Many years ago while teaching yoga at a local nursing home, I befriended a wonderful woman in her 96th year. She’d spent her life as a farmer/wife of a farmer deep in the Polish farming community she grew up in. We often spent timing talking together. She took my chair yoga class, knew I was a minister, and one day she asked me to pray for her.
“I’d be happy to pray for you,” I said.
“Pray for me to die,” she asked. “I do not want to live like this. I am useless. I am good for nobody. I do not even know why I am still here.”
The question: what are mothers for? The answer: shopping. Mothers are for shopping.
Or at least that’s what I learned while searching for mother topics on Youtube and other social media sites.
When searching for “spirituality and motherhood” onYoutube, I entered a coffin. If you want to find videos no one is watching made by nuns five years ago, that’s a good search criteria.
The soul of mothering has been lost and that’s not an exaggeration. As a culture, we are open to helping mothers, but only if they are buying something from us. And what is being sold to mothers?
Ways to simplify. Minimize. Do make-up quickly. Lose weight. Lose baby weight. Eat for fertility. Babyhood essentials. Must have first year of babyhood items. (That presumably later you will get rid of in order to simplify your life.) Baby name ideas. And how to get your kids to listen.
There is only one gigantic problem with all this. We cannot buy our way out of our motherhood problem. In fact, for most mothers, more shopping just leaves more emptiness. Mothers are wanted/needed/talked to for what they can CONSUME or what they can DO for others. If you want to hit the dead-end of the dead-end in your life, this is a great recipe. But if you are interested in living your best life—which Oprah has clearly shown us is out there—there must be more.
Motherhood takes us on a deep dive, whether we like it or not. New mothers experience a tremendous transformation and what kind of support do they get? Suggestions for nipples, for bottles, for cleaning products. Those may be necessary, but they are necessary the way earrings are necessary. Are earrings necessary to live? Of course not. However pretty they may be, in the end, you cannot eat them. And what mothers need, in the first year or the fifteenth year is actual food. Food for the soul. Food for the heart. Food for the mind.
We all know, on the surface level, that mothers are there for other people, right? Well, let me blow your mind by saying that actually, as it happens, mothers are there for themselves. And if that sounds wrong, no wonder. Look at what we’ve been fed all this time.
Mothering is a transformational process, a rich-deep experience of becoming. What serves our children and what serves the world is actually our success in moving through that process of becoming. It’s not simply that you must put on your own oxygen mask before you put on your kids’, it’s that if you don’t, you’re dead.
A lot of mothers feel dead. Dead to themselves. Dead to who they feel they really are or want to be. They don’t just feel like consumers, they feel as if they are being CONSUMED by the needs of those around them—be it husband, partner, child, baby, or boss. What happens when something is consumed? It’s gone. You consume an apple, it’s gone. You consume a mother, she’s gone.
My friend at the nursing home asked for a very specific prayer, not simply because old age had wearied her, but because she did not know what she was for. If she was not busy contributing, what value did she have? She was a mother. She was a grandmother. But she was not care taking any longer.
What are flowers for? What are birds for? What are people for?
Our modern parenting culture, which dates back to the post World War II baby boom, creates a dynamic where the child is here for themselves and mother is here for the child.
But we have decades of spiritual and yogic study behind us now and we can rightly ask: can you be there for anyone else if you are not there for yourself?
Every woman who has a baby, who adopts a child, who raises a child, does not go through a magical transformation morphing into a selfless amalgam of Mother Mary and Mother Theresa with a dash of Martha Stewart and a sprinkle of Donna Reed. She simply continues to be herself now taking care of others. Selfish people may well make selfish mothers. Unhappy people may well make unhappy mothers. And angry people may well make angry mothers.
A mother, as a person, as a native organism of life, expressing life, like a flower, a bird or a tree, is here, in fact, for herself. Once she knows that FIRST—before she reads Dr. Sears and starts striving for attachment parenting or berates herself for all the ways she has not become Mother Theresa in the nursery—once she knows that BEFORE anything else, she can let mothering qualities flow through her.
Are you yoga? Of course not, right? You might be someone who practices it. Well, so it is with motherhood. You may practice it. But it is not you. You may take it on, the way you would take on a yoga pose. It may teach you magnificently. In fact, it may change you completely. But only when you know that first you are not that. You are your own.
That day my elderly friend asked for my prayers I said I would pray for her. I also said, “I learn from you each time we are together. You make a difference in my life,” knowing the words would not be sufficient. Because she was there for her own sake without knowing or believing it. Now my prayer is that each mother may ask: pray for me to live. Not live a little bit. But deeply and truly. For her own sake. And out of the abundance of her living will she have the energy for caring, nurturing, serving, helping, holding, cheering, teaching and loving.
It is the whole pitcher that serves the most water. And you, mother, are whole.
All are invited–however you identity in terms of the label “mother”–for a deep dive on June 6, 3-5:30 p.m. via zoom into the power of the Mother archetype. Find out more and register here.