In her unremarkable address, she blurted out a line to the young women in attendance which surprised me.
She said, “Ladies, please don’t wait too long to have your children.”
A few years ago, I listened to a commencement speech given by a notable woman to the graduates of a prestigious university. I’m sure the speaker’s intention was to be helpful, but it felt strange to be talking about motherhood like this—so strategically.
Yes, this generation of women is career-centered, and she may have been concerned that they would forget to have children. Or, perhaps she was implying that women can have it all—big careers and their big families. But, both of those messages assume all women hold the same ideals for motherhood, and we know this isn’t true.
I guess I wondered why mothering was not spoken about universally and from a personal, emotional perspective. We talk about it as if it is a small role women play outside of their true identities, their careers. However, not all of us will decide to raise children. Yet, every one of us has been birthed by a mother and knows what mothering means to them.
Mothering isn’t what some people choose to do outside of work. Mothering is something we all inherently do. Whether it’s the conception of ideas, thoughts, family, comfort, happiness, abundance; we are all mothers, birthing and cultivating our dreams.
For a long time, I thought the reason I stayed home with my children was because my mother worked full-time and wasn’t around much. I figured I was overcompensating for what I missed.
Then there were days that I believed I made my choice because I couldn’t balance my work with my family life. But now I know none of this to be true.
My decisions around career and motherhood weren’t as intertwined as society said or as I once believed.
No matter how I spun it, there wasn’t anything practical about my decision. I was home because that’s where I needed to be for myself.
When I had my children, the alarm bells went off all around me. I struggled to soothe the tantrums, create order, and discipline my children as I wanted.
I realized I couldn’t offer another what I didn’t have within me to give. I went in search of what I needed because my children reflected my emotional holes back to me. In truth, I learned to parent myself while I was parenting my children. I was all of our mothers, and my children were my guides.
This wasn’t because my mom was busy at work and neglected me. Nor was it about her leaving my father and chasing her dreams.
It had nothing to do with my mother being around or not. And it didn’t have anything to do with her parenting or lack thereof.
It had everything to do with learning to mother myself: to bring that nurturance into my life.
Sometimes it isn’t about what we didn’t receive from others. It’s about what we’ve always had and didn’t know how to access.
Once I learned to be kind and compassionate to myself, I became the mother I needed to be for myself and my children.
I learned that a person may represent those maternal qualities to us, but we only know those traits because that same fertile, warmhearted nature exists within us too.
“To praise the sun is to praise your own eyes.” ~ Rumi.
We are this nature, one and the same.
To me, mothering is the spark we see in another’s eyes when they speak of their passions and live out their wildest dreams. It’s the joy we see in an artist’s brush strokes, and it’s the seeds we plant, care for, and hope to reap one day.
It’s the swell of love that lives inside our hearts that carries us through pain, calms our fears, and holds us—and those we love—tight.
It doesn’t just fade away or disappear when our mothers leave or pass away. And, it isn’t designated to one gender or space outside of work. It is infused into every aspect of our lives.
We only need to look to Mother Earth, Mother Teresa, and Mother Mary to recognize and understand the spirit of motherhood. They show us this bounty of love lives within us, each of us, in our own way.
We are all mothers in our own making. This is our birthright. May we breathe life, joy, and a mother’s warmth into all we touch: people, plants, books, animals, art, creations, endeavors, and our deepest desires. Happy Mother’s Day to All.
“Motherland, cradle me
Close my eyes
Lullaby me to sleep
Keep me safe
Stay beside me
Don’t go, don’t you go.”
~ Natalie Merchant, Motherland