To celebrate a mother means to honour so many parts of what it is to care, love, nourish and sustain both our inner and outer worlds. It's to celebrate the complexity, generosity, strength and vitality of love. It's about acknowledging the every day successes of the incredible feat that is supporting, nourishing, loving and sustaining a new generation of humans. It also means supporting each other, and feeling into different ways we can show up for other mothers and for ourselves.
On Mothers Day we celebrate all the mothers. The ones who birthed their own babies, and the ones who received in their hearts children who other mothers gave to them. Those who mother the child in themselves, and those who mother other mothers, including their own. Those who mother angels, memories and babies that lived their entirety in the womb. Those who mother their friends and animals.
As the world moves out and beyond the nuclear traditional family model, the definition of motherhood is expanding too. Motherhood looks and feels so many different ways. The happy mother, grieving mother, non-binary mother, depleted mother, active mother, glowing mother - it's so multifaceted in the ways it looks and feels for each person. It's important for us to look at the narrative we hold around what a mother is, and the ways we feel into it ourselves. There are mothers with and without children. Mothers who don't identify as female. And there's the mothering we do to others in the community, as well as the child within us. And mothering our inner child, is a lifelong aspect we do alongside all the myriad ways we mother others, and an important part not to be forgotten.
Women do not fall pregnant, birth their babies and become re-born as these shining typical mother features in magazines. It's messy. It's glorious. It takes time. For one aspect of motherhood which society seems to bypass completely is the stage of Matrescence. This is the learning, growing stage where new mothers are feeling into their new role and identity. And it takes years. It's something we move towards, and away from, that we figure out as we go along, and something we grow through. Knowing of Matrescence, and speaking of it with your community, hopefully means lessening the huge expectation that mothers need to be a perfect parent as soon as their child is born. It gives women room to grow and feel into motherhood for themselves and honours the transition time, as not momentary, but unfolding unique to every mother.
Self Care in Motherhood
Whilst the role of a mother is lifelong, there is still the identity of self which needs to be nourished and sustained through listening, self care and love. The mother is still mothering herself, and her inner child in many ways, as we all are. Having sometime everyday, to nourish the self without it being for the benefit of any other person in your life is practicing self care. This is valid for everyone mother or not. Having at least one ritual a day where you check in with yourself and your feelings, perhaps through journaling, or meditation. Maybe it's time spent meditating, dancing, practicing yoga, walking - anything that brings you home to yourself, that you love doing that nourishes you for the soul purpose of gifting your own loving presence to yourself.
Shamefully, mothers and babies are some of the hardest hit by the loss of strong communities in these modern societies. So often we're no longer mothering together and collectively, sharing breast milk, and caring for others children as our own. But we can all ask a Mother what she needs. We can offer our resources, whether that be time, energy, money, or a dinner to her and her family. And one of the key things when we're offering help to people, is to make things as easy as possible on that person.
Instead of asking what someone needs, especially when they are already mentally exhausted - offer specific things which will help. If you're visiting a new mother, turn up with homemade dinners that can go in the freezer, or offer to do the dishes while she breastfeeds. Offer to babysit so she can have some time to herself. If you come across mothers with young children in the supermarket and she is overwhelmed, offer her some water, offer to carry her bags or push her trolley. Let's rally around mothers as a community and support and show up for the wellbeing of mothers and the next generation.
Caring for Mothers
Another way we can support each other, is in mindfully changing the narrative around what is 'normal' in motherhood. A mother may tell their friend that they are exhausted, extremely tired, run down. Instead of perpetuating that cycle with a response like "that's motherhood for you"… we can try and change this martyr narrative of motherhood by finding practical ways to encourage each other to seek help.
Postnatal depletion is real, and it is affecting millions of mothers, well after they give birth. It is all of our responsibility to care for mothers and for the future generations. Finding ways to give yourself, your partner or your friends time to relax and come back to themselves is vital. Raising children is not a holiday. Encourage each other to incorporate time for self care into their schedule, to connect with others outside of the role of mother, time to be seen and heard. And finding ways to support each other and bring ourselves back to a place of trust in community, beyond just the traditional family unit.
Mothering your Inner Child
We all have to mother our inner child, whether we have children of our own or not. It is a part of the basic needs of self care, making sure we eat and sleep well for our bodies, have time for play and exercise. We're tending to wounds from our childhood which are often triggered in our daily lives and relationships, and we are all still children trying to enjoy life as much as possible. Part of learning to self soothe as a child, was learning how to mother ourselves. It is constant work tending to our inner needs and hearing our inner voice of authority. It deserves recognition and celebration too, as a lifelong commitment of mothering the self, no matter if you have children or not.