank Ocean’s music is masterful.

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Starr Davis (she/her) is a poet and essayist whose work has been featured in multiple literary venues such as The Kenyon Review, Academy of American Poets' Poem-a-Day, the Rumpus, and Catapult. She is a 2021–2022 PEN America Writing for Justice Fellow and the creative nonfiction editor for TriQuarterly. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the City College of New York and a BA in journalism and creative writing from the University of Akron. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in poetry and creative nonfiction, Best of the Net, and Best American Essays.