What does it mean to be a mother and is it something we become or is it a natural expression of qualities we hold inside? Are we mothers or are we women first who are currently caring for our children? In respect of all women I would like to share some of what I have learnt in my 16 years of parenting so far.
I worked as a nurse and midwife before I had my children and from a technical point of view was well informed and therefore quietly confident that I could manage parenting well. In fact, if I am honest, I was a little smug about my skill set. Something I now see as quite ugly and ensnaring – not only because of the expectation I was laying at my own door but also the fact that there was a judgment about the right and wrong way to do it and that I was somehow better equipped than most.
What do they say in the film and TV business about ‘never working with children and animals’? What I love about children is that they break us out of fixed moulds and fixed mindsets simply by their natural expression but also, like animals, because they cannot be controlled and dictated to. I am remembering now with a slightly squirmy smile the time my son, aged 4, asked why the lady in the queue in front of us in the bank had a beard! Just one of so many occasions when my children have broken the ‘rules’ and, in truth, opened me up to life in full and another level of learning. In this instance, an opportunity to look at my social conditioning, consider the impact of this on all those around me and to connect to this ‘stranger’ even for a moment of understanding and eye contact.
I have tried to apply various ‘systems’ to my parenting, gleaned from ‘expert books’ and implemented enthusiastically only to find that they are a struggle to maintain and do not feel like they present a true or sustainable working harmony for us all. I have equally dispensed with many ‘manuals’, sometimes in frustration, sometimes in moments of clarity, when I know that true expertise comes from an acceptance of the fact that in most cases I instinctively know what to do. I have also watched so many women parent and respond to their children so naturally that I have been humbled to wonder.
Why then is our impulse to seek answers outside of ourselves rather than from a seat of wisdom within?
Getting of Wisdom
There are so many levels to this ‘seat of wisdom’. The simple evolutionary imprint we carry, like other animals, that guides us without intellect to do the right thing – deeply nurturing and caring for our young. The connection we have with our children which, when we allow it to inform our decisions, surpasses any tome of expert advice. And the responsibility we have to be open to all the learning on offer.
So what gets in the way of this? My feeling is that we will all answer this question in a myriad of ways but that there will be a common theme – one of social conditioning that leaves us at a distance from our true nature, wisdom and impulse. For me ‘politeness’ has been a ‘beast’ – somehow super insidious because it looks ‘nice’. I have taken on so many of the social rules and standards about how we present ourselves and ‘what others will think’ that I have been a far, far cry from the simplicity and cohesiveness that is our natural way (as in: we are all in this together and can support and inspire rather than compare and compete).
Even with my heels stubbornly dug in over various things my children offer me daily opportunities to review, ponder and grow. They have rattled my cage, as it were, giving me the beautiful and consistent opportunities to let go of the stuff that ensnares and reduces and opening me up to the possibilities of there being another way based on a respect and honouring of me as woman first, before any of the things I do.
Before we are mothers, we are women. A fact to be celebrated in its own right and with that established – we do what we do.