Essays, Essays Archive

Parenthood is the mountain: 13 mothers define parenthood


All month on Raising Mothers we’ve done the important work of exploring motherhood from many different lenses. We have aimed to highlight narratives on motherhood that are often compressed or outright silenced by mainstream parenting blogs, magazines, and editorials.

Far too often, our voices as women and non-binary people of color are left out of the parenting conversation. Our erasure, intended or accidental, speaks to the overall culture that motherhood is reserved and normal and acceptable when viewed strictly from a white-centric (often cis-het) lens.

We asked our readers to define motherhood and the responses were vivid & audacious. Some chose to heal the wound of generational trauma by confronting it with triumph. Others carry shame and regret while still finding ways to float amidst all of their heavy.  Here, we enter a definition of motherhood beyond parental superficialities and water cooler conversations about first steps and mishaps, we dare to venture past the safe and familiar.

Here we swim in our doubts, we break open our bodies, we give our children identities more beautiful than what the world gave us. Here, we exist because we need to. Because our children need to see the existing.

“I am generations of women. The chronic stress of racism that’s passed down in the wombs of Black women was given to me. My motherhood is radical because it nurtures not only my two sons, but it heals for the generations of women within me. I raise free children. I go to therapy. I object to injustice from the seat I have at the table. I teach my sons to nurture against a cultural backdrop that says they are not capable to do so. I do these things because generations of women, of mothers, could not.”

— Kelly Glass

“Motherhood is like an ocean, drowning me in the depths of sleep deprivation and forcing me to find a way to stay awake, flounder on. I battle the waves of responsibility as they crash against me, at times sending me tumbling away from my husband who feels alone without me in surviving the storm of this child whose existence has split us wide open. And every so often, I lift my body to the surface of the sea, turn my eyes towards the wide open sky and float, reveling in a bond with my son that knows no horizon line.”

— Eloísa Pérez-Lozano

“I’ll never forget my emergency C-section when my OB/GYN pulled the baby out and we all heard her cry. With tears of relief clouding my vision, I thought to myself, “Hot damn, we did this.” I then sensed my doctor’s hesitation as he slowly moved toward me. He seemed uncertain to whom he should give her: my friend who had been involuntarily childless for ten years? Or me—her surrogate? So I quickly blurted out: “Give the baby to Katie!” to end his confusion. Surrogacy can be like this: the intimate sharing—not fragmentation—of motherhood between two women friends.”

— Grace Yia-Hei Kao

“My oldest daughter was a baby when I said something that could have started a spiral of self-hatred.

“Her eyes are so dark, but they’re still beautiful.”

My husband responded, “ They don’t have to be light like yours to be beautiful.”

I have spent every day since then reminding my daughters that they are beautiful with their coarse hair, dark eyes and brown skin.  Years later my daughter came home from school and told me she loved Ms. Christina’s green eyes. I responded, “I love your brown eyes more.”  I pray she does too.

— Dana Muwwakkil

“Motherhood is a clock. It’s sleeping with your glasses on to save the two seconds to find them in case he stops breathing. It’s the constant recalculation of time left: before dinner, before naptime, before snacks, before the sun rises, before he wakes too early from the upstairs neighbor scraping their walker to the bathroom. And yet motherhood is simultaneously the radical re-valuation of time as moments, not minutes: the shock of tiny arms squeezing your waist as you clean, a toothy grin after a sneeze, a cry to stop and watch the birds with him for a while.”
— Christine Kandic Torres


“She’s so small, parece un pollito. How do I hold her? No, I might drop her, you hold her.

Ay, it’s too hot para estar encima de mi. Let me get in the door when I come home from work. What did grandma cook? Sure, sit with me while I eat.

She’s so tall. I should have held her more.

If you don’t clean up this room I will beat you like a drum.

Are you seeing a therapist? You’ll feel better when you make more money. I still hope to make enough to help you more. You work too much. I wish you didn’t have to struggle. I miss you.”

— Glendaliz Camacho

“Honey caramel skin and covered grays from children she didn’t birth.
The choice to remain childless for fear of our family’s legacy.
Unbalanced chakras and atypical neural pathways run in our DNA.
Oh kitty, she says, I protected you from so much. There’s so much you’ll never know.
She’s right. She protected me, but she doesn’t know that she’s my mama too.
And sometimes when she rocks me back to sanity from psychosis, she’s the only mama I’ve ever felt.
I wish she was showered in gratitude.
But sisters who raise siblings are never celebrated on mother’s day.”

— Carmen Navarro-Perez

“Parenthood is the mountain. A mass of matter with seemingly insurmountable peaks and cold, deathly valleys. I question still, 10 years later, why I chose this trek. The body dysmorphia and muscles still numb to the touch from c-section scars oftentimes match my numbing depression. I try to find pockets of happiness in waves of regret. I don’t regret my daughter; I regret bringing her into this family with these ails and all this shame. She comes from pain; a fiery preteen mad at everything and everyone while I, her mother/greatest cheerleader/harshest critic, works to mother her and myself in real-time. Parenthood is a wildfire. And in my prayers, I bake in the hope she and I will rise triumphantly from our respective ashes.”

— Joi Donaldson

“Motherhood is discovery. Motherhood is self redefined to be individual and collective simultaneously. With you, child, I am family. With you, without you, I struggle. Who am I? Motherhood unearths. My mother’s choices should become clearer now, but in some ways, they are still distant. “Should” is a lamentation. My mother should be alive.

I struggle with faded memories that cannot be passed down, my childhood folklore erased.

My three-year-old asks about families, putting together the pieces of her father’s side, recognizing the gaps in mine. She asks, “Where is your mama?” the words heavy on my heart.”

— Raina Fields

“I mother in confusion.
Walking on thin lines of doing what my parents did wrong and the chains of that hurt I want to break.
Being a parent is about filling.
Filling my wounds from childhood trauma with self love.
Filling in the shoes of his absent father.
Filling my heart with pinky promises, punch buggy hits, and the crying too.
Filling the air with deep sighs and hallow hiccup laughs.
My baby saying I love you is another way of saying faith over fear.
If the only rewards are kisses and painted macaroni glitter cards then that’ll be ok.”

— Elisabet Rivera

“My body seemed built for mothering, but my mind was not prepared. I understood the order and logic of caring for tiny humans, but the little ones threw my equations out the window the minute we locked eyes – my heart was not prepared. I’m lucky to have a village and the wisdom of elders that lifts me high – but that wisdom also carries baggage that weighs me down. My finest moments of mothering happen when I defy the preparations, the burden of expectations. I believe my babies when they tell me I was meant to be here. ”

— Saba Khan

Motherhood made me appreciate my own immigrant mother’s sacrifices.  That she adopted a new and difficult language, so her children and grandchildren would grow up multilingual.  That she gave up familiar people and places so that I could put down roots for my own future kids. Like many mothers, I’ve sacrificed sleep, my body, and my leisure time for my kids.  But she gave up her homeland, so I could grow up with more opportunities than she ever had. And while her feet were in this country, her heart was in another. I won’t ever know sacrifice like that.”

— Julie Santelices

The combined weight of my children is 76 pounds, and growing.

I carry the weight of their bodies: a mother bodysuit I slipped into seven years ago.

It’s snug and warm against my chest, presses deep into my gut, and squeezes so hard sometimes I think I’ll be crushed by love. Many nights, the weight is so heavy I can’t breathe, up wondering how to arm my little ones against the wrongs of the world, how to always be a shelter, how to freeze them in childlike shapes of beauty and light.

This weight is a shield, hardened by love.”

— LaToya Jordan

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Filed under: Essays, Essays Archive


Sherisa de Groot (she/her) is a writer, community builder, and founder of Raising Mothers, literary membership community Literary Liberation, and pens A Home Within Myself. Her work has been featured in a variety of publications, including Kindred by Parents, Refinery 29, Mutha Magazine, and Oldster Magazine and she was a contributor to the book ‘100 Diverse Voices on Parenthood’ by A Kid’s Company About. With a focus on intersectionality and social justice, de Groot’s writing explores the nuances of motherhood and the experiences of BIPOC mothers and marginalized genders. Through her work, she aims to amplify the voices of those who have been historically silenced and create a more equitable world for all. Raising Mothers was the 2021 Romper People’s Choice Iris Award Winner. Originally from Brooklyn New York, she is a first-generation American turned immigrant living in Amsterdam, NL with her husband, two children, and cat.