Motherhood, Mothering, and Being Mothered
When I think of motherhood I think of how multifaceted it is. However, there are three aspects that I’ve been contemplating lately. The first is the concept of motherhood as a sorority; the second is the act of Mothering; and the last is the idea of being Mothered. How do these ideas affect us as mothers?
There is this sacred unspoken understanding when you cross the threshold into Motherhood. Motherhood has no “right” way that it begins and certainly comes with no rule book. As mothers we stumble, cry, fall, succeed. We are often harder on ourselves than we are gentle and loving. Motherhood is such a delicate yet fierce task but we often find ourselves comparing and judging other women as they embark on the life long passage of motherhood. At some point on our motherhood journey, we desire to find a connection with someone who understands the wins and woes of motherhood.
Sometimes we make that connection and at other times we find ourselves feeling alone on the journey. There are times we allow our differences in age, parenting style, education, economic background, etc. to prevent us from making meaningful bonds with other mothers. What is it that stops us from saying to another mother: I see you, I’m so proud of you, or What do you need? How do you feel when you have been acknowledged by other mothers? I’ve been on both sides of this equation and I always feel better in my spirit when I’m projecting the love and support I desire to receive. Tearing down another mother isn't rewarding for myself or anyone else. I believe it is our duty as mothers to hold each other up. No matter how different our paths into motherhood may have been we all made it here and we all need support, from each other.
There are many attributes we associate with Mother and most often the idea of nurturing or caring is at the forefront. Many of us also identify Mother as fearless, strong, and resilient. All of which are clearly true and vary moment to moment. There are times when we are strong to the point of harshness with our children when we could be a bit more compassionate. There are also moments when we are overly nurturing and lack the balance of being firm when needed. I am always reevaluating how I choose to mother my children. As it is very easy to fall into learned parenting behavior.
Learned parenting behavior is the parenting style passed from generation to generation that sometimes pops up involuntarily. Of course not all past parenting behavior is negative but some precepts are outdated for the generation we are now engaging. In my reflection time, I think about how I teach and discipline my children while asking myself, Is this method compatible, and does this way serve our family dynamic? Some days we do well other days not so much. The beauty of mothering is that you have the executive power and right to shift how you mother your children. It is a grave mistake to force a way of mothering/parenting that isn’t compatible. Our duty as mothers is to study ourselves and our children and apply the method that allows everyone to win.
Additionally, as we mother our children, it is of equal importance that we remember to mother ourselves. How are we choosing to honor our inner child? What are we doing to nurture ourselves? When we are faced with the unfortunate loss or disconnection from our mothers that birthed us, our souls yearn to be mothered. Sometimes that shows up as another woman offering us the nurturing we crave. We may also receive this care in how we show up for ourselves through engaging in things that feed our spirits.
Motherhood is something we all have a connection to because we all came from a mother. Let's be more intentional about how we build our relationships with other mothers, ourselves, and our children.
Hey Mama, lean in close. I have to remind you of something…
You know how you’re mothering all day long? Like there is no break, ever. And sometimes when you have little babies, or babies that are teething, or toddlers who are scared, or kids who are sick, those days run together because you mother all through the night too. You wake up the next morning exhausted from the previous day, but are still so needed for the new day ahead.
Sometimes, if you’re not careful, you forget what you look like. Or you forget what you like to do. Or you forget the last time you finished something from beginning to end. Sometimes, you can even forget who you are. I get it. It’s easy to do. Because right now, this season in your life, you are mommy. And everyone needs you, all the time.
And right now, in this season, babies need to eat, diapers need to be changed, lunches have to be packed, dishes have to be washed, and my gosh ALL.THE.LAUNDRY. So thinking about what you like to do or what makes you feel alive seems foolish. Selfish even. Listen to me sister, it’s not.
I wanted to remind you that sometimes you need to mother yourself, friend.
When your children get tired you get them rest. And sometimes that’s exactly what you need too. You might need to literally take a nap when they do. Or maybe rest for your soul looks entirely different. I know it does for me.
So if that means you wake up a few minutes early to get dressed, like not yoga pants, put on makeup, and fix your hair for the day. Do it. Maybe that means you have a room in your house where kids don’t go. And in that room you create. You read, write, paint, or craft. Maybe you plan a girl’s night. You get a sitter or work it out with your husband’s schedule. I’ve even put the kids to bed early and had friends come to me! Or maybe, you run by Starbucks, with coffee in hand you walk the aisles of Target, ALONE.
You do whatever you have to do, to mother yourself. And don’t you dare feel bad about it. When you are empty, you can’t pour out. Sometimes a few minutes a week, taking care of you, is the best thing you can give your family.
You are worth it, sister.
I Was Mothered by Love and I Know Myself Blessed
I am Jeanette.
Daughter of Doreen
Granddaughter of Charlotte
Great Granddaughter of Alice.
Mother of Julianna Amelie Grace and Isabella Charlotte Rose
This is my motherline.
I was mothered in a way that gave me freedom, and voice, and a path of my own. I was mothered to see good, and to serve and to have faith. I was mothered to talk back, to question, to push boundaries – although I now know that this is not the easiest path.
I was mothered to forgive and be forgiven and to be forgiveness. I was mothered to work hard, and to create. To be silly and to believe in the power of the quiet kind of love, the steadfast one that does not require fanfare, but lives in the undercurrent in all the moments of our lives.
I was mothered to live simply, loving much but needing little. I was mothered by Atlantic ocean salt and rich earth and the power of family. By the grandmother who left her American city home and on the power of love came to be with my grandfather and create a family along the shores of the Minas Basin.
I was mothered to know that play trumps a clean house, every time. That the mess will wait, but the moment may not.
I was mothered in the kitchen, in the chocolate cake and cookies and bread from scratch. Through those recipes I learned the power of reading ahead and following directions. It is from spoonfuls of dough and batter to be licked that I was mothered to know that so much goodness comes before the desired result – as long as you’re not in too much of a hurry to get there. And now I sit and watch my daughter instructing another on how to properly measure flour for Mother’s Day morning waffles, instructing how to keep the wet and dry ingredients separate and I hear the voice of my own mother and I see how the line continues.
I was mothered to know that I can always come home.
I was mothered by so many. By the stories of my father’s maternal line. By his mother who died when he was four days old, born at 32 weeks in outport Newfoundland and how he never should have survived – but somehow she gave him enough to pull him through. I was mothered by the woman who stepped in when he was ten and loved him as her own until her passing just over a year ago. I was mothered by my aunt who taught me what love and intellect and tradition and devotion look like interwoven.
And I was mothered by those mothers who walked with me in the early days – in the trenches of sleep deprivation, on red leather couches and picnic blankets sticky with juice and warmed by the desert sun as we learned in all the hard and easy ways what it was to mother together.
I was mothered by the women who trusted me to be present while they became mothers, and by the midwives who held my hands as my own babies came earthside. I was mothered by my tribe, my witches, my wild women, near and far. So many examples of what it is to be woman and mother, as true to themselves as they are to their children.
I was mothered by women who have never been mothers, and who will never be mothers. I was mothered by women who lost their babies and who lost their own mothers and who never wanted to be mothers to began with. I was mothered by those for whom this day is a blessing, or a bittersweet memory or a reminder of all that are not but dearly wanted to be.
I was mothered by books and by poetry and by the voices of activists who taught me the value of speaking my truth. I was mothered by story, by myth, by trust in all that cannot be seen. I was mothered by fire of initiation and by salt water blessing. I was mothered by the grit and the grace and the power of choice. I was mothered by mama earth herself, and I was mothered by my self. The self I was, and the self I am, and the self I have yet to become.
I was mothered by the tears and the lost loves and by the friends who held me in the night when there was nobody else.
I was mothered by my daughters, by tears and tantrums and morning cuddles in the marshmallow bed. By their fierce insistence on owning themselves, their voices, the full power of their being. By all the ways there are me, and a mirror and reflection and lineage. And by all the ways they are not me at all – but their own selves, full and complete without any connection to anything that came before. It is true, more than all the rest, they have taught me how to mother them well. That I stumble and trip and do wrong as much as I do right – but that when I remember to respect them as guide and teacher, that it is my daughters who show me the path.
I was mothered by love. And I know myself blessed.