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58 weeks | But who will mother the mothers? | no. 0052
I don’t think we ever stop needing our mothers or mothering figures. Yes, we grow up, become adults, take on responsibilities, care for our own. We learn how to adapt, how to survive, how to push on in the face of difficult situations. But even with the mastery of perseverance, we never escape that longing to be held, comforted, listened to, soothed, encouraged, rocked, guided, loved, cherished. For many of us, our mothers provide a warmth that is unmatched anywhere else in this life. We have known this warmth from the womb, or from our very early days. Oftentimes, home is wherever this warmth is.
When we become mothers, we create this warmth for our families. We practice everyday doing more, being better, giving all, mending everywhere. We hold things together, and when they fall apart, we clean up the mess. We become good at this. We become so good at it we forget to replenish ourselves. When this happens we feel cold, even as we are still able to radiate warmth to others. In this coldness sprouts loneliness, depression, resentment, confusion. We perfect this spiritual irony, though, sharing generously with the ones we hold dear, while our hearts ache in tender solitude. We are experts at building a wall of illusions around what is real. We were told, after all, to be strong.
I am wondering how we lost the intimacy that was abundant once upon a time. When we were little girls, racing to be grown women, holding on tight to each others secrets, but always, always, knowing the truth. We could get undressed in the same room, see each other’s scars, bruises, broken places. It wasn’t no shame thing, we all had something less than beautiful somewhere. We ate off each other’s plates and borrowed each other’s underwear. We cried about the things we could not change, and laughed about the things that scared us until we were no longer afraid of facing whatever it was.
Somewhere between girlhood and motherhood, we got mixed messages. It’s not that we didn’t feel like we needed each other anymore, it’s that we didn’t have a model for how to share the labor. We didn’t see our mothers leaning on anything other than their bibles, their scriptures, their sacred gods we had to pray to but could not see. It’s not like they didn’t have girlfriends, and people to help them work out tough things, but that was all done in private. They did not take up massive space and sort out their feelings about unwanted pregnancies, lost babies, deserting spouses, infertile wombs, decades-old heartbreaks, childhood traumas, outstanding violations against their bodies, cheating lovers, and ungrateful children with singing, and shouting, and carrying on. That was reserved for Jesus, of course. Rarely did they allow themselves to be seen when they were coming undone in their mothering. Yet, as daughters, we could always feel when it was happening. It was the first secret our mothers did not realize they were teaching us to keep in tact.
Right now, as I write this, as you read this, there is a mother we know struggling through something unthinkable. We think about her several times a day. We consider calling, or texting, but then talk ourselves out of it because we trust, we hope, someone else will check in on her. We heard her marriage was dissolving, her child was locked up, her mother was dying, her eviction notice was served, her fibroid was hindering pregnancy. When we make our own list of hurts to pray over, we add her situation onto the end. We tell ourselves that it’s enough. This is a lie though, and there’s a certain guilt that trails us throughout the day. We should be doing more for her. We know.
But who are the women you can be naked around?
They are where the warmth is now. Those mothers who can see us in our nothingness, hold our hands through the tears, and love us anyway. I think we grasp this intellectually, but emotionally and culturally there may be baggage or blockage when it’s time to reach out and grab ahold of someone’s hand so we don’t drown in a sea of woes. This requires vulnerability, after all, and when we were busy becoming strong women there were no instructions on how to be both vulnerable and powerful with the same breath. We are having to study this now, in real time. We are stumbling and traversing extreme discomforts along the way. We are being brave and telling our mothers, “I love you, I know you did your best, but no, you didn’t have it all together.”
As I grow deeper into this mothering work, I realize over and over again, that I am here to help humanity, and especially women and mothers, get naked. Part of my calling is to be transparent, and go through the act of revealing my imperfect, paradoxical parts in these stories. Perhaps this willingness to be naked will incite more mothers to be courageously loud in our truths. This I pray for everyday.
(The munchkin slept, or nursed and slept in my lap while I typed for the majority of today’s post. In the middle of writing the last paragraph, I saw he hadn’t made it into the story. But, as always, he was definitely a part of the magic that is Wednesday’s Bloom.)
The munchkin, my first born, was born on a Wednesday. Wednesday’s Bloom: Textual Portraits of a New Mommy is an ongoing multi-media documentary project about my process as a mother. Today’s story is a part of Volume 1, 73 consecutive weeks of posts, spanning about the first year and a half of the munchkin’s life. Each episode explores my weekly discoveries, challenges, questions, and hopes as a mother. I also facilitate the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop for all mothers and women active in their mothering work who are excited about cultivating their own writing practices.