Hello, Mutha

Hello, Mutha

By Rachel Levin

Harlem, New York. A model who celebrates the afro and the slogan Black is beautiful. 1968.
SourceEve Arnold/Magnum Photos


Motherhood is messy, miserable and amazing, and this online magazine celebrates that. 

By Rachel Levin

Somewhere in the whole sperm donor/turkey baster/IVF process (chronicled in this brilliant little piece entitled “I Can’t Believe I Forgot to Have Children”), she became semi-obsessed with all things mom. Not in that neurotic, pastel-hued, “Is your baby’s poop normal?” way common to most service-driven parenting publications out there, but in a real, refreshingly honest, totally un-earnest, anything-goes kind of way.She’s published four memoirs, a novel, a poetry collection and a new young adult trilogy called Mermaid in Chelsea Creek (McSweeney’s). She’s also the founder and artistic director of Radar Productions, a literary arts program that reflects the experiences of queer communities. On top of all that, 42-year-old Michelle Tea has been trying to get pregnant, or “pregs” as she puts it, for a couple of years now.

Which is the only way Michelle Tea rolls. The mission behind her new online magazine, Mutha, is to reveal motherhood as the messy, miserable, wonderful, amazing, terrifying thing that it really is. It’s a site for women from all walks of life who, like Tea, feel alienated by the mainstream magazines and websites out there. 

Since launching Mutha in August, she has been bombarded by submissions. So far, the site has covered everything from tantrums (hilarious pic here) and the Pinner behind the viral hit “My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter” to an essay from a white mother regularly mistaken as her interracial child’s nanny, to a home birthing story that, I swear, is actually a fun read.

In the works are first-person pieces from a transgendered mother, an impoverished mother and a mother with arguably the worst birthing story in the history of birth stories.

“I wanted to show that there’s not necessarily this traditionally feminine definition of motherhood,” says Tea, “that it’s broader and tougher and more jumbled than that.”

While Tea thinks parenting magazines are helpful for basic information about things like fertility or feeding, she started Mutha because she wasn’t finding an online community she could identify with. And she figured if she wasn’t, other women probably weren’t either. “Mutha is sort of a selfish endeavor,” she admits. “I wanted people around me who I could relate to while I’m going through all of this, people who are moms, or deciding to be moms, or trying to become moms.”

It’s certainly the only magazine where you don’t see a smiling, digitally edited image of the editor-in-chief wearing the perfect sweater set but rather a butt in the air in a pair of shiny pink underwear.

”That’s me — right after I got inseminated,” says aspiring mutha Tea. “I later learned that, oops, shoulder stands are bad. Sperm swims upstream, so turns out, you’re just supposed to gently tilt your hips upward.”