Real Life. Real News. Real Voices.
Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard.
Join HuffPost Plus

How We Define Motherhood in the Wake of Terror

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.


In the recent mass shooting that took place in San Bernardino, California, where one of the killers was the mother of a 6 month old baby, it really left me wondering how we perceive killers who are also mothers in our society.

Are killer-mothers held to a different standard by society? Did the fact that a mother could be involved in a mass killing make it all the more horrific? And if so, why?

In the wild, animal mothers kill all the time, but that's primarily for food or in defense of their babies. In the human world, mothers kill as well, but not for reasons that are as clear cut.

Some mothers kill their own children, such as in the case of Andrea Yates, or Casey Anthony. The reasons for this are still unfathomable to many of us.

The Casey Anthony case was dubbed, "The social media trial of the century" because she was pretty much convicted in the court of public opinion via social media sites and television talk shows, regardless of the actual trial.

Much of the talk had to do with the fact that Casey Anthony was a mother. How could a mother do something so brutal - especially to her own child? And even more excruciating for us to understand was - why?

Is there a difference between mothers who kill their own children, and mothers who kill random, innocent people? Per CNN, the mother involved in the San Bernardino shooting, Tashfeen Malik, was petite in stature, timid, and an unlikely killer by all outside appearances.

To imagine that this woman had given birth to and cared for a baby 6 months before she shot multiple innocent people seems unbelievable. But, if Tashfeen Malik had any murderous inclinations before she got pregnant, can we then assume that the act of having a child does not actually change a woman in the way we all like to imagine it does?

There's a popular belief that becoming a mother changes a woman, and that an ordinary woman can be transformed into a selfless nurturer after having a child.

There is no doubt now that Tashfeen Malik is a killer, but the fact that she left her child with a grandmother while she went out and murdered people is another noteworthy detail. She obviously thought ahead to the point of giving her child to someone she knew would take care of it.

Therein lies the proof of premeditation for Tashfeen's intentions on that horrible day. But, she chose to spare her child. She also chose to leave her child motherless, as well as completely destroying the many families of the people she killed that day.

The conclusion I come to here is that, in fact, motherhood does not change all women. According to reports, this mass killing spree plan was in the works for quite some time, so it's obvious that being pregnant, giving birth, and holding a child in her arms did nothing to sway this particular killer.

This leads to the obvious question, which is why would you bring a child into the world, knowing at some point you were going to commit murder and probably die yourself?

Did Tashfeen Malik love her child? Did she love herself? What happens to her child now, growing up in the shadow of two murderous parents who left their only child behind?


Some will say the child is no doubt better off without these two as parents. I doubt many people think this is the child's fault in any way. Along with all the shooting victims, their families, and friends, Tashfeen's child has also been victimized.

Of course the father in this tragic situation is just as responsible for abandoning his child as the mother is, but in our society, the way in which we define motherhood doesn't leave room for mothers who kill or abandon their children. It's beyond our collective comprehension.

I post a lot about motherhood. And although I don't believe motherhood necessarily changes a woman's mentality, I know it's capable of changing her physically and emotionally.

I realize I may never get answers to all of my questions here.

What I do know for sure is that we can see this as an example that people are never quite what they seem, and the state of being a mother doesn't necessarily make a woman more kind, compassionate, or less selfish.

As a mother, and as a human being, I will hold on to my compassion and children a little tighter from now on.

By Michelle Zunter (Boklage)

Originally a Vancouver Island native, Michelle now resides in California. Besides writing and blogging, Michelle is a mom, stepmom, and wife.

Michelle's writing and blogs discuss a wide variety of topics including domestic abuse, adultery, relationships, parenting, step-parenting, beauty & health.

Catch more of Michelle at The Pondering Nook website and Facebook page, as well as her many featured articles at HubPages.