Mothering

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It was a new moon in Gemini yesterday, and it wasn’t until a few days prior to that, when I had already started writing this blog posting, that I became aware this new moon is encouraging us to look honestly at what we want from our life and to speak our truth. On the back of this new moon energy, I share with you now my truth, but appreciate that it might not be anyone else’s truth. 

I’ve experienced a few Ayurvedic Pancha Karma in my time, but the one I had last week was probably the most intense in its release thus far. It could just have been the timing however, taking place a few days after that rather powerful Scorpio full moon and after a weekend in Glastonbury, the home of the Goddess. 

For those who don’t know, a Pancha Karma is basically a three-hour oil-based massage, which deeply penetrates the skin, loosening impurities and stimulating circulation. Hot poultices of Ayurvedic herbs are also applied, the herbs being absorbed through the pores in the skin.  

Shirodhara (my favourite) is then employed, where warm oil is poured in a gentle stream over the forehead, calming and pacifying the central nervous system, stilling the mind and senses, and allowing stress to be released (my main focus at the moment, releasing stress!). This is followed by a head and face massage, before steam treatment to help expel toxins.

 I’ve been on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster ever since, experiencing a healing crisis, where everything feels worse before it feels better. There have been many tears and my heart has been making itself known to me, clearly needing some healing. As painful as this has been at times, it has brought with it a pause for reflection, and finally some clarity, which has been a relief.

 I have felt that something has been amiss for a while now and yet I couldn’t quite put it into words, but now I feel able to do so, rightly or wrongly. My realisation will not necessarily resonate with you all, it’s just what’s relevant to me in my life right now.

Simply put, it seems to me that we women have been fed a lie, that we’re part of some big social experiment to see what happens in the name of empowerment. It is what women are pressured (in whatever way) to think they want, but has anyone actually thought about the wider cost.

Not only are women now fulfilling the role of provider (and main provider in many cases), and perching themselves on the ladder with the men, but they are also continuing, on the whole, with the role of householder and mother. There is a whole generation of women exhausted and depleted, living a life that is totally out of balance with their natural rhythm, because society deems that this is ‘the way’. 

“We’re empowered”, they shout out, “we can do everything that men do, and better too. We can run businesses, we can keep a house and raise a family. We can do it all”. 

However, no one really talks about the reality of what this truly means. No one talks about the fact that many women spend their day existing on a diet of coffee, chocolate and salad, eating on the go, never having time to properly refuel. Or the fact that women are so busy trying to hold it all together that as a society we now just accept this as a fact of modern living, “she’s just busy”, we say, “she’s got a demanding job and children”, we simply explain, and everyone knows what we mean. 

Many women are rushing through their life, from one appointment and meeting to the next, juggling all their various responsibilities and roles and trying to manage their time with their children as best they can. Some choose to do this because they want to have a career, other because they are not naturally gifted at motherhood (and don’t usually mind admitting it) and there are those who do it out of necessity as they need an income (and therefore don’t have a choice).

I suppose it is the lack of choice for many that saddens me the most, because while they might rather be at home with their children, society offers them little support to achieve this. In Sweden, for example, both parents receive 480 days’ parental allowance per child, and in the case of multiple births, an additional 180 days are granted for each additional child.

When I birthed Elijah back in 2013, I was only eligible for 3 month’s maternity leave, thankfully by 2016 and the arrival of Eben, this had increased to 6 months. However, by then I didn’t want to be dictated to by the workplace about when I should return post-baby, so I quit my job while pregnant and gave up the opportunity for maternity pay in favour of keeping my freedom to stay with my baby until I chose to return to the workplace. 

But even then, I felt a pressure to return after 6 months, because it just felt that I should be working and earning a proper income. It hadn’t crossed my mind that I might just stay at home with the boys. I had a well-paid professional role in the finance industry, wouldn’t I be mad to just give that up? The truth is, and I didn’t recognise this until recently, that so much of my identity was tied up in my job, I didn’t know how to be any other way. 

In many respects, this is the reason that many women are leaving it later and later to begin a family, because they have invested a lot of time and energy into their careers, and their whole identity is tied into it. Many don’t want to jeopardise this by falling pregnant, and hold out until they can no longer ignore their biological clock ticking. By then many need fertility treatments to help them, if not because of age, then because of increased stress levels.

It is these women, and other women too, who have their children and return to the workplace, because it is expected of them (because they expect it of themselves as much as anything else), who are then constantly torn in two. Like me, they might not have appreciated the demands of motherhood and by then it’s too late, they have to keep working because they need the income/have become used to the income/their whole identity is tied into the income, and yet they miss their children, and are trying to manage both the demands of motherhood with the demands of the workplace. 

We just keep going though don’t we, us women, whether we enjoy it or not, whether we chose it or not, whether we want it or not. We’re empowered and we can do it all. We can run businesses, have top careers and still raise a family. Look how much we admire female entrepreneurs and look up to them as role models – giving birth to children and running their businesses the next day!   

But the question is, are we women thriving? Are our young people thriving? Is society thriving? Are we all better off for it? If the rising depression, anxiety and stress rates are anything to go by, then I think not.

All I ever wanted to be since I was little, was a mother one day. Yet society was never particularly encouraging of this, the focus was always on academic success and a career. There was a sense that to be a successful woman living in this 21stcentury, I needed to be so much more than ‘just’ a mother to fulfil my potential. Instead, I need to be up there fighting for a perch with the men, or out there with all the other women attempting to change the world by running their own businesses. 

I am slowly coming to recognise that this does not need to be the case. For me now, fulfilling my potential means being a good mum to my two boys. It’s not about earning lots of money in finance or running my own business, it’s not even about publishing books or having my own healing space. Admittedly, the latter two are dreams, but they should not be confused with what it means to fulfil my potential, because then they become distractions from the truth.

Furthermore, when we talk about purpose and dharma particularly – what are we here on this earth to do - I might talk about teaching yoga and sharing Reiki with others, writing perhaps too, but truth be told, it’s being a mum. Everything else becomes irrelevant, really, when I consider the most sacred of duties that I could ever have been gifted in this lifetime is the one of mothering my own children.

Sure, when I die, it might be nice to be remembered for teaching a couple of inspiring yoga classes, or helping someone in their life, but I’d really like to be remembered more so for being a good mum to my children.  That’s my life work. My children couldn’t care less about what I do either and regularly groan because I’m off to teach another yoga class. All they care about is spending time with me. 

It’s a relief to finally recognise this after feeling adrift for a while now, wondering what’s next. It was almost as if the children arrived (and not without some challenge and heart ache may I add) and I ticked a box, OK that’s the children done, now what? And on I went with the next challenge, publishing books, as if time was somehow running out and all those dreams needed to be achieved overnight, and because I’m an empowered woman and that’s what we do.

But it was bothering me. Something didn’t feel right. My increasing stress levels were an indication that all was not well but I just couldn’t see any other way. This was how I had been trained to live since as long as I can remember – the focus on working and results and achieving. Furthermore, society supported this and the quest for it.

As I mentioned earlier, I returned to work three months after Elijah was born, expressing breastmilk in the toilets so that he could be fed by my Mum (fortunately) while I was in the office. None of it felt right but I did it because it was what was expected of me. Not once did I sit down and seriously think about whether I might stay at home with my son, especially during those early months.

In the workplace, there was little allowance for the impact that the transition to motherhood may have had on me and my life. I was expected to show up just the same as I had done pre-baby and yet absolutely everything had changed. There were the endless sleepless nights to navigate, let alone the breastfeeding and the hormonal changes of the post-natal period (which goes on for a good two years’ post-baby). There was this relentless and constant rushing and an overwhelming sense of guilt that I wasn’t with my son at home.  

Admittedly there were bills and the mortgage to pay, but when I think back, we could have found a way. We could have made other sacrifices, gone on less trips, cut back on other expenses. Ayurveda focuses on causative factors rather than symptoms and I now know with absolute certainty that this is when the stress, with which I have been working this last year, set-in. 

 I’ve been slowly trying to unravel from this and find my balance after five years of living a life out of balance, doing too much and not being as present to my children as I might have once intended. Furthermore, I have been seeking my truth, trying to navigate my way through my societal and academic conditioning, to recognise and hear what I feel deep down in my heart.

My body has been nudging me with its physical expression of stress, and the overwhelming tiredness. And I started to make changes, to re-prioritise my life bit by bit, to spend more time with the children. But there has still been this restlessness, this panic at times, “but what if I miss an opportunity to fulfil my potential, what if I don’t make my dreams come true because I’m spending all my time with my children”.

Now I have clarity I can laugh at the irony of it. It’s like the red herring. The answer has been staring at me in the face, as if the ‘child’ angel card I’ve repeatedly received over the last few months hasn’t been enough, and the photos of my children on my altar in front of which I practice yoga every day, let alone the words of my Ayurvedic doctor and Reiki friend, trying to signpost the path ahead in their gentle ways if only I would listen (and get beyond my conditioning that makes changing my mind so difficult).

It’s very easy to get super busy, to work and work and work, to make things happen, to run a business, to fulfil superficial dreams, to fulfil our potential according to society, when all the while the greatest dream, the greatest miracle, the greatest potential, well they’re growing up, and if I’m not careful – if we’re not careful – I’ll miss it, we’ll miss it. 

There is a whole generation of women torn and a whole generation of children being cared for by nursery workers and child minders, grandparents too if they’re lucky. Where did it all go so wrong? Why did we feel such a great drive to get out of the home? Isn’t the home where the heart is? Isn’t this what gives stability and love to our children? Isn’t this the very root of society?

I know that I am not alone. I take my hat off to those women who make the decision from the outset to stay at home with their children. It can’t be an easy decision to make and I have noticed that there is often some reluctance in admitting that “I’m just a stay at home mum” as if that is not enough somehow. It is sad to think that in our quest for empowerment, of the modern need to be someone, that there is now a stigma attached to being at home with our children, as if that is shameful. 

 I have a friend who is a full-time mum to her children and arranges child-care so that she can have a break and attend a yoga class once a week. She sadly feels that she has to justify this to people, and I think, good on you, being at home with young children is really challenging. I used to find going to work in the office easy in comparison. 

A few days ago I was feeling really peeved about all this, for buying into the whole women’s empowerment movement, without really being conscious of what I was giving up in the process. It’s been depressing in many respects too, to recognise that I am a cliché of what it means to be a woman in the twenty first century. 

I was raised to be different, not to follow others like a sheep, to question and think for myself. Yet I never did enough questioning. Perhaps this is what saddens me the most, now realising that I’ve bought into the illusion that this is what us women want and this is the life we must lead if we are to be empowered. This being a life lived on empty and always so busy.

It’s not surprising that increasing numbers of women are turning to yoga and meditation as they seek a time out from the craziness of the life lived in their heads and look for meaning in their lives. 

It’s also not surprising that the divine feminine has appeared into our lives, infusing mainstream spiritualism, encouraging us to connect with our inner goddess. I’m all up for this, I love nothing more than yoni yoga and the more feminine approach to yoga, but I have become completely turned off with the ‘rise, sister, rise’ theme.

Where do we women think we need to rise to? Have we not risen enough? Are we not empowered enough? What more do we want? 

There is a whole genre of books written around this theme and I can’t help noticing that many of the women writing them have not yet birthed children. Because let’s face it, the divine feminine can’t get any more manifest than as the mother. She is the mother! She has been revered for centuries for her power. 

Even here in Guernsey, there are two statues in her honour from pre-Christian times, one outside St Martin’s church and the other at Castel church, known as La Gran’mère du Chimquière. When I visited this Pagan earth mother at St Martin’s church this morning, I noticed that someone has placed a  chain of sweet peas around her neck because we are still celebrating her, even today (maybe even more so today). 

She is not asking us to compete with the men, nor run our own businesses, or become female entrepreneurs. She is not asking us to work harder and spend even more time in our heads and away from our children (although sadly this is what I see, even amongst yoga teachers who are spreading ‘her’ wisdom).

She is here to ask us to get back into our bodies, to come home to ourselves, to our families and to Mother Earth. She is asking us to get back in touch with our natural rhythms, to connect to the moon and our own inner cycles. She is asking us to step up as mothers, to reclaim that which we have lost in the name of empowerment. 

Yesterday I randomly chose the Green Tara goddess card. She rescues us by empowering us to save ourselves. I couldn’t help thinking that this card was rather appropriate timing – yes, Green Tara, we need you in our lives, helping to empower us to save ourselves, our femininity, and our opportunity for motherhood. I certainly need you.

This is what the world needs, this is what society is crying out for: mothering. We need to honour the mother again.

Anyone who has lost a mother will know what a loss it is. 

Like Mother Earth, women have been exploited for too long now. 

We need to re-build the home. 

This doesn’t mean we need to stop working. I can honestly say that if I didn’t share my passion for teaching yoga and Reiki, and have a break from the children in the process, for example, then I would go slowly mad. It just means that we need to feel that we have a genuine choice again.

We need to respect the mother and all that she brings, not only to the family but to society and to the planet. 

Society needs to wake up and re-prioritise, recognise what is most important. We need to honour and respect the mother again. 

I’m really proud to be a mum. It is not only my greatest achievement, but also the most difficult job I suspect I shall ever have in this lifetime. 

It has brought me fully into myself, and I have learned more about myself since becoming a mother than I ever learned on my yoga mat in the years previous to this. Motherhood is the practice! Children help us to engage completely - and consciously – with life: it’s Tantra!

Every day my boys provide me the opportunity to try to be a gentler, kinder and more compassionate human being. I’ve become increasingly aware of the times when I am not this, when they trigger me and I react before catching myself and taking a breath – when I become unconscious. There is a certain humility that accompanies this awareness. I am constantly given the opportunity to learn how to be a better human being and a better mum.  

My boys have brought me back to earth. They have helped me to turn a house into a home. They have helped me to recognise the need to take better care of myself. They have taught me what it means to love unconditionally. They have helped me to recognise that being a mother is enough. 

I shall end this post with a poem from Hafiz:

And still, after all this time,

The sun never says to the earth

“You owe Me”.

Look what happens with 

A love like that,

It lights the whole sky”.