I’ve Given Birth, But I Am Not My Children’s Mother. Where Do I Belong?

I’ve Given Birth, But I Am Not My Children’s Mother. Where Do I Belong?

Hi. I’m Aderyn. I am a parent of two, and I am non-binary.

I haven’t known this for long. In fact, I’m 27, and only began questioning my gender identity in April 2020, so I am both late to realising I am not cis, and new to being metagender. It took a heated discussion about gender norms and a lockdown that stripped away a swathe of distractions to crack my egg, and help me realise that I am in fact not a woman. I have no gender. I am gendervoid.

I am not a woman, nor a mother

Now for the relevant part: I am not a woman, and I am also not a mother. I have felt the euphoria of proclaiming I have no gender, I know the frustration of being misgendered as a woman. I don’t want to have to fight for visibility as a parent too. And yet here I am, in a group of mothers, assumed to be both female and a mother unless I speak out.

I gave birth to both my children. I got pregnant easily, and despite a few minor bumps in the road, both pregnancies were easy and straightforward. I find pregnancy to be powerful. It is badass, it is exhilarating, I would do it again in a heartbeat. But it does not make me a woman. It doesn’t make me a mother. I have cared for cuts and bruises, consoled after nightmares and chastised angry outbursts. I have bathed, brushed teeth, combed hair. But none of this makes me a mother.

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Yet here I am, with two children and a support network I have fought to find and maintain through enough struggles to write three autobiographies. A support network that is focused around motherhood. A support network that celebrates birth mothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, step mothers.

There is no comprehensive definition of motherhood for all

There is no one definition of motherhood, no one way to become a mother, or be a mother. No comprehensive definition that can apply to everyone and exclude no-one. Much like womanhood, the only clear defining element is that you stand up proud and declare to the world “I am a mother”. You can’t even say “mother” is exclusive to binary women either, because there are non-binary women who are mothers too.

And yet… mother is inherently gendered. It is female, and I am not. I am not a mother. I am a parent. Does that mean I no longer belong? Technically, it should. Because if I am not a mother, why should I take up space in a mother-only space?

Decisions to make

I have a choice. I can leave, step away from those spaces designed solely for mothers because I no longer claim the title. Or I can stay, hoping that my history there allows me to remain. 

Either way, I have to make a decision.

Motherhood is a culture, built by those who claim it. I have, in the past, claimed it. I have given birth, I have breastfed. Nurtured, mothered. I have dealt with the social expectations put on single mothers. This experience is part of who I am, and nothing will ever change that.

And if I leave, where do I go? There are very few dad groups, and I am not a man. I haven’t found a single group dedicated to non-binary parents. The assumption is that we will fit quietly into women’s spaces and make do. Non-binary does not mean binary-adjacent. That assumption forces me to conform out of fear that I have nowhere else to go.

From Mama, to Boby

I’ll be honest, when I started examining my gender identity, my relationship to motherhood didn’t even occur to me. I hadn’t thought about it before, I assumed I’d be fine with my children calling me mummy/mama and I’d have the luxury of quietly affirming my gender identity to myself whilst making as few changes as possible. I was wrong. (My children still call me mama, but they’re 4 and 2 and don’t understand why I’ve asked them to call me Boby instead). The more I grow into my new sense of self, the more comfortable I become owning who I am, the more I realise that I’m not comfortable with the automatic gendering I experience as part of mom groups.

But as much as I am not a mum, I have been one. I have shared history, common culture with other mums. I have swapped stories, supported and been supported, vented and listened. That history is part of who I am, and I still need it. So for those reasons, I choose to stay.

I choose to stay

I also worry for those parents who have begun to question their gender but who unlike me, are thinking about how it might affect their support networks. Western society relies on segregating by gender, pitting man against woman in almost every aspect of life. What do you do if you don’t fit into that binary? Where do you go in a society that is fighting to stay uninclusive and segregated? Parenthood is isolating enough without the threat of losing your support network because of your gender identity. Until those issues are resolved, I will not leave my non-binary siblings to face our challenges alone. I choose to stay.

I am a parent, and I have chosen to stay.

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