As this month invited us to celebrate mothers I took this opportunity to do a bit of soul searching and thinking about the influence of my mother in my life and the many stereotypes of motherhood. In our Western society these occasions are commercially exploited to the umpteenth degree and it can be difficult to really reflect on what is important and real about motherhood, especially if we consider what a fundamental part of life is for so many women. We all have or had a mother, even if we might not have known our father, and just a small percentage of the population never knew their mother for various reasons. We all have a specific idea of what motherhood is because it depends on our experience, therefore the experiences are as varied as there are people on this planet. As it would seem a bit odd to talk about other people’s experiences, I thought I would share my own hoping that it might help others to understand aspects that can be complicated and twisted at times and even be border line in extreme cases … Just read this with an open mind please. I would be delighted if you would feel inclined to share your story with me at the end of reading this.
The stereotype of motherhood
The mother figure is so often prone to be stereotyped as the symbol of warmth, nurture, love, care, kindness, sacrifice, courage, devotion, the feminine ‘par excellence’ and so many more aspects can be listed. What really matters though is what our experience was or has been for us. For those of you, like me, who didn’t have the chance to experience it first hand as mothers ourselves, we couldn’t make motherhood our own, therefore we are left just with our experience at the receiving hand. We will never know how we would have been as mothers and maybe we will be left with just the curiosity of how we would have behaved and how we would have raised our kids, etc. In my case I don’t feel deprived for not having had the chance to become a mother, I have always seen and considered all children that I encountered during my life as my kids and always showed them my love in my way, if the situation allowed. I think I will continue to see youngsters I will meet in the future in the same way, even more so now that my life experience is accruing a certain degree. I always felt strongly in me the mother instinct and very easily and naturally behaved accordingly.
My experience of my mother
What has daunted me for a long time though was the fact that I didn’t have the archetypal mother who is kind and sweet and would jump into the fire to get me out of trouble at any time; my mother was a very different kind of animal or she decided to show me not the sweetest aspect of motherhood. This in itself doesn’t mean that it is a bad thing, it is simply different, period. The problem though rises when we look out and we realise that it could be easier or more pleasurable, for instance our school friends’ mothers are kinder and more outgoing than ours. For a long time I thought that I have had back luck with my mother and felt deprived of all those nice things that my school mates seemed to have and I didn’t. It is difficult not to compare and just focus on our life, especially when we are kids, it is almost impossible, and even when we become adult, there will always be a time when we are less aware than normal and we naturally think that we were underprivileged or not as lucky as others. I fell under that illusion for years on end, I have to confess, and it took a lot of pain, effort, reflection, meditation and reading to start looking at life in a different way. Because of that I thought worthwhile to share my insights with you, in case you might have fallen in the same trap too …
My new view
It is only in the last decade of my life that I started understanding what the Feminine is and how many different ways there are to show and enact femininity in the world and in motherhood too. Previously I thought that mothers would be all nice and cuddly by default and, if they were not, I thought there was something wrong with them! I now know that there was nothing wrong with my mother, even if I would have appreciated her being a bit kinder and more understanding at times, but she was simply a woman of her time doing her best at coping with life. She cared about me in her way and she showed it in her way as well. There isn’t just one way of showing affection, but rather millions of ways as there are women in the world. Understanding this really helped me and the fact that my mother had a stroke combined with a massive heart attack that left her alive but disabled for a very long time when she was still relatively ‘young’ helped me too. This natural ‘intervention’ showed me aspects of my mother that I never experienced before because part of her brain had been damaged by the stroke and therefore some aspects of herself now could come into the open and be expressed instead of being repressed: what a shock it was! I had to rethink the whole of my thoughts and give my mother another chance. That was an education in itself and I felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under my feet. I was obliged to look at my mother as a human being, rather than just a mother! It might sound silly, but it really was that way and reconsidering all my thinking was very refreshing indeed. I had to upgrade my software, otherwise my ‘modus operandi’ couldn’t assist me any more. It was like having Windows 10 installed into my computer without being asked, it simply happened to me overnight, (or rather to my computer), likewise I had to see my mother in a very different light. I am so glad that happened, much more than I am glad that Windows 10 was uploaded to my computer, I was quite happy with Windows 7, I have to say! Joking aside, there is always a blessing hidden in everything in life, if we look long enough and with an open heart, ah, that might be tricky though!!
The various aspects of the ‘Feminine’
There are so many aspects of the ‘Feminine’ and women are simply the expression of this. If we look at the many aspects, looks, characteristics and stories of goddesses that exist in the mythologies of the hundreds of cultures that are around the world and that existed in the past we can see it quite clearly. This shows us that being nice and kind is not the whole story, but just a part of it; if we don’t consider also the shadow or negative side, we get only half of reality. This would be similar to believe that we can live healthily without sleeping, it is just not possible. In this dimension there will always be contrast, day and night, good and bad. Being nice and nasty is part of our human experience and it applies to motherhood too. If my mother had been the nice and sweet woman that is so often depicted in Mother’s Day cards, I would have never become the wonderful and strong woman that I am today, therefore I have to give thanks to my mother for that, even if she wasn’t so easy to deal with. I learnt so much more from dealing with my mother by contrast and am ever so thankful that I had to push through so many tough experiences that prepared me to face life in a much more mature way than if I had had a super nice mother. Rather than calling it the ‘mother wound’, I think I would rather call it the ‘mother prime’ as it primed me for life: thanks mum for teaching me your way!
What was/is your experience with your mother? Are you struggling with it, made peace with it or simply having a stroll in the park?
I think that whatever might be our experience of motherhood is still worthwhile to be lived and appreciated for what it was or, if your mother is still alive, is. I would love to read about your view about motherhood, either your experience with your mother or your experience as a mother, they both would be super valuable to me.
Thanks for reading and share with me your thoughts! I feel immensely grateful to have been born a woman, to have known my mother and to have the privilege to feel in my flesh and bones what motherhood means: Life. To find out more about my work with women and the female cycle check Flying Inspiration.