by Sarah Davis, B.BSc, Grad Dip Applied Psychology, Australia
I have had many conversations recently with women about mothering. It has been truly lovely to connect and share openly – learning from each other’s reflections and supporting each other through honesty and inspiration. I find that the more honest I can be about how I have ‘approached’ motherhood, the more awareness I bring to how I have been living as a woman and how my body feels as a result of my choices. Often we share very similar accounts of the demands and ‘exhaustion’ of motherhood, as well as the intense ‘needs’ from our children, partners and society – well, as least that is how the conversation starts. Lately, these conversations have felt truly honest and inspiring as we explore more deeply ourselves as women within this experience and ‘dynamic’ of motherhood; the understanding that is developing is deeply inspiring and loving. Central to this unfolding is a claiming of our responsibility to make self-loving choices, and a commitment to self; basically that the ‘drama of motherhood’ is often a result of our own disregard and lack of self-worth – to the total detriment of our body and quality of relationships we adopt the maxim, the ‘tougher we do it’ the ‘better’ and ‘more committed’ mother we are. Correct?
There has been much open discussion within the Esoteric Women’s community about what it means to truly live as a woman. I personally have felt deeply supported and inspired to build my awareness of how I have been living, to feel my body and re-connect to my true nature as a woman; this has been achieved through attending Esoteric Women’s Presentations held by Natalie Benhayon, as well as healing sessions which include Esoteric Breast Massage and Ovary Massage. I have found the Women in Livingness blog to also present a fantastic forum for sharing our experiences as women, with the opening article by Rebecca Baldwin ‘Modern Woman’ – a product of society or of her own true nature?, setting up the intention of the blog beautifully.
With this level of support I have reflected on my life to develop an understanding of how I too, as a mother, got to this point of exhaustion as the ‘committed mother’. Firstly, I feel this occurred because I actually had no previous ‘marker’ or ‘reference point’ for what it felt to truly be a woman – and so mothering became a ‘false marker’ – that is to say, I ‘put all my balls in the one court’, so to speak. From school, sport, to academia I had lived in a very masculine energy and ‘achieved’ through this. From the moment I became pregnant I felt different – I felt a softness and tenderness in my body; my breasts became larger and I loved the feeling in my body of being more feminine. When pregnant, people and society expect you to slow down – this would have been the first time in my life that I slowed down, it was awesome. Combined with the ‘intimacy’ of breastfeeding, the cuteness of babies and how much they needed me, I became overly identified with this as ‘who I was as a woman’ instead of mothering being another experience of myself as a woman – as I really had no other experience in my life of connecting to stillness and femaleness – so mothering became the benchmark. As well as the feeling of stillness that came with pregnancy, what drove my identification with mothering was the belief that ‘a mother’ was the ultimate way to be a woman; I believed that the role of mother would give me what I had always deep down wanted – recognition as a woman.
Nowadays, as I have re-built a foundation of connecting to and honouring myself through loving choices, I feel the difference between identifying myself as a mother, and lending a part of myself (large as it is) to mothering; the difference may sound subtle, but to me they are worlds apart. Previously, I mothered and lived from a place of over-identifying with the role because I believed that this was what it meant to be a woman. My relationships suffered because of this – because I was not bringing the full ‘me’ to the world. Whilst on the surface I had many friends and ‘happy’ children, I always felt disconnected and isolated… and I know that my children noticed this also. How confusing for them to see this ‘achieving and good mother ticking all the boxes’ who carried an energy of sadness, exhaustion and overwhelm.
Secondly, this ‘martyrdom’ was due to my identification with what I ‘do’ and the need for recognition of this: rather than seeing myself as already enough, I used how well I ‘did’ motherhood as a way to ‘value’ myself and ‘get love’ from others.
This is no surprise as this was a theme throughout my life: at school I performed to satisfy parents, teachers and society and I was rewarded for this; in sport I excelled and was given the label ‘elite’ which recognised me above others; in academia I achieved and was given status… motherhood really was just an extension of this momentum. I ‘did life’ with an intensity and drive that had previously been rewarded as successful, so it was natural that I ‘did’ mothering in the same way, with a drive to succeed and get recognition. This would take the form of ‘happy’, ‘fed’, ‘inspired’ children and a ‘clean house’. The thing was, I was not in-truth bringing me to my relationship with my children, husband or the world – I was hiding in the ‘intense demands’ of mothering: it was like I was saying “don’t try to connect to the real me ’cause I am too busy for that… there are dishes to be done, beds to make, lunches to pack etc.”. I now see that this was an excuse for me to not feel what was inside – an emptiness and disregard. I had run away from this all of my life, and motherhood had become my latest treadmill.
My kids for the most part got to experience a person (me) in ‘auto drive’, always with the end result in mind – ‘get them fed’, ‘get the house clean’, ‘get them to their friends’ house for a play’, ‘get them to bed’… This would always lead to exhaustion as I was not connecting to me first, which would have allowed me to feel and respond to my body, and also to others. I would ‘go hard’ from the moment I was up until the moment the kids went to sleep – then I would crash and my unlucky husband would get to ‘share’ the evening with me – really it wasn’t sharing at all as I made everything about me and getting my needs met at that point because I had neglected them the entire day. Instead of feeling it, I would hold on to my anger and frustration and let it build up during the day, only to ‘unleash’ it on my husband – he only had to look at me the ‘wrong’ way. I would often be irritable at night – living a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ situation where I was this ‘loving’ and ‘enthusiastic’ mother by day and ‘angry beast’ by night. I do indulge using this metaphor somewhat, though it is not far from the truth. I remember how I would repeat again and again how my husband had ‘let me down’ and not ‘supported me’; this could all be over a damp towel he had left on the ground from his shower, an unmet expectation, or simply not paying enough attention to me or giving me the response I wanted. In-truth, I had not supported myself the entire day with any kind of moment to stop and feel, and instead of taking responsibility for creating this momentum I would blame others for my feelings. I also used this drama to avoid intimacy with my husband – I felt little connection to myself from the driven and emotional way I had lived my day – and to connect with him meant I needed to feel the momentum of energy I was in. I would rarely choose this level of responsibility – it was much easier to have a fight. The other way I would be with my husband was to make him the focus or centre of my attention, as I had done with the children throughout the day. This didn’t bring satisfaction to either of us – with him often ignoring me as he felt my ‘neediness’, and me pushing harder and harder for recognition, “look at how much I am willing to do for you”….
Anything I did do for myself was usually around food, to bring comfort and stimulate my energy levels which would drop fast throughout the day. The more tired I got, the more likely I was to yell and blame others for making life hard for me… oh what a very dramatic and old story it became! I was trying so hard to keep up ‘pretences’, to look as though I was coping, that I rarely considered opening up to another woman and sharing with her my true feelings. I knew I had the best of intentions and that I loved my children and husband – though my feelings of overwhelm and desperation continued.
Our ‘stories’, patterns, beliefs and ideals continue unless we firstly bring honesty and awareness to how we are living; (or as I later learnt it) the quality of our livingness. I was honest enough to be looking for this awareness as I was willing to begin to feel the hurt, pain and separation I was in, and the impact this had on my family, and others in general. I remember that one of the first things I read from Universal Medicine was a line in a pamphlet which talked about the possible benefits of a healing course for our family and friends. I could feel the truth of this possibility and I have personally experienced the power of taking responsibility and choosing to heal and reclaim myself as a woman first. This has brought, and continues to bring, loving change to my life, and through inspiration and reflection, to the lives of others around me. Nowadays I am feeling the natural effect in my family of what happens when I come from my wholeness and simply be as a woman– my husband loves it and my kids have become more playful and open with me.
I am enjoying being with myself more every day, as well as experiencing more love, joy and playfulness in our family than I could have imagined possible. Instead of my day feeling like I am in a tunnel with a train coming towards me, I feel like I am on board in a very cosy cabin enjoying the ride. As I am re-connecting to my true self as a woman, I naturally let the world in and am open to truly loving connections with others – is this not something we all want?
This process of learning to honour ourselves as women and the changes that occur is worthy of much continued conversation….