Mother Leader: Iris Chen, Author & Founder of the Untigering Movement

Iris Chen (She/Her) is the founder of the Untigering movement and author of Untigering: Peaceful Parenting for the Deconstructing Tiger Parent. As a peaceful parenting advocate, intersectional unschooler, anti-oppression activist, and deconstructing tiger mom, her mission is to inspire generational and cultural transformation, especially among Asian communities. She spent 16 years living overseas in China (land of the tiger parent!) but now resides in her native California with her husband and two sons. You can read more about her adventures in parenting and unschooling at

How postpartum are you? 

I am 11 years postpartum and more ready to be a grandparent than a mom of a newborn.

How have you transformed since becoming a mama?

Motherhood has utterly transformed me. I started out thinking that I could ace parenting like I did other exams, but quickly realized that my children were people, not problems to be solved. I let go of trying to have all the answers and let my children become my teachers.

With the little solo time you do get, what’s your favorite thing to do by yourself?

I’m at a stage now where my kids are more independent (it’ll happen, I swear!) so I actually have a lot of time to binge-watch shows, read, or play games on my iPad.

If you could describe your postpartum experience in one word, what would it be and why?

Supported. Postpartum care for the mother is really important in Chinese culture. My mom came out and stayed with us for a month to help cook and care for us. My partner had time off work for his winter break and was able to be present and available for the transition of welcoming a child into our family. 

What’s something that caught you off guard during the first 3 months of parenthood?

I think I was naive in minimizing the amount of care and healing my body needed postpartum. A few days after giving birth, I went out on a date with my partner, thinking I would take advantage of free babysitting from my mom despite her protests that I should stay home. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but it was the dead of winter and as I sat there in the restaurant trying to enjoy my dinner I remember feeling weak and chilled to the bone. We ended up going home early. If I could have done my first few months of mamahood over, I would have been much more open to the ancient wisdom of zuo yuezi, (the Chinese practice of postpartum care and confinement) rather than writing it off as superstition.

On a scale of 1-10, how supported did you feel as you navigated healing and learning how to take care of your baby? Why?

I had great support and community, but there were still the challenges of culture and generation gaps to navigate when my partner and I had certain desires and values but the people in our support system weren’t on the same page. For example, we really wanted to breastfeed but the hospital staff and my parents encouraged me to formula feed when my milk wasn’t coming in and the baby wasn’t gaining weight.

If you could dream up the perfect postpartum journey, what would it look like and feel like?

Ideally, I see postpartum care as an intergenerational and communal practice. Family and friends would be available to support in ways that are welcomed by the new parents (meals, holding baby, caring for older siblings, doing night feedings, etc.). Parenting wouldn’t be seen as simply the responsibility of the nuclear family but a collective work.

What’s the #1 piece of advice you’d give a brand new parent?

Approach your child with wonder and curiosity rather than trying to fit them into standardized schedules, milestones, and definitions of what it means to be a “good baby.” Throw out the image of the idealized textbook baby and honor the unique needs and nature of the child before you.

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