At this point in my life I have not had the privilege to be a mother. Although I have created many forms of art and birthed my own business, I have not physically given birth to another human life form. Maybe someday I will, maybe I won’t; it has yet to be decided. I cannot speak from the experience of motherhood, all I can do it speak from what I imagine are similar experiences, and from there I am writing this tribute to all mothers.
Motherhood is a rite of passage, and although in this day and age it is not a required rite for everyone, it still deserves the respect and honor that comes with a rite of passage. In Ayurveda, it is believed to be a heightened spiritual time in a woman’s life, especially the period of post-partum in the weeks, months, and even years after giving birth. It is a time when a woman is challenged, when more is asked of her than ever before, when she experiences her edge and with strength lives there without collapsing. It makes 40 days in the dessert look like a vacation.
With red tents and women’s circles slowly on the rise again in our patriarchal society, our view of womanhood, and along with it motherhood, is shifting. This Mother’s Day has me reflecting on and admiring those specific qualities and characteristics that are natural to and/or developed as a result of motherhood:
Setting Aside Your Ego: This always blows my mind. Today there is so much talk about Ego, how to get rid of it, override it, rise above it. But truth be told, until we’re dead, we have an Ego. And that’s not so bad! It’s the little voice that says “I am!” It’s part of what makes each of us beautiful individuals. And it’s a reference point when navigating the mind and desires. Mothers often navigate away from the Ego, away from the voice that says “I want…” and instead choose based on what their child wants. I am not talking about self-neglect or codependency, which can happen in any relationship between two people, I am talking about setting aside your wants for the sake of another’s. Truly selfless. Setting aside the self with a lower case “s” for the sake of someone else. It’s honorable, challenging, and not the way we are hard wired. Many of us strive to be selfless in our relationships, but in motherhood it’s not about trying, it’s about doing.
On a podcast that my partner often listens to, the host sums up parenting in an example about milk. He explains that before he was a father, if there was only a small amount of milk left in the container and he wanted it, he would take it – not caring or considering if his wife may want the remainder of milk for whatever reason. But now that he’s a father, when he comes across the last bit of milk in the container, suddenly he thinks about his child and whether they would want milk on their cereal and decides to put it back in the fridge. Although this may sound like the jerkiest of husbands, I must admit that I have taken the last of the milk, and obviously so has my partner, otherwise he wouldn’t have shared this funny little story with me. And as two fully functioning adults, it’s every man/woman for themselves in our household. You want more milk, go get it. But for this other being, this child who would totally be fine with eggs instead of cereal for breakfast, suddenly what they want, not just what they need, takes precedence. Selflessness.
Finding Your Inner Resilience: Whether you are a parent or not, we all know how we’ve driven our mother’s insane. Or do we? Do we really know the trials and tribulations we’ve put her through, the pain and suffering that was caused because of it, do we really know? And more importantly, can we even relate? Most of us, probably not. It takes great strength to be a mother. Strength that I’m sure even for mothers comes from a surprising, ever providing inner well. I’ve ended romances, friendships, and jobs for so much less than what I’ve put my mother through, and yet she still answers my calls and is proud to call me her daughter. Of course there are so many things that life may throw at us that causes us to find our inner resilience, but motherhood is a choice. You are choosing to go through this rite of passage, to endure the challenges, to rise above them, and to love unconditionally. Even just making the choice requires its own strength. And that’s it is honorable to find your inner resilience through motherhood.
Investing So Much In Another: I get a small taste of this when teaching yoga teacher training courses. I’m sure those in the teaching field can relate to this one as well. In motherhood you dedicate so much of yourself to this other person. You devote time, money, interest, emotions, and energy into this other human being. You are deeply invested in their well-being, their growth, and their future. It is exhausting. You have to replenish yourself just so you can continue to invest in someone else. And in a way the investing can be rewarding and replenishing too. Those around you may not understand this decision; they may criticize, judge, and make all kinds of assumptions. Even still you have to stay centered, find self-validation, and continue down this path you have chosen. Of course the reward is astonishing. To see the results of your investment and to know you were a part of the outcome in some way, shape, or form, is indescribably fulfilling. And a mother knows this all along.
Letting Go: At some point we have to let go of all of it. There are entire religions and philosophies built around non-attachment and letting go. Motherhood is a constant practice of this philosophy. You set aside your ego, tap into your inner resilience, and fully invest in another…so how can you just let go? How can you let go of how this individual makes decisions and chooses to live their life? Of course you have no choice in the matter, but tell that to a loving mother! This is one of the greatest challenges of motherhood, of parenting, of investing in another human being. There is so much that we can’t control, so much that we must accept, otherwise we experience suffering. Mothers know this all too well.
"At the center of your being you have the answer:
you know who you are and you know what you want"