“Each one of us carries our mother forward so it is necessary to heal the mother-daughter split whether your mother is alive or not, in order to heal the deep wounding of your feminine nature. The key element here is to become a good mother to yourself. With that in mind, take on the task of mothering yourself.” —Maureen Murdock, The Heroine’s Journey Workbook
This Mother’s Day, I am hyper-aware of the collective need to expand our ideas about motherhood: what it is, what it isn’t, what it should and shouldn’t be.
Let’s face it. Despite all the Hallmark sentiments, gorgeous bouquets, and images of happy moms and kids that abound this time of year, many of us haven’t exactly been lucky in the mom department.
While I receive hundreds of inspiring stories about moms and daughters who’ve found solace and meaning in their relationships, I am equally struck by the heartrending tales of betrayal, disappointment, estrangement, and miscommunication that often characterize that most primal of connections.
Coming to terms with how we feel about our own moms, especially if we have longstanding issues with them, has the power to transform our lives. We all get this on a fundamental level.
But seriously, if I see another webinar announcement about healing the mother wound, I’m going to scream!
At the same time, I have to admit it’s a cliche I’m all too familiar with. After all, I’ve had my fair share of challenges with my own mother.
When I was a kid, I used to think that every other kid I knew probably had the kind of mom you’d see on TV: smart, compassionate, and always at the ready with a freshly baked batch of cookies and words of wisdom. The truth is, most of us will never get, or be, the mother of our dreams. And, as I’ve come to learn, this fantasy is not what will ultimately bring us into our power.
There are plenty of obstacles we face in forming close relationships with our moms, including cultural and generational differences, as well as the inability to clearly see each other’s point of view. I’m all about having the hard conversations, but given my experience with my own mother, it’s not only not always possible...it can also be emotionally draining when you try to bridge that gap.
Given the complex and often painful relationships many of us have with our mothers and motherhood in general, I think it’s high time we expand our definitions of what “momming” means. Instead of clinging to cultural ideals that may not fit our real-life experiences, or seeking “healing” in imperfect relationships, how about we start mothering ourselves?
For me, true motherhood is the essence of the feminine—but that doesn’t mean you need to be a mom to experience it. Motherhood is deep compassion, strength, resilience, nurturing, and the ability to find solace in community. I’ve been fortunate to be connected to a number of powerful women in my own life who have helped me to expand my ideas about motherhood. My best friend Michelle taught me steadfast nurturing and all the qualities I value in a mom: unwavering support, loyalty, and love. Then there’s Alima, my teacher at my healing school whose no-nonsense approach to tough love helped me overcome my perfectionism and figure out what I really wanted for myself.
Knowing these women has helped me to find the resolution that I never had with my own mother. I discovered that even if she didn’t understand me, there was a world of women who did.
These relationships have been tremendous in shaping the way that I mother my kids—with the utmost compassion and dedication to their truest expressions of who they are. This also means mothering myself: giving up the idea of perfection, putting on my own oxygen mask, and following my joy so that I can be a powerful role model for my kids. I have learned to want more for myself rather than deferring my dreams in the way so many women have been taught to do. I have been inspired to take back my life and live it on my own terms—and to encourage other women to do the same.
Like many of you, I’ve actually been fortunate to have a strained relationship with my mother. It has been a sore spot throughout my life, but I can now acknowledge that it is the very reason I have gained other tools—as well as mother figures in unexpected places. It definitely drives me to be more conscious of how powerful my own impact on my children is.
Our experiences of motherhood can make or break us. But instead of pointing fingers and blaming others, let’s start with reclaiming motherhood for ourselves. Being a mom is truly a state of mind. It’s not merely about our biological mothers, or our relationship with our kids. It’s also about our relationship to the Earth, ourselves, and each other. It’s about recognizing our intrinsic interconnectedness and acting from the knowledge that we have exactly what we need in order to make life happen.
So, as the mothers of the world (whether we see ourselves this way or not), let’s celebrate Mother’s Day together. Let’s be here for ourselves and one another. Let’s become more conscious of our choices, cultivate deeper wisdom, and take responsibility for healing the wounds of our past and creating a future in which all of us can flourish.
I’d love to hear from you. How do you define motherhood? How have the women in your tribe helped you figure it out? What is your relationship with your own mother like? If it’s not so hot, how can you expand your definition of “mother” and “motherhood” so that you can get the nurturing you need?