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Mothering through the Zombie Apocalypse

I’m a fan of the television series, The Walking Dead, which is about a group of people struggling to survive a zombie apocalypse in the United States. It’s one of the few shows that both C and I jointly consider “Must-See-TV”. I’m not really a fan of the horror genre but I do love a good dystopian story. What this means is that I’m less interested in the zombies than exploring humanity through the quest for survival.  Lucky for me, the show also seems to care about exploring that theme. Not so lucky for me is that this show is anxiety-inducing and I don’t mean that solely in the “I don’t like scary movies” way. What I didn’t expect upon watching this show is how my identity as a mother would affect me as a viewer. I haven’t been able to watch an episode without pondering how I would protect my son in such a horrific situation.

Unfortunately, there aren’t that many child survivors portrayed in The Walking Dead, and the few shown are there mostly as plot devices or character development props for adult characters. On the other hand, there aren’t very many zombie children portrayed either so I often wonder what  really happened to the mothers and their children. The likely answer is that the writers haven’t thought about this in any significant way since explorations of mothering are generally absent in the apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic genre. Sure, you see mothers and their children but many times it’s the father-child (often father-son) relationship that’s explored (See, The Road2012War of the Worlds, etc.).

In the first episode of The Walking Dead, we meet a father and his 12-year old son who are surviving after having lost the mother/wife of the family to the “walkers” (the term “zombie” is never used on the show). She is now a walker with some residual memory since she keeps returning to the house where the family has hidden out. We don’t get much sense of her personal story since the focus is on how the father is dealing with his and his son’s grief plus the responsibility of parenting and managing survival for two.

In later scenes, we meet the wife and son of the main protagonist, Rick. We see some mothering going on there but the emotional drama related to this family is mostly centered on the relationship between Rick and his wife, Lori, and the love triangle he’s unaware of.  Plus, we’ve yet to see how Lori and their son, Carl, managed to survived the escape from their home. Did Lori have to do any fighting? How did she protect Carl?

This makes me wonder why writers don’t seem to find the stories of mothers compelling unless it’s to prop up a plot point or flesh out other characters. It can’t be because there’s a lack of material. Here’s what I imagine that mothering through a zombie apocalypse might look like:

  • Mothers fighting off baddies, both human and non-human to protect their families
  • Mothers using their ingenuity to use what’s available in order to meet their families immediate needs
  • Mothers making hard choices about their families’ survival
  • Mothers trying to find some semblance of happiness in the face of adversity
  • Mothers sacrificing for their children or maybe even not sacrificing anything
  • Mothers being tough
  • Mothers being gentle
  • Mothers sheltering their children from the truth of their situation
  • Mothers being bluntly honest with their children about the truth of their situation
  • Mothers grieving
  • Mothers rejoicing
  • Mothers doing whatever they are capable of doing at any given time

As you can see, I don’t think there’s any one way that mothering would be like during a scenario like a zombie apocalypse. We don’t even have to have a zombie apocalypse to know that mothers and their children are capable of surviving as best they can. Mothers across the world are mothering through adversity and they have been since the beginning of time. From the mother who is navigating incredible poverty with her children, to the mother who walked across a desert with a sick child for a chance at medical care and food, to the mothers who are mothering in the middle of war zones, there will be no shortage of stories.

Guest Post: On My Definition of Motherhood

This guest post is a part of the ongoing series, “What Motherhood Means to Me”, where I seek to highlight various perspectives on motherhood.


On My Definition of Motherhood

By: Nadirah Angail

It took me a while to sit down and actually write this. It isn’t that I didn’t want to do it—I did—but I was having trouble coming up with something concrete to write. I’ve been a mother for almost 2 years now, so I’ve got at least a little experience to draw from, but still, this is hard. I guess I’ll just have to walk you through my though process. Here goes…

Initially, when I think of motherhood, I think of having children. Simple enough, but no, that’s not what it means to me. There are tons of people that have children and are NOT mothers. Dig deeper, Nad.

Okay, so then I think about the fact that the word “motherhood” has the root word “mother,” which means we’re talking specifically about women here. That means there must be some difference between motherhood and fatherhood, but what is it? What is it that a mother does and a father doesn’t, and vice versa? No, I’m not talking about giving birth and breastfeeding (though I do think that has something to do with it). I mean beyond that, what makes a mother? Okay, Nad, you’re thinking and raising questions, but still no answers. You gotta do better than this. To the dictionary.

I clicked the trusty dictionary app and entered the words “mother” and “father.” The main definitions were pretty similar: “A woman/man in relation to a child she birthed/his natural child.” The second definitions were pretty close too, except for some small, but important, distinctions.

“Mother- a person who provides the care and affection normally associated with a female parent.”

“Father- a man who gives care or protection to someone or something.”

Both definitions mention giving or providing care, but one mentions affection while the other mentions protection. So, is that where my husband and I differ? He handles the practical aspects of parenting while I handle the relational ones?  Well, yes and no. He is very protective and I am very affectionate, but I’m also protective and he is also affectionate. Thanks a lot, dictionary. You still didn’t give me an answer. Okay fine, looks like I’m on my own with this one.

What I know for sure, without a doubt, is that I am the primary woman in my daughter’s life.  Later, she’ll be influenced by female friends, teachers and even celebs (hate to think about that part) but for now, it’s pretty much me (and her grandmother). So, as the main female in this little female’s life, I have an obligation to guide her toward certain things and away from others.

Toward self-love and away from self-loathing.

Toward critical thinking and away from blind following.

Toward embracing and acceptance and away from judgment and disregard.

Toward accepting her beauty and away from trying to fit into someone else’s.

Toward valuing inner and away from fixating on outer.

Of course her father will help with these things as well, but not in the way that I will. I will model for her how to be a woman. He will model for her how to treat one. He cannot step into my shoes and do my part, and I cannot step into his. When we have a son (God willing), he will show him how to be a man and I will show him how to treat one. So, that’s what it means to me to be a mother. It’s not so much about the cooking, cleaning, feeding and playing. It’s more about the guiding and providing an example of a confident, well-adjusted woman. Unfortunately, she will be assaulted by a barrage of messages about women and womanhood that only involve sex and superficiality. It is my job to steer her away from that.  With me pulling from the front and her dad pushing from the back, hopefully we have a pretty good chance of keeping her on the right track.


Nadirah Angail is a Kansas City-based author and blogger. She has published two books and written many articles and blogs that speak to her interpretation of the female experience. Find more information about her at

In Sickness and In Health

Both sick but the kiddo needed to be nursed

The month of January has brought a plethora of illness to the Navelgazing household. If it involved puking, diarrhea, conjunctivitis or copious amounts of mucous, we’ve had it. One after the other the three of us fell like flies and never had more than a few days of feeling well before being struck again.

To say that I’m ready to be done with this cycle is an understatement.

One of the things I’ve observed throughout these bouts of illness is how mothering seems to work (or at least my version of mothering). I can’t speak for fathering or any other version of parenthood so forgive me if I’m coming across as exclusionary of others.

When my little one is sick, it is me that he wants the most. I’m the provider of milk which serves as both food and medicine. He’s fine with his daddy some of the time, but Baby E must have his dose of mama or all is not right with his world. So I spend a lot of time cuddling, nursing, and soothing this small person through his misery.

That is as it should be, right?

What ultimately happens is that I will be coughed on, sneezed on, snotted on, puked on, pooped on, etc., etc., etc. I will then get the sickness du jour.

I realize that this has a purpose. In order for me to pass antibodies to the illness through my milk to Baby E, I must be exposed to said illness.

So now, I’m sick too and still primarily responsible for this small person, who might be still sick, on the mend or totally well by this point.

Either way, my body is not totally my own whether sick or well.

The daddy of this house does not have this problem. It isn’t that he doesn’t care or doesn’t help out. It’s more that he’s now the second-in-command of this parenting ship. He goes off to work most days of the week, which leaves Baby E and me alone a lot. When he’s sick, he can mostly count on me to keep the little one away so he can recuperate. When I’m sick, I still have to nurse Baby E whether I feel up to it or not.

I’m not writing this post to complain. I’m well aware that my situation is ameliorated by the fact that I am partnered and do not currently suffer from chronic illness or disability. I just felt the need to record my observation that even on my worst day I’m inextricably intertwined with my child.

And that is just the way it is.

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