This blog is a conversation about mothering as a sacred act. It explores, discusses and perhaps claims some spiritual history, literature, and images in the name of – gasp – the feminine. I’ll borrow quotes and scripture shamelessly. It is especially relevant to take up the conversation in the context of motherhood; since that is an obvious place to start a discussion of the feminine divine and, I daresay, a discussion that is sorely needed. This isn’t a blog about being smart or scholarly, it’s about exploring the gulf between the obvious value of what we do as women and mothers and the way who we are and what we do is valued. I’m interested in the currency we are valued in and what we have to say about that. I am interested in what aspects of our own divinity we manifest every single day in the act of mothering, with or without recognizing them.
What is a Relevant Mother, anyway? And why am I capitalizing that expression?
To start with, a Relevant Mother is a Mother. Period. It starts there.
By virtue of being a mother you are relevant. You are relevant to the person who calls you mother (Or will do, when they can speak). You are relevant to the community of people around you that are depending on you to care for your child. And most importantly, you are relevant to yourself.
I’d like to begin by emphasizing – emphatically and with great feeling – that in adopting this title I do not wish by any means to marginalize the relevance and importance of fathers, gaurdians, grandparents, teachers, or caregivers of any sort.
No words can express how grateful I am to the sexy guys out there I see chasing their toddlers through hotel revolving doors and wrangling ornery toddlers in Target aisles. Whats more, I deeply admire any person who takes the care of any sentient (please pardon my borrowing of the buddhist word but it exactly expresses my intended meaning), feeling creature onto themselves out of a sense of duty, compassion, need, or all of the above. It seems to me there’s no higher office… or there shouldn’t be.
The unique concoction of nurturing, feeding, clothing, educating, protecting, teaching, and loving a child as the very person that conceived and bore them over an extended period of eighteen or more years is the act of mothering- by one definition, in any case. And somehow, being the possessor of the womb that enabled (some might say perpetrated) a birth seems to confer a dimension of anxiety (hysterical and illogical, at times) with respect to a child’s successful launch into the world. It’s hard , soulful work supporting, raising and worrying over our kids.
Which brings me back to my title.
Motherhood is relevant. It has always been relevant. And it remains relevant.
It seems very silly and counter-intuitive to me that our western society has marginalized this task into something less than work. “Oh she doesn’t work, she’s just a stay-at-home mother.” In fact, I believe the state of motherhood has been co-opted and marginalized in such a way as to challenge the relevancy of motherhood, its state, its exertion, its challenges and difficulties. This seems to fit snugly in with the espoused values of the oft-cited behemoth of Patriarchy. A great dragon to be sure. I’d assert, though that the dragon isn’t as powerful as our belief in it is. This is the condition to which I address myself.
As such let us begin with this: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep …”
Really? In the beginning, as far as I can remember, was mom and dad feeding me, dressing me, watching “The Lone Ranger” with me, and fussing over me. Later on but still in the beginning were walks to kindergarten and making me valentines. I don’t recall being aware of heaven and earth in the beginning. Oh, sure, mom took me to church. But all I was sensible of in the beginning was hard pews and life-savers and coloring books that my mother had brilliantly thought to provide for us during long services (this was before the days of children’s programs DURING church services).
And in emerging from the cocoon of youthful ignorance, the patriarchy of Chistianity was the chosen spirituality of my tribe. God was a man. He had a son. And that son was born of a sinner who, as far as I could tell, never had sex. It all seemed a little wonky to me then, as it does now. And after a master of religion at Harvard I began to understand that what’s glorious in Christianity is its cool history, its mystic tradition, and its values… values like charity and faithfulness. Values … except where women are concerned.
I was and am reluctant to pass on to my kids a set of beliefs that I’m convinced they have enough sense to recognize it would require a leap of faith to accept. Frankly I worry they’ll think mom was cuckoo if I try to pass it off on them. And besides that, I am not convincing when I try to explain the story of Jesus, Joseph and Mary. Or even sin, for that matter.
I am sensible that I did not go out to face heaven or earth without first receiving my mother’s care and benediction, so I’m starting the conversation with the concept of the sacred feminine here.
Because before the light and the bumblebees and the tulips and the nursery rhymes and the school work there’s a mother. Before we meet the earth, the heavens, or anything in between, we meet the mother. We come from the mother.
And that makes motherhood relevant.