Jems Loves MILFs: Vivien Lee on Self-Mothering and Mystique

Jems Loves MILFs is a series in which we ask moms of all kinds what gives them life. From art moms to aunties, grandmothers to Godmothers, single moms, queer moms, pet moms, and the mother within—Jems honors mothering as an energy and a force, as a mode of service and protection, as labor (hard work!), creativity, love and dedication, and as a very sexy thing.


Without a mother in the conventional biological sense, Korean American poet, artist, and writer Vivien Lee has had to learn to self-mother. Here, Vivien, whose eros is in Aries, tells Jems about the myths and memories that guide her.

What’s something you do just for yourself?

"I like long, hot showers and rigorous baths. Korean bathhouse culture is part of my upbringing—when I was little my grandmother took me to every sauna in Seoul, and the only memory I have of my birth mom is where she’s bathing me. When I clean myself it's the only time I feel connected to her, like when mother cats lick their kittens."

"When I clean myself it's the only time I feel connected to her, like when mother cats lick their kittens."

What do you wish for moms around the world? 

"Not a wish but recommended reading for all moms and non-moms, Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, who talks about archetypes like The Unmatched Child, Ambivalent Mother, The Collapsed Mother, The Child Mother, Unmothered Mother, The Strong Mother. Estés has a gift for spinning oral folktales into psychic truths."

Nothing can prepare you for the transition to motherhood but what do you wish you were more prepared for?

"Mothers being our first mirror, absent of that I looked to whoever was around to define who I was and be that for me (what they call through the looking-glass) which only created more pain and confusion when I was growing up. Now that I'm self-mothering, it's a teeter-totter between taking better care of the 4-year-old me and preparing for the woman I'm still becoming. My main tool is self-trust. To trust in the choices I'm making today regardless of the past... I'm taking stock of that, but it's hard when you're both mom and baby."

Who’s your MILF role model, and why?

"Psyche, mother of Pleasure, wife of Eros, goddess of Soul. Turned Aphrodite into a jealous bitch. Exists only in myth. A sex symbol of what no one could ever take away from a woman: Mystique."