Minna Dubin’s “#MomLists“are confessions — public confessions about her life as a young mother dealing with a new pregnancy, dealing with her precocious (and occasionally bad) son, and dealing with her own feelings, which go places that few parents will admit in the company of strangers.
Dubin, who lives in Berkeley, posts her lists in Bay Area bookstores, cafes, laundromats, and other trafficked corridors, where they dangle from ribbons behind covers that are like art cards. They wait for people to discover their content, as in her recent “Daily Decisions” list, which includes the line, “Did he hurt the kid at school bad enough that I need to contact the parents and apologize?” Everything is open for discussion on Dubin’s lists. Sex. Envying other mothers. Cleaning feces. Her miscarriage.
Dubin’s list at 1680 Market, inside The Green Arcade bookstore, is called “#Motherhood Through Instagram,” and it features “parenting hashtags that give me the saccharine heebie-jeebies,” including “#LetThemBeLittle.” It also features Dubin’s would-be hashtags, which include, “#NoIHaventSeenThatMovie.” Lack of time is an issue for Dubin, but she has just enough time and motivation to write and post her lists, which she’s been doing since January 2015, when her son turned two. She put the first 100 around Berkeley and Oakland locales, and her more recent ones in San Francisco.
“After having him, both my energy for writing and my time sort of went away, and I’m kind of an OCD list maker — like, to-do lists and grocery lists,” Dubin, who’s 35, tells SF Weekly. “And somehow writing little memoir paragraphs about him, and then numbering them, and making them like a to-do list, made me feel like I could do it.”
The lists are about to go on hiatus, though, because Dubin is set to give birth to her second child, a girl. She’s already written about her new daughter in her aptly named list, “In Anticipation of Mothering a Girl,” which includes this passage: “I am afraid for her body, for when it is no longer encased in mine, for when I trust someone I shouldn’t: a neighbor, a friend, a family member, a teacher, the president. I don’t know how mothers of girls endure the stretch of time from sun up to sun down.”
But it’s Dubin’s son who really has the spotlight in her series, as in her list, “Really Gross Stuff I Do Now That I’m a Mom,” in which she writes, “Suck the snot out of my son’s nose with my mouth,” followed by, “Then swallow.” One fan of Dubin compares her to Amy Schumer, and Dubin has performed on stage. Her career is anchored in words — as a writer, artist, teacher, and creative writing workshop facilitator. The MomLists could lead Dubin back to the stage, or maybe even emerge as a book. Dubin, who has a graduate degree in Transformative Language Arts, is in a big transition phase. Having outlets in public and online — where she archives her lists, and encourages others to make their own — keeps her sane, Dubin says. In the lists, she expresses absolute love for her son, but their arguments about food and the like get marquee treatment.
“I feel like I’m offering an alternative lens on motherhood than [the ones found on] social media and media in general — which is that it’s all roses and ‘It’s the best job you’ll ever have if you’re a woman.’ ” she says. “There are so many moms, and yet it’s also sort of a lonely job, because your world lens gets small — you’re so focused on minutiae. And as much as there is so much about motherhood that’s amazing, I’m less inclined to write about that, because I feel that narrative is out there. And it’s so saccharine that I can’t stand it.”