Thinking Through Motherhood

It all begins with mothers, who shape both leaders and tyrants, including having influenced civilization since the dawn of time.

Till recently, the subject of motherhood did not qualify as a subject worthy of scholarly study. Seldom, do we hear the collective voice of motherhood in ivory towers or corridors of power, or even in the discussion of policies affecting us all.

Andrea O’Reilly, 49, Professor of Women’s Studies at York University says: ‘The minute you’re a mother, you’re aware of the absence. Motherhood is the blind spot’. But, she wanting to change that, she developed Canada’s first university course on motherhood at York in 1991, when the Internet was in its infancy.

However, Supermom was taking flight, as women went to work, including handling their homes and children, as well. Soon they were resigned to exhaustion following ‘the second shift’. Feminist writers and scholars had begun to explore motherhood, though often in isolation.

O’Reilly, wanting to reconcile feminism with mothering, held a conference that to her shock and amazement attracted 150 researchers and academics from around the world. She founded the Association for Research on Mothering (ARM) in 1998, the first of its kind and which soon took on a life of its own.

Its journal that explore everything from poverty to mothers in pop culture, began to be seen university reading lists countrywide and overseas.

Soon, there was a publication division with Demeter Press releasing 10 books, including one on mommy blogging and another called Mother Knows Best: Talking Back to the Experts, challenging conventional parenting advice.

However, mounting debt forced ARM to close its doors, earlier this year. While, ARM had space at York, it never received operating funding, and though the university acknowledged the association’s renown and 550 paying members, it would not provide funds.

But, with a groundswell of support from researchers in 15 countries, including Australia, Brazil and Spain, the association was reborn as an independent organization. The new Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement will be funded through memberships, sales of its publications, grants and fundraising, including a literary fundraiser in Toronto on 21st May.