His first wife was Metis, and Zeus had fears that she would give birth to a son who was mightier than his father. Zeus had first hand experience of this, his own father Kronos was a particularly violent god who, when told that his children would overthrow him, (as Kronos had overthrown his own father) simply swallowed them. After he had disposed of five children this way, his wife Rhea was desperate to save her last child and instead of giving the infant Zeus to Kronos, she swaddled a rock in thick blankets and presented it to him. He swallowed the rock of course.
After about a year, Kronos finally vomited out the children and they promptly joined with Zeus, who had grown up healthy and strong away from his cannibalistic father on the island of Crete. They deposed their father and Zeus won control over the skies, his brother Poseidon the oceans, and Hades took the underworld.
So Zeus was understandably suspicious of any children of his own.
Taking a leaf out of his father’s book, Zeus swallowed the pregnant Metis. Internally, Metis began to make a robe and helmet for her daughter. The hammering of the helmet caused Zeus great pain and he cried out in agony until the smith, Hephaestus, ran to his father and split his skull open.
Athena emerged, fully grown and wearing her mother’s robe and helmet.
Athena is one of those daughters who identify strongly with their fathers. Children with gender-variant traits have strong and persistent behaviors that are typically associated with the other sex. (It’s interesting to note that Dionysos was born from the body of Zeus – this time from his thigh. Dionysos, with his dual nature, blurs the gender lines of what is masculine, and what is feminine.)
Athena identified with the patriarchy and usually cast her power and support on their side during any dispute.
In the first jury trial in recorded history, she cast the deciding vote to acquit Orestes of murdering his mother to avenge his father’s death.
Athena was persuaded by Apollo’s argument in Orestes’ defense that the death of a mother was of less importance than a father’s death since the woman simply nurtured the seed while it was actually the man who planted it.
Motherless herself, the goddess Athena placed patriarchal principles above maternal bonds.