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Parenting is the oldest and most important job in the world and there are no schools to prepare you for it. You’re left to your own wiles, hearsay and parenting books. Everyone expects that women naturally possess a maternal instinct, a capacity for unconditional love and inherent insight for raising happy, responsible and healthy human beings. But do they really? Is good parenting really an innate quality? How do we learn to raise our children in the right way?

From the Unites States, meet Polly Pagenhart, a parent who identifies as a LesbianDad and questions the mainstream concepts of motherhood and gender. Then step into the world of Francesca and Sonia, two women who proudly exclaim that they are both genetic mothers to their son and daughter.

In Turkey, afflicted by poverty, unemployment and a bad marriage, Hayriye Ipin struggles to raise her children. She attends a school that educates mothers on how to be better parents, and through her experience, learns how to be a loving mother and see her children as a blessing, not a curse.

In South Africa, the renowned radio personality Sam Cowen writes a tongue-in-cheek account of raising her son Christopher and learning to be satisfied as a career mom by believing in God, relaxing and, when in doubt, reminding herself: “If Americans can do it, ANYONE can.”
Read stories from women around the world and join the conversation.
Itzel Martínez Del Canizo
Raising children is an enormous challenge where an array of cultural, social, economic and political factors intertwine. The way we have been brought up, whether we are working or stay at home moms, married or involved in romantic relationships, help form our ideals on how to make the new generation better than the one before.

Mothers are great artists of day-to-day life; the anonymous sculptors of new generations of women and men in the world. We invite you to share with us your adventures and transformations in this creative odyssey that is raising children.
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24 - 5 of 24 Next | First
United States
Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2007 2:58 PM
Thank you Betty Kehrle for the very kind words. I went to therapy the whole last year to learn new ways on how to deal with my mother. But, I'm taking baby steps with her, but I know things will change once I leave California. Like you said, I have done a lot of work learning to accept myself. Its hards to describe, but I know with time, the healing process will change my prespective on life.

I'm currently with a great man who treasures me. At first, I had a hard time accepting and letting him do things for me. So, we went to counseling in our church and things have been great since. Now, I don't see the man who raped my mother and resulted in my birth in every man I encounter. I learned to forgive and accept who God made to be. I'm so looking forward to motherhood, so I can relate to most of the women on this forum.
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Jennifer Edwards
United States
Posted on Monday, July 30, 2007 2:58 PM
I believe that Grace raises an important point... Moms need support! I would like to highlight that many women do not have supportive families or partners and this may not come to light until AFTER a child comes into the world. Not all babies are born out of love between two people. Perhaps the way to face problems in our society is as communities of women, mothers and fathers. Perhaps we could each commit to building or participating in support systems for kids and parents alike. I too cannot imagine raising my son alone, however my support came from many different women at many different times along the way.
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Grace O
United States
Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2007 11:51 AM
I just became a first time mom and though I am not a teenager I am 28 with a career I was scared and unsure it seemsed like I had forgotten everything for a bit and I would not have been able to go on without the help o fmy husband and family they are an unimaginable resource. I can not see someone raising a child properly and in the safest and best possible way that thay can without the help of their loved ones and especially the childs father. I can tell you now after 3 months I am an old hand at diapering, feeding, drool/spit up and general laughs that I might not need my husband and family as much as I did but I want them all there because I know my baby needs them so that I can raise him in the best possible way and he needs all the love and attention. I just can not say enough about family and advocate a 2 parent household. Have children out of love for life and commit to each other and the children and alot of the problems facing today's youth can be avoided.
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Rachel Sarah
United States
Posted on Friday, June 29, 2007 2:37 PM
Hi Ali,

I'd love to talk to you!... I'm on the bio-Mom end, but my last relationship ended recently and I'm trying to figure out how to let my ex stay involved without staying too immersed again in his life. I think your situation is very common. I've been emailing with quite a few women around the country who tried to make a blended family work. And when it doesn't, what do you do?... You can email me off the list
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Ali Smith
United States
Posted on Thursday, June 28, 2007 5:11 AM
hi- Does anyone know of support groups in new york city for devoted step parents who lost their child through divorce and are struggling with the loss?

any help would be appreciated!

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Grace Kadzere
South Africa
Posted on Tuesday, June 19, 2007 1:05 AM
Sam your two stories are amazing, l mean l listen to the rude awakening, love you guys and could never picture you going through all those emotions during your pregnancy. Trust me as weird as it sounds when you are a radio personality, myself and other people out there expect you to live and feel things different from others, kind of putting you on a pedestal.

Your insecurities, your ability to write about them is the most comforting thing ever to all of us, especially to me as l still have not had a child, am not sure if l will, l mean at 23 l am still so undecided.

I hope that if ever l do l will have a supporting team like yours. Trust me the way Darren, Jeremy, etc went on and on about your pregnancy till your son was born on radio is more than enough love, care and attention and every woman will die for that.
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Monica Muhs
United States
Posted on Monday, June 18, 2007 10:22 AM
I have always wanted to be a mother. I always thought that I would grow into the position too, but last year I met a man who had a son, and I became an instant mother. Talk about rough, I think it is still one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I skipped diapers and feedings and went straight to soccer practice and math homework. I think the only thing that saved me was the fact that he adores me. I love being a mother for him and I can only hope that I can have another child to love. I couldnt think of anything better than being a mother. Parenting is tough but well worth it.
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Sam Cowen
South Africa
Posted on Sunday, June 10, 2007 11:00 PM
Whatever your income group, social structure or cultural background, one thing you will be faced with day after day as a parent is your child's curiosity. My son is constantly asking questions about everything and, especially at the end of a long and tiring day, it's very tempting just to say "because it is." But I don't do that. The questions are too important. The other day we pulled up at a traffic light where a man with one arm was begging for money. Chris looked at him and asked me why the man had only one arm. "Well my darling, maybe he had an accident or he got sick." Chris was silent for a moment and then said "Can he get a new one ?"
"I don't think so, my love."
He was silent for a minute.
"Is it sore ?"
"I hope not."
I watchede him nodding at me in the rearview mirror.
"Tomorrow, you can buy him a new one," he said with confidence. "Mummy can fix it for him."
And I wished I could. To our kids we are omnipotent. We can fix it all, mend it all, provide it all. Except I can't this time. I can't give the beggar a new arm. And the first chink in Mummy's armour has been revealed. That's going to be hard for both of us. I've vowed to be honest with him no matter what but balancing truth with emotional security is a tricky business.
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Margarita M. Serrano
Posted on Saturday, June 09, 2007 1:05 PM
Last year I became a mother, my son Mateo will be 1 year old the 20th of this month and even though my views on life, womenhood, myself have changed radically, I believe I can still say is an amazing experience in everyway; from recognizing the power of just being able to create such perfection and beauty. I thought that being an artist gave me in a sense that power, but now I see differently.
I also discovered that now a days motherhood is very hard if you don't have a supportive partner. I believe that this experience has thus reitereted the need to understand the need for a change in male gender roles.

Thank you-
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Itzel Martinez del Canizo
Posted on Thursday, May 31, 2007 10:18 AM
(my comments now in english)

I find incredible stories and realities in this space. I thank you for taking a little time to share with us your perceptions and experiences.

I love to see translated into words the daily life of so many women ,like me who form part of the new world of motherhood.

In each stage we must take millions of decisions and I confess that some times it is pretty complicated to know how to make the best out of our work. I am now awaiting my second child and I feel strange to know that my life will be determined by the presence of three men. my two sons and my partner. I never saw myself amongst men, having grown up with 4 sisters.

But besides all my doubts and worries, I am quite clear on the way I want to raise my new sons, as a continuity to mi thoughts and ideals.
Living in mexico , the reckless consumerism to which we are exposed could be less or more depending in the area in which you live. I have decided to build myself a reality that that will ut me as far away as possible from so much unnecessary materialism that grows everywhere and generates so much confusion as to what is really a priority.
Not that I consider taking a radical posture that will take me away from reality, but that I restructure my posture towards something deeper and simpler.
I think that living well can be a lot easier that one would think of, and for this we need less mental noise and exterior influences.

I am sure that as mothers we have a base position in the construction of a new social thinking which is more conscious and free of the ideals of the industries of power.
Because being mothers of these new generations we have a bigger task than the previous generations, because we have brought our sons into a world in crisis, full of environmental problems, pollution and deterioration. That is why we must be prepared to confront the forthcoming years and give our sons the necessary tools that will help them face reality with a more intelligent and respectful mindset. One that will embrace the preoccupations of a more ecologically integrated and less pollutant way of life.

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Andrea Huber
Posted on Wednesday, May 30, 2007 11:15 PM
To Rachel - Sorry for the delay! I would love to share with you my experiences of being a single mother! My situation is very unique. I have been a single mother from the beginning of my pregnancy, I tried to involve my daughter's father in doctor's appointments and educate him about birth, but he was just terrible and very emotionally abusive. I felt since I had to grow up and become responsible that he had to as well, I also wanted the best for my daughter and I wanted him to be there for her after she was born despite our separation. It was through that situation that I learned you cannot make someone they are not.

Overtime he has become a big part of he life and we share her now, which she really loves and is happy with. I look to her as my gage of her happiness. So with that said, I have my personal life when she is with her dad - I work, go to school, have a relationship and try to find personal time for myself. When I have her, I am just mommy, I give her all my time and care. If something comes up my mom will watch her, and when she was younger and I had her full-time, my mom would also help out.

I have been in a relationship for 2 1/2 years, which has been challenging with a child - for all parties involved. For myself I don't find enough me time to self-actualize because they both consume a lot of time and energy, which is really positive in some ways, but also demanding in that you have to put in enough to make things function and develop in a good direction. We do not live together and have over time have begun to spend time "all" together, it requires a lot of patience and understanding of all perspectives and feelings.

As far as red flags, I guess most importantly for me after going through a pregnancy alone and creating a life for my daughter, I really wasn't willing to put up with any BS. Honesty is my number requirement, and if you can see someone is dishonest about an incident in his or her job or with a friend, then you can tell that person is not living in truth - and when you have a child you are forced to live by honesty and purity. If someone can't give you that then it is not worth your time. I think most of the time you can tell just by the way a person talks or perceives himself or others. You can see their judgment about certain things is so off because they have the inability to be realistic and see the truth.

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Priya Chalam
United States
Posted on Wednesday, May 30, 2007 2:38 PM
I agree with Itzel that mothers of these new generations are presented with increasingly difficult challenges, new challenges in a world facing ecological chaos. Yet, I wouldn't say that today's mothers deal with more challenges or harder challenges than their mothers before them. Because it's all relative. Past and present, all parents have had their own vital and grand impact to make on their youth. And I think this is a very good thing for us to keep in mind.

We want the best for our children, and fear for them in a world that (as we're continally told) is falling apart. We want our children to be progressive thinkers, and therefore, hold ourselves accountable for instilling in them our own lofty ideals and values. But these are age old worries and desires. We will always have to protect our children from it war, pollution, avian flu or scraped knees. And we will always struggle to keep them safe. In both times of conflict and times of peace.

I think about my grandmothers. One took on the trials of parenting single-handedly in Maryland while her husband fought in a war hundreds of miles away. She feared for the lives of her daughters, my mother and aunt, praying for my grandfather's safe return, hoping the world wouldn't come to an end before her children were allowed a chance to grow.

The other raised two boys, fifteen years apart, in India and around the world. Uprooted every 3-5 years by her husband, a rearcher for the WHO, she was moved from Cochin, to New York City, to Tokyo, to Sydney...forever expected to keep her family together and make sure all bellies were full. Never afforded the time to gain the education my grandfather possessed, she lived in the shadow of her husband's wisdom and success. With her husband so often at work, she feared for her sons, my dad and uncle, hoping she would be able to care for them in foriegn lands far from home and everything familiar.

Parents today face hard deciscions and challenging obstacles in a world seeming to teeter on the edge. But we should take comfort in knowing that we aren't alone.
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Ali Smith
United States
Posted on Tuesday, May 29, 2007 7:14 AM
I'm a photographer. You can see the work I've been doing for my new book on motherhood on this website under my name, Ali Smith. I'm located in NYC and am hoping to find mothers and mothers to be in NYC who are open and eager to talking REALISTICALLY about motherhood and to be photographed for potential inclusion in my book. Please contact me if you feel you're interested and have strong thoughts on the matter to add. I'd really like to stay away from broad theories about motherhood and move towards personal beliefs, conflicts, sorrows, joys... The more real and personal, the more it will make a powerful impact and help others gain a true understanding of the role of mothers, the importance of mothers, the pressures put on mothers, the conflicts women do or don't face about motherhood...
thanks for this great conversation and to everyone for your touching stories.

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Itzel Martinez del Canizo
Posted on Monday, May 28, 2007 3:24 PM
Increíbles historias y realidades encuentro en este espacio. Agradezco que tomen un poco de su tiempo para compartir con nosotros sus percepciones y vivencias.
Me encanta ver traducido en letras la vida diaria de tantas mujeres que como yo, forman parte de un nuevo mundo como es el tener hijos.
Millones de dediciones tenemos que tomar a cada nueva etapa y confieso que a veces es bastante complicado saber como hacer mejor nuestra labor. Yo ahora estoy en espera de mi segundo hijo y me siento extraña en saber que mi vida estará determinada por la presencia de tres hombres: mis dos hijos y mi pareja. Nunca me visualice entre hombres, siendo que crecí rodeada de 4 hermanas.
Pero pese a todas mis dudas y preocupaciones si hay mucha claridad sobre la manera que quiero formar a mis nuevos hijos, como una continuidad a mi pensamiento e ideales. Viviendo en México el consumismo tan voraz al que estamos expuestos puede ser menos evidente dependiendo en la zona en la que vivas. Y yo he decidido construirme una realidad que se aleje lo mas posible de tanto materialismo innecesario que se reproduce por todas partes y que genera tanta confusión entre lo que es realmente prioritario.
No es que considere necesaria tomar una postura radical que nos aleje de la realidad, sino que la redimensione hacia una visión más profunda y simple. Creo que vivir bien puede ser mucho más sencillo de lo que a veces se piensa y para ello necesitamos menos ruido mental e influencias exteriores.
Estoy segura que las madres tenemos una posición básica en la construcción del nuevo pensamiento social más consciente y libre de los ideales de las industrias de poder. Porque siendo madres de estas nuevas generaciones tenemos un reto aun mayor que las generaciones pasadas, estamos trayendo a nuestros hijos a un mundo en desaparición, lleno de problemas ambientales, contaminación y deterioro, asi que tenemos que estar preparados para enfrentar los años venideros y darles a ellos las herramientas necesarias que los ayuden a sobrevivir con una nueva mentalidad mas integral y respetuosa, que retome las preocupaciones de un modo de vida ecológicamente integrado y poco contaminante.
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Jennifer Edwards
United States
Posted on Monday, May 28, 2007 7:40 AM
To Franceska: Many thanks for your story! You illustrate the many ways in which 'family' is created - truly beautiful...

To All: I feel that many of the stories (and I have not read them all yet) highlight a point that I wanted to bring to the fore in my piece "Four Cycles of Single Motherhood"- that the act of parenting needs support and community to function well. AND that we must support ALL styles and choices of raising children. Many thanks for all of the writing/ stories shared here! I look forward to reading more!

Sending peace! Trust you are well!
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Cristina Teresa O'Keeffe
United States
Posted on Wednesday, May 23, 2007 12:00 PM
The stories and comments posted are all impressive. I was touched by the posting, "Can Two Women Make a Baby?" I wanted to share a little story about my experience taking a childbirth preparation class here in NYC: there were couples of all shapes and sizes in our class. People who wanted to birth at home and others who had a doula and a midwife but were headed to a birthing center. I felt that I was the most conservative of the bunch when I opted for traditional labor and delivery. One other couple had the very same idea about what they wanted and hearing them speak made me understand we had a lot in common. It was interesting that this couple was the one female same-sex couple in the class. It taught me that when it comes to labor, delivery and, often, parenting - many of the other identities we have fall into the backdrop as we share the common bonds of being mothers. It's beautiful how in touch Franceska is with the threads of motherhood that are being woven all around her. I hope it always stays with her.
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Rachel Sarah
United States
Posted on Wednesday, May 23, 2007 11:31 AM
Great to hear from you Andrea! Yes, I love the photos on your story. Beautiful.

So, dating as a single mom!

Who watches your child so you can get some time to yourself? (My friends and I swap childcare. I also have a great Dad and sister nearby.)

Are you honest from the start that you're a single mom?

What are your red flags? (I won't consider being with a man who does drugs; or isn't divorced yet. What are your red flags?)

Best to you!
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Andrea Huber
Posted on Tuesday, May 22, 2007 4:03 PM
To Rachael and Luz (I love your name!): I am a single mommy and oh do I have so much to share about becoming a single mother, dating and raising a child alone. You can view my story on becoming a single parent on my exhibit page, but in regards to the labyrinth of life as an independent woman dating while also being a single mom - can you ask some very specific questions? I would love to engage my mind and share openly.

As far as Luz's comment on what I call gender codification, "pink is for girls, blue is for boys," I feel that it really goes beyond parenting in many ways in regards to how and with what your child chooses to associate him or herself with. If you think about the fact that on average we are exposed to over 30,000 commercial images a day through all media including TV, advertisements, product placement in movies, gender roles in commercials, billboards, pictures on packaging of any sort - including cereal boxes, logos on food/beverages, books, magazines - the list goes on, just think about your day from beginning to end and try to imagine how you are exposed to imagery without perhaps even being aware of it.

I am a concerned mother like you in that I would really like my daughter to feel open to any possibility regardless of her gender. I strive to create comfort, confidence, curiosity and ability within her mind and character to see the world as her canvas, not as a place where comfort only resides within associations such as pink, Hello Kitty toys or Disney costumes for Halloween - it could even be the color of the cup she wants to drink out of or the design on her shirt with glitter or hearts. I strongly believe this is an issue that needs to be addressed, but is extremely hard when we as parents are underminded by large corporations who are using very invasive and aggressive tactics to lure children into the facade of their product. Ultimately building a false sense of security and confidence by being associated with it, they as children don't generally really receive anything from consuming toys and products except temporary gratification/stimulation. We are up against so many media outlets from products in the grocery store to a marketing campaign for a kid's movie. I have tried to shield my 4 year-old-daughter from this in many ways, even going so far as to requesting no clothing or gifts in the color pink for my daughter from relatives and friends. This may sound extreme to some, but try living a life where your child only wants to be associated with one color but can't even logically explain to you why.

For me it is not only about the way it is affecting her life right now, but it is the future of how her life will be shaped that is of utmost concern. As a result of media presenting a very narrow and unrealistic presentation of a woman/girls in all avenues, how will she deal with her self-image and what roles will she feel responsible to as a woman or teenager? How will she feel comfortable in her own skin when the world around her is everything she's not? I do want to respect her choices as you did for your daughter, but I do believe in removing as much as I can any possibility for a product, color or cereal box to define her life and tell her who she should be without thinking about it for herself. A child is constantly taking in information and learns from the world around as they develop, I don't want my child's character and beliefs in herself to be dictated by a higher force other than her own mind and spirit.

Here is a very resourceful link to a site that lobby’s for children rights against commercialism that is negative and inappropriate, such as marketing over sexualized dolls to little girls:

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Rachel Sarah
United States
Posted on Monday, May 21, 2007 7:09 AM
Hello. I'm Rachel, from the Featured Story on single parents who are dating again.

This is a great discussion about what it means to be a mother.

If you're a single parent, I'd love to hear from you! Please write in.

How did you become a single parent?

Who's in your support system? Friends? Family? Grandparents?

If you're dating again -- or thinking about it --- how are you balancing the challenges of raising a healthy, happy child with the chaotic, emotionally-charged world of dating?

I look forward to hearing from you.

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Luz Sanchez
Posted on Saturday, May 19, 2007 8:43 AM
I love the pink and blue project photos by Jeong Mee Yoon. But you know i'm not sure it's really like they say-- that girls like pink because we raise them this way, adn boy like blue. i have a girl. i try to give her puzzles and science games, she wants ribbons and dress up. when she was younger, all she wanted to do was take care of her dolls.

at first i fetl bad as a mom, maybe i had failed, but these were her choices no matter what i tried, so then i just learned to go with them, let her be who she wanted to be.

do any of you moms out there face the same dilemma?
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Featured Stories
"The Stamp of Motherhood"
Itzel Martínez Del Canizo, Mexico
Cristina Teresa O'Keeffe, United States
"Raising a Child in Iran's Cultural Divide"
Azadeh Moaveni , Iran
"The Stork"
Nina Paley, United States
"Teenage pregnancy in Brazil"
Marizilda Cruppe – EVE Photographers, Brazil
"A Doula Story"
Tevakevia "Kyky" White, United States
"Excerpt from Waiting for Christopher"
Sam Cowen, South Africa
""Eight years old""
Paula Toller, Brazil
"Can Two Women Make a Baby?"
Franceska Donor, United States
Polly Pagenhart, United States
"The Pink and Blue Project"
Jeong Mee Yoon , South Korea
"Fearless Motherhood "
Jen Lemen, United States
Hillary Harvey, United States
"How I Became a Loving Mother"
Hayriye İpin, Turkey
"Mother + Modern = Mothern "
Juliana Sampaio, Brazil
"Mother Nature"
Sunila Bajracharya, Nepal
"Minneapolis Poem"
Shá Cage, United States
"Four Cycles of Single Motherhood: a diary"
Jennifer Edwards, United States
"Momma Love"
Ali Smith, United States
"Growing Up Fast"
Joanna Lipper, United States
"La Carga "
Maria Adela Diaz, United States
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