The world says that mothering, that investing time and energy in the home, is a failure to individualize, a failure to become fully human. A failure to realize one’s unique gifts and talents as a woman and a failure to contribute them to the world.
Mothering is seen as a burden that prevents women from doing what they are really capable of and meant to do.
What does this mean about the object of mothering: raising children? What is the corollary of feminism’s rejection of mothering as a fulfilling human life? Where does that rejection leave children? Where does it leave the future?
More than any other work, mothering is about investing in the future. It are about the transfer of inner human treasure from one more mature human being to another less developed human being. This work is delicate, long, time-sensitive, intimate. It requires attention, patience, dedication and perseverance, particular and personal knowledge, responsiveness, TIME.
It is, more than anything, PRIVATE work. It doesn’t have to be invisible work, but when we make public life the only focus, and home life the neglected back side of public life, parenting becomes invisibilized.
All the time that we are investing in those beings whose future potential is under our influence is time we are out of the public eye, not contributing to the current situation beyond our walls. It is a work deferred in time. The fruits of this work, as perceived by society, come later, years later, decades later. In this sense, it seems reasonable to construe it as a sacrifice because there are so many other, more visible contributions to the world that we cannot do because our time and energy are being poured into a future that does not yet exist. I sometimes feel that in a way, my time as a public human being is over and my children’s is yet to come. It is a liminal time that we inhabit where all my efforts, dreams, and investment just go deep underground, only to reappear in a decade or two or three or four, continuing on long past the moment when I leave this earth.
Only a very immature and shortsighted society could fail to recognize the utter importance that this quiet, long work has. The temporary retreat of our energies is a necessary part of equipping the future generation of humans to thrive, to create better realities, to live in new and more harmonious ways on this earth. If we are unwilling to let women, or even men, take a decade or two of retreat from public life to plant the seeds of the future, what kind of future can we imagine it to be?
In another way, being a mother is about investing your time and energy in the fleeting daily processes that support the health and happiness of your children. What does a child need from their parents RIGHT NOW? Presence, attention. Respect, listening, wisdom. The right words at the right time, the right model for the right kind of living. Love. Abundant, unlimited, unconditional love. These are the atmosphere, the nourishment, the stuff of a good and happy childhood. Children don’t live in the future. They don’t live in the past. They live now. They know whether their good is happening here and now and it matters. The quality of their lives NOW is the best indicator of the quality of their lives LATER because these early life experiences create their set points, their expectations, their norms for what human life should be like and how it should be lived.
This work has material, physical prerequisites: shelter, nourishing food, safety, warmth. These are fundamental but they are only the beginning of the story of mothering. Mothers shelter hearts, nourish minds. Mothers create emotional the emotional safety of knowing we are always loved, always supported, always wanted. Mothers see what we want to learn and find ways to help us get there. Mothers ensure that our needs are attended to, our voices heard, our desires met with good things. Mothers make it possible for us to survive and to thrive. These are the true treasure of humanity….the knowledge that we can be well and what it is we need to be well, how to relate with others in ways that enable us all to be well, how to trust that our needs will be met and look upon our inner realities with love, compassion and affection….these are only the fruit of high quality mothering! They can be obtained no other way. If we don’t get this kind of mothering in our childhood, we have to learn, painfully and slowly, how to become that mother to ourselves. One way or another, we can only learn these things through our relationship with the Mother.
This is why Mothering is actually the most important, actualizing, society-enriching job. It is the foundation upon which all other types of thriving must be built. Until we can recognize the power and value of this work, our society will continue to be a high rise, wobbling on bare ground with no foundation to secure its growth. We will continue to see people who grow into adulthood deeply lacking in inner security and the resources necessary for developing trusting, mutually caring relationships with others. We will continue to foment violence, aggression, depression, despair.
This is a tragedy because the truth is simple and the tools to heal these evils is within our grasp. It is within us, in a return to understanding truth, goodness, and reality as gifts of a loving Mother. This mother consciousness has been lost in Western society as we lost touch with the divine feminine, as we built our society on a rejection of feminine powers and feminine care. When the Mother consciousness is the excluded other of our ways of thought, the result is a society without the capacity to receive nurture, a society so deeply lacking within and expressing that lack through constant anger and violence. The solution is simple. We need Mothers. We need Mothering and Mother care as the forefront and foundation of our lives and work.
When we rotate and open the door back open to the lost Mother Consciousness within, we awaken to the infinite healing power already at work through everyday, ordinary mothering.