I’m not a mom yet, and don’t plan on becoming one for years. However, like many women today I’m already worrying about the dreaded “having it all”: how will I combine a career and child-rearing and what will happen to my life once I decide to reproduce and bring forth little humans who my husband and I will be completely responsible for? The book “Rebel Moms” edited by Davina Rhine perhaps provides some answers to these questions, which perplex so many of us (also increasingly men as well – yay for equality or boo – for today’s society where it seems to be so hard for everyone to have a family?).
The moms in Rebel Moms are all self-described “counter-culture” women with fascinating life stories. They do awesome things – they’re activists, writers, teachers, tattoo artists, professional bassists and actresses. No 9-till-5 corporate jobs for these ladies! They all stayed true to their (mostly) non-consumerist, non-mainstream ideals through their pregnancies and beyond and live to tell the tale. It was truly inspiring to read about so many women who are moms and don’t stop being themselves, even if who they are doesn’t fit with what society tells us mom “should” look and behave like.
The actual collection of life stories of the women portrayed by Davina Rhine is definitely the strongest aspect of this book. The pages are filled with stories of women who have overcome great odds (sexual abuse, addiction, homelessness, divorce) to be the amazing moms they want to be, as well as stories of women who continued to achieve and aim for more for their children and themselves once they become mothers (they go back to school, start their own business or move across the country. The book also tries to be inclusive and women from all sorts of (non-mainstream) walks of life have been interviewed for it, However, I did find that there were very few women of color, no (self-declared) non-heterosexual women and only one or two moms with a disability. It’s a bit of a shame that the dozens of stories don’t include more from women who do not benefit from many of the privileges that come with not being a racial or sexual minority.
I also found the way the book is edited doesn’t allow the stories to flow as well as they perhaps might have (the actual layout of the book wasn’t very helpful either). The interviewees’ words are reported in a “she said this she said that” manner. As a result, while reading I felt as if I were listening to someone recounting her conversation rather than learning a woman’s story. This manner of reporting perhaps creates a more intimate feel for the book, but I felt that because there are quite a few stories to tell it actually becomes somewhat tiresome. The intimate feel of the book can also be felt in the comments the editor sometimes interjects in parentheses – she uses it to share her own experience or give some political or historical background. However, what worries me is that there were many places where a comment or clarification – in my mind – was called for but conspicuously absent (e.g. with regards to “well known facts” about vaccinations or government programs which supposedly involve micro-chipping children).
Overall, I think the book has some great stories but is very concentrated on parenting as a mother-mostly activity sidelining dads/partners. I understand the power of telling women’s stories, however this books isn’t just about awesome women who happen to be moms, but rather moms who are awesome humans. If the fact a person is a parent takes priority I would really like to see both parents included a bit – wouldn’t it be easier, better and healthier for all us (including the kids) if, as a society, we didn’t continually reiterate that children are women’s business?!
A recovering scientist, healthcare analyst and junkie of all things gender and women's health