All women (and some men) are mothers…even if they’ve never birthed or raised a child. I know women who mother their friends, co-workers, pets, a sick or aging non-child family member, or maybe they mother their community or the earth. Some women mother their work, their creativity and artistic talents. Most women I know mother all these, and then some!
There is, among women, a special breed of mother. Someone very unique and special. That mother is the one who mothers herself. In my opinion, this is best kind of mothering for it’s the act of caring for ourselves that teaches the other women (and girls) in our lives how to be good mothers.
The interesting thing is that because mothering exists as another cycle in women’s lives, we can transition in, out, and around who we mother, how we mother, and when we mother. It’s just like any other cycle…puberty, pregnancy, monthly periods, and peri- or full menopause. I find that some women I know deny this mothering cycle out of a sense of duty or…guilt. I chalk this up to the fact that women tend to be givers. It’s probably not an understatement to say that in the case of mothering, those who deny the cycle of who, how, and when to act (or not act) as a mother do so only because they feel they should always be giving. This has become a cultural law that’s hard to live up to. Mothering can certainly be about giving, but it is not synonymous with giving. In fact, when I turn to my trusty writing guide, the big red book called The Synonym Finder, the following synonyms for the verb mother (or mothering) are:
Nurture, Nourish, Protect, Shelter, Watch Over
Further, the word give is not once mentioned in any list of synonyms for any of the mother words (motherhood, motherly, etc) or the definition of mother except where it says, “give birth to”.
So how do we begin to transition ourselves back to the cycle of mothering without feeling guilty when we need a break, need to change up the rules, or need to mother ourselves versus the other people (or things) in our lives.
If we look at the woman’s other cycles, we easily recognize the stages of being extrovert and introvert (think of your monthly period cycle), feeling good and not-so-good (think of the cycle of pregnancy), and needing to give and needing to receive (think of the menopause transition). My guess is that if a woman has given herself the gift of honoring the other cycles in her life, she probably has recognized how to flow with the mothering cycle, too. She has probably known joy and freedom, but also felt much love and respect from those she’s mothered. And she probably loves and respects herself a lot, too.
Consider the time when the mother steps back from the mothering role in order to let her child learn something on their own. If we’ve had this experience, it may have felt like our mother wasn’t “there” for us and we may have felt “abandoned”, but as the tough moment passed and we grew from the lesson, we suddenly saw that in not giving us the answer or solution, she gave us several powerful gifts. The ability to care for ourselves, and the abilities to love and respect who we were as an independent person.
We’re all walking around with an inner mother. And, as adults, we get to mother ourselves in any and every way that we want to be mothered. That’s how we honor the cycle. We align ourselves with our inner mother, and let her guide us, love us, nurture us in the exact right way that we—in the here and now—long to be mothered. This may be very similar or very different from how you were mothered as a child. Whatever the case, when we have become masters of being guided, loved, and nurtured by our inner mother, we can share with others. But not a second before. In the seconds before you love yourself as only a mother can (unconditional love), you are operating from a sense of lack. The “I have to” moments. The “I should” moments.
I think most women have moved ahead with mothering acts when they weren’t up for it. We’re human, it happens. The issue is that when we take action over and over again from a place of have to and should, we begin to bankrupt our love account. And suddenly we are no longer nurturing, nourishing, or protecting—things mothers do—but falling deeper into debt, and soon we may even transfer on the effects of our bankruptcy.
So today I wish for mothers of all shapes, sizes, colors, and talents to step back into the cycle of motherhood. I wish for us all to look inside and locate our inner mother and commit to mothering ourselves just a smidge more. And tomorrow a smidge more than that. And the next day a smidge more than the previous days. If we let our self-love grow, soon we’ll be the living, breathing steward of our inner mother, who is rich with love and goodness and self-respect. This woman, this mother, knows when to allow withdrawals, make deposits, and when to save for a rainy day.
Happy (inner)Mother’s Day!
Thanks and love to my own mother and all the beautiful women AND girls who've taught me all I know about the spirit of mothering!