How does modern fiction humanize mothers by depicting the universally unrecognized dangers of motherhood?

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“When I was younger and thinking about whether I wanted children, I always came back to this formula: if no one had told me anything about the world, I would have invented boyfriends. I would have invented sex, friendship, art. I would not have invented parenting. “- Sheila Heti, Motherhood

Regret has often been armed to push women into the institution of motherhood, regardless of their preferences. The cultural assumption that motherhood is synonymous with unadulterated joy precludes the possibility of how many women may even be reluctant to do so. I Sheila Heti’s Motherhoodher protagonist takes on the role of interrogator and asks the question of whether a child is a curse disguised as a blessing. Women are rarely allowed to exercise their free will over their own reproductive health and are mostly forced into socioculturally accepted models of femininity.

With reference to Heti’s aforementioned quote, it is only logical to conclude that the commitment to motherhood and care does not correspond to ‘female nature’, but the parochial definition of femininity in our society. While changing the way our society has been connected overnight is a nightmare, contemporary fiction has started the much-needed conversation about the multidimensional nature of motherhood. Thanks to contemporary fiction writers, the naturally self-sacrificing, patient, and martyr-like figure of a mother is debunked. Instead of swinging between the two extremes-madonna-esque pure and asexual or the pop culture stereotype of a hypersexual “MILF” (mother I want to F * ck), contemporary fiction humanizes mothers by shining light on how motherhood has become a exhaustive public enterprise where there is little or no chance of autonomous decision-making.

Mother and / or monster?

Rachel Yoders Nightbitch is a Kafkaesque meditation on the monster of motherhood. The protagonist, an artist who became a stay-at-home mom, has become a shell of her former self after having to raise a baby without the help of her husband. Motherhood and irreversible physical motherhood, her husband’s perennial absence, and co-mothers who seem to fall into the rhythm of motherhood naturally take a heavy toll on her, and she does not find satisfaction in this very unfulfilling exercise. Despite her extreme love for her child, she mourns again and again the loss of self that is often a side effect of motherhood. Her rage turns her into “Nightbitch,” and she finds refuge and liberation in this transformation.

The idyllic reality of motherhood glamorized by popular culture and her actual lived experiences are never united. Yoder depicts the complex and changing nature of motherhood as something that cannot be understood or articulated with respect to the universal psychological rules. Her canine emotions help her reconnect with the artist who lies latent in her. She makes art out of the grotesque and the surreal and thus succumbs to and acknowledges the basic impulses of humanity and in return represents the invincible experience that is motherhood. If you are new to horror and have enjoyed it Nightbitch, you should definitely check out Come On In, The Horror’s Fine: Horror Books For Beginners and A Love Letter To The only good Indians By Stephen Graham Jones.

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Motherhood and chaos

Ariana Harwicz Die, my love is another example of the subgenre of motherhood horror. The protagonist’s irritability, impatience, fear and confusion define what it’s like to be a mother. She swears by her child and prefers to be outside and kick in the air so as not to have to deal with her family. She is a “nutshell” and “a person who cannot be repaired.” This raises the question of why ‘insanity’ is the standard mark women get when they refuse to succumb to cultural expectations. She revel in lustful and subtle acts of violence and not maternal instincts. Her husband’s lack of libido makes her wonder if the secrecy should come at the expense of satisfaction, sexual or otherwise. Her infidelity and madness turn into rebellion against social pressure by having to allow themselves to be consumed by the needs of the child.

Harwicz has skillfully dived into the senseless brutality that motherhood unleashes on a woman. The dichotomy of the conflict-filled self comes to life in her dilemma of whether to give in or get rid of her inner demons. Will she embrace chaos or become a mother in the conventional sense? Harwicz urges readers to consider why these are the only options for women.

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Motherhood, and so are mothers, is a bunch of conflicting traits – a mixture of terror, love, hate, fear, rage and countless other unrecognizable emotions. While happiness can certainly be a part of this equation, it is not the only deciding factor. Modern fiction lets mothers embrace and celebrate the motley team of emotions and personalities that make them up. Women can now feel a kinship with their fictitious colleagues and a sense of community as the struggle is not theirs alone.

Modern fiction about the ebbs and flow of motherhood shows how the personal becomes political. A unique, disinfected image of motherhood has been normalized for far too long, making women more lonely when they feel differently about motherhood. Modern fiction outlines motherhood as it is, a psychic battlefield in all its glory.

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