What Mother Means at IAMAS

What Mother Means at IAMAS

IAMAS’ name is pronounced I-AM-MAS. Mas means “more” in Spanish. This name was chosen for multiple reasons, including the idea that while many of our members identify as mothers, we are also more than mothers. We are also “more” together. (Additionally, “ma” is  an informal name for mother in some communities.)

IAMAS welcomes ANYONE who identifies as a mother or conducts research and advocacy work that centers mothers, mothering, and motherwork. We recognize that mothers are created through pregnancy, childbirth, adoption, surrogacy, loss, and unchosen sterility. Motherhood contains the act of mothering, while it is also, for some, an embodied experience.

In other words, we give space both to the physical labor of creation that many cis-gender and trans folks take on, but also acknowledge that many mothers have never carried a child. We agree with Sara Ruddick that anyone can mother (as a verb) or be a mother (as a noun). This title is not limited to one’s gender, sex, or to one’s way of being or acting. Mothering is about fostering growth, love, carework, and community. It is about identity and mindset. It is about honoring the past, being present in the moment, and looking to the future.

We at IAMAS give space to the fact that the physicality of mothering and the cultural expectations that are shaped by the patriarchal institution of motherhood can impact women negatively, particularly via limited conceptions of the “good” mother and intensive mothering, wage inequalities that are directly linked to motherhood (rather than child-free women), burdensome idealizations of the feminine and selflessness, and maternal health disparities. Pregnancy, birth, and nursing can be empowering for some women, but these practices can also lead to oppression, trauma, and even death.

Motherhood, as a series of actions or sense of identity, can be empowering, but this empowerment is seldom realized. The disempowerment women experience is not inherent to the role of mother, but is socially produced, often being exacerbated by the patriarchal institution of motherhood. Systems of power and oppression, including racism, sexism, classism, ableism, and more lead to an undervaluing of carework more broadly and motherhood more specifically. We aim to dismantle these systems through academic research and theory building, teaching, writing, art creation, advocacy and activism, discussion, and our own parenting/mothering praxis.  

Motherhood contains multitudes, to borrow from Walt Whitman. Each of us has a mother or mothers, but each of our mothers is/was unique — as is each of our relationships to our mother(s). Similarly, each of us comes to motherhood differently. What the name “mother” means to each of us varies by virtue of our personality, life experiences, cultural communities, race, class, religious affiliation, sexual and gender orientation, and much more. While there is no single definition of good mothering, we aim to have more mothers thrive.

The question of what motherhood is or what makes a mother is an evolving conversation – one our members work through academically and often personally for years. We welcome all to consider what their contribution may be to this conversation and many others.