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Essential Labor: Mothering as Social Change

Angela Garbes

Top 10 Best Quotes

“I'm not trying to romanticize or fetishize the past, but the simple fact is that for centuries, throughout the world, we lived communally. Having individual families siloed off from one another behind fences, out of sight and out of mind, is a relatively recent social structure that we accept. This model has been forced upon us, at a steep cost to parents and children.”

“I want more friends, more casual impromptu hangs, more dropping by with dinner, more walking and talking and advice sessions, more kids underfoot, more asking for and saying what we need, more hands to carry heavy boxes, more laughing and cackling and snorting, more children farting at the dinner table, more of what makes life messy, less painful, more sweet. I want to give and receive, to always be swapping Tupperware and food, all of us crowded together like curvy lumpen mangoes in a baking dish.”

“Doing this requires knowledge of the history of mothering and care work—how they came to be seen as naturally female, which is to say invisible and undervalued.”

“understanding of freedom that we must rediscover. The words free and friend are derived from the Indo-European friya, which means “beloved.” Freedom, Birdsong writes, was originally “the idea that together we can ensure that we have all the things we need—love, food, shelter, safety.” Freedom is not an individual effort, but a collective one. “Being free,” writes Birdsong, “is achieved through being connected.”

“When you become a mother, you engender life, endless possibilities. Mothering is creative in a very literal sense—it is cultivating all that potential, bringing a small person into consciousness.”

“We are caught between how we were raised and how we really want to live.”

“Mothering is sensual—endemic to the body and bringing both profound joy and fulfillment. It cultivates and nurtures a child’s life force and essence. It is labor that can bestow a primal sense of satisfaction to children and caregivers alike.”

“More than in any other human relationship, overwhelmingly more, motherhood means being instantly interruptible,” wrote Tillie Olsen in 1968.”

“In modern American culture, that sort of tight-knit community structure seems increasingly rare. For centuries, extended personal networks have been eroded, replaced with privatized jobs and small, isolated kin units. “The extended family and relationships that could sustain families were transformed and professionalized,” write Patel and Moore.3 A lack of shared responsibility and interconnectedness makes it difficult to find solutions for needs more easily addressed in community, such as childcare, meal preparation, and household maintenance. It leads to isolation and an every-family-for-themselves mentality. It leaves parents feeling common domestic strains as personal problems rather than structural ones.”

“I never really wanted to be a professional; all I knew was that I wanted whatever I did to matter. I believe writing matters, of course, but nothing has ever felt more real to me than the work of caring. That energy and effort to maintain—ourselves, our loved ones, our community—has always felt substantial, true, visceral, and, yes, real to me. I don’t believe care work has to wreck us. This labor can be shared, social, collective—and transformative.”

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Book Keywords:

flow, caregiving, creative, profession, purpose, tradition, motherhood, focus, ambition, care-work, parenting, sacrifice, mothering

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