Pregnancy is a time of profound physical and psychological change. The transition to motherhood can be complex and difficult, and in all the discourse about pregnancy and birth the huge personal changes that women undergo can be overlooked. In the 21st century it can seem that mothers are blamed and blame themselves for everything, as they struggle to manage their multiple identities as mothers, lovers, sisters and daughters.
Why Mothering Matters is a nuanced and revealing discussion of how it can feel to become a mother in modern society. It calls for better recognition of the work of motherhood, and better support for women and families as they learn what parenting looks like for them.
Press reviews and endorsements
Naomi Stadlen, author of What Mothers Do, Especially When It Looks Like Nothing
Every sentence of this powerful book makes me want to cheer, or cry, or laugh out loud. Maddie McMahon talks about the agonies of becoming a mother in a world that despises motherhood. Her anger rallies us to defend those who care for little ones in refugee camps and conditions of poverty. Her lyrical prose describes the beauty of tender moments – and their importance in building healthy, balanced people.
Maddie challenges people in power to listen to mothers. She shows us that 'deep down, everyone knows that mother-centric politics and economics would heal the world.'
Maddie brings in voices of many mothers, birth workers, breastfeeding supporters and researchers. She writes about the value of community as women and parents of all kinds – and demonstrates this in her generous and inclusive writing.
Every politician, health department official, town planner and company CEO should read this book. I plan to send a copy to my MP.
This book captured everything I feel about being a mother from the highs to the lows. Thank you Maddie.
This passionate book by Maddie McMahon a doula and supporter of mothers is her 'hymn of praise' to the work of mothers. She acknowledges that mothering (giving unconditional love and sowing the seeds of self-worth) can be, and is, done by many people with or without children, and yet mothers have a distinct way of giving it. She uses personal experience (she had the courage to visit a refugee camp in Dunkirk), the words of mothers, as well as published literature to support her case that mothering is often disrespected yet essential. Why Mothering Matters is both thoughtful and encouraging.
Why Mothering Matters is a book full of myth and metaphor, exploring the metamorphosis of woman into mother in a world of judgement and inequality. Maddie McMahon is well qualified to write this book, with her years as a doula, doula trainer, and breastfeeding counsellor granting her a profound understanding of the many different forms this transformation can take, and the almost endless pressures and influences that bear down on the work of mothering.
A contemporary companion to Naomi Stadlen’s What Mothers Do, this book starts its journey here in the 21st Century, listening to the voices of mothers who share their feelings and experiences. What this uncovers is a world of contradiction, where we can feel isolated and yet never disconnected from the world, and where advice comes so thick and fast that it is impossible to grasp hold of the threads that might be useful. We see the many different relationships that can smooth out a difficult day, or blow your confidence out of the water, just in a choice of words.
But this book is not all crowdsourced anecdata; and particularly in the chapter on ‘The Chemical Soup of Motherhood’ Maddie gives us the science behind attachment and baby brain development, relating this to the mother’s wellbeing as the foundation stone of healthy growth in both those areas.
We then swim deeper into the global and historical context of mothering, and page by page the book gets more deeply and gloriously feminist, capturing the essence of motherhood: it is hard, we even make it hard for ourselves, and then the world makes it harder; but it is amazing and under-appreciated. What would the world be like, Maddie asks; what would politics be like, if the country was run by a circle of mothers?
It’s a manifesto and a celebration, but also a very personal piece of writing. Maddie writes about how vulnerable mothers can be, and makes herself vulnerable with this subject which is clearly so precious to her. It’s a really beautiful piece of writing, in so many ways.
This was a book I should have read whilst pregnant with my first child. When women are pregnant with their first child, all the advice, reading and conversation runs around pregnancy and birth; there it stops. It feels like birth is the penultimate objective of a pregnant woman. Yet now I know of my naivety. Birth is the beginning of an unknown space that we just appear in and Maddie McMahon has tried creatively to describe this unknown space for us all.
Her latest book, Why Mothering Matters from the brilliant Why is Matters series feels like a genuine heart tale. It’s a book that’s most possibly been brewing in Maddie’s head for years. Her observant, poetic prose is very endearing to read and absorb. This book feels like you are talking to a friend in your living room who has been through the very things that are troubling you right now. However, just as we talk to a friend and our conversations jump and skip around, so does this book. There are examples of writing where birth conversations suddenly become breast-feeding ones or hard-hitting facts and evidence starts to morph into personal commentary. This book feels more like a collection of musings rather than a strong coercive, unmistakeable manifesto which the title made me believe it would be. The chapters though creatively named don’t convey a build up into a crescendo of a call to action or a sense of solidarity towards my fellow mothers.
We are in a time where feminism backlash, birth trauma and maternity politics are heightened by their social visibility but there is a lack of progressive dialogue that can bring society together on these seminal topics. I wish the book’s central premise would have stayed on this hard-hitting agenda. The tone of victimising women has always been unappealing to me and with her descriptions of roles, demographics and divisive politics Maddie half-heartedly dips her pen to write on what is really bothering her but settles on an apologetic tone that does both this book and mothers a great disservice. This book had the promise to bring out the importance and nuanced nature of mothering in our social structure, but it is left me feeling that being a mother feels like a drag to most women, which is clearly untrue.
Maddie has a passion towards her fellow mothers and in her writings that is plain to read. I think there are gems in this book even if they are hidden and this a book that needs an audience that has the patience to sift through its beauty. The poetic nature of the book makes it ideal for a cold, wet, dark evening where you will find a warm light of companionship as you ponder on your own mothering journey, but don’t let the doom and gloom get to you.
I love this book so much. It is so eloquently written. You have to read it first hand to be moved by her wonderfully well written words. I will be gifting copies to friends, and families. A wonderful gift for new mums.
I can’t wait to read more books by Maddie.
Why Mothering Matters is a wonderful insight into how it can feel becoming a mother in society today and for me, came at exactly the right time; a time when I was questioning my own identity as a new mum, struggling to try and be everything I thought I needed to be.
I laughed out loud at Maddie’s honest writing, cried quietly with the mothers as they retold their stories, felt exasperated as I read about the injustices I’d been ignorant too and really appreciated just how much each and every women gives to becoming a mother. Above all, I felt accepted, like I mattered, cuddled and reassured by Maddie’s warm words as I read.
A truly honest and uplifting book, written with so much love and a passion for women that is undeniable. An absolute must read for anyone doubting their own ability or working alongside those that may be doubting theirs. Thank you once again Maddie, for supporting women so beautifully.
It's taken me a long time to put pen to paper (yes I still do that) and write this review, because I have found it impossible to articulate the way it has made me feel. I inhaled 'Why Mothering Matters' in one indulgent sitting the day after it was published. I could never do it justice - but I'm going to try.
This book touched my soul like no other ever has. As a mother I have never felt so understood, so appreciated, so valued and so loved. Passion runs right through this book on every last page. It's packed full of revelations that will make you shout, scream and fist pump the air all at the same time. There are so many moments throughout the book where I felt like I was listening to a significantly influential speech at a rally - one that would make history and change the world, one that would be remembered and quoted from years into the future. My heart literally, physically swelled in these moments. It was powerful and overwhelming. A few times I had to take a break and go calm down because I was so overcome with emotion that I could not continue reading.
Maddie has much to teach us about motherhood from a feminist perspective. She talks about the effects that the capitalist patriarchy has on our daily lives and what we might do to rise up and conquer. She talks about what mothers are enduring across the globe. Some of her insights will break your heart and leave you in the depths of despair. But she never leaves you there for long, choosing instead to lift you higher than you've ever been with her message of enduring hope. I feel more connected with every single mother that has ever existed after finishing the book. We are a tribe, we are a sisterhood. In a society that does not value us we need to build each other up and tell each other how amazing we are each and every day.
I am shouting about this book from the rooftops. I am telling everybody I meet wherever I go. I am talking about it at Mum's groups and posting about it all over social media - because we NEED to get this message out there. Absolutely everybody, not only mothers, needs to hear these beautifully poetic words. If everyone would take them to their heart it would have positive ramifications for every last member of the human race. THAT'S how important we are. That's the difference we make.
It is almost a month to the day since I read 'Why Mothering Matters' and I still feel like I'm carrying Maddie's words into every moment of every day. It's so rare that a book has such a monumental impact on your perceptions. There just aren't the words to make you understand how utterly, astoundingly, brilliant it is - so please, just read it. For the love of mothers everywhere, read it.
Maddie McMahon - Thank you. Thank you for literally ripping your heart right out of your chest and scrawling it across these pages. It must have been ridiculously difficult and I salute you. This book is the best gift you could ever have given us.
I've never read a book that has resonated so much before. Whilst expecting our second baby, Maddie has spoken to me everything I've needed to read and writes truth. Exploring why the role of the mother is crucial not to survive but for mothers and babies to thrive like we deserve. Cannot recommend this book enough!! ❤️ X