Looking for steel bars to protect my heart from this thief called time.
He appeared in broad daylight. He wore no mask and carried no weapon. I knew he was there. I let him in. We came to know each other well. Drawing out the ticks of the clock he conspicuously lurked in the corners of my home, my heart. In the early days he had me believe that the long slow moments would last forever. There was time, plenty of time. No sooner than I had eased into the warp of speed I awoke to suddenly find that this familiar thief had stolen my baby. Gone were the slow lazy days of togetherness. That thief took him right from under my nose. In my house. In my heart. How dare he.
Woman, you are Divine
The bridge of mystery and manifest
A vessel of the unknown
Your womb is a swaddle of omnipresence
Of bountiful nourishment
Of unquestioned protection
You are an infants’s experience of beginning-less love
Of felt connection
You are a baby’s a source of awe and adoration
A safe return
You are a child’s highest form of wisdom
Of wordless exemplar
You woman are Divine
You are your child’s everything
Stop it. No one is happy all of the time. No one, and our kids do not need our exclusive happiness .
Happiness is not an attainable state of permanency. Happiness is dependent on conditions. No one can live in a state of constant happiness. Are we happy in loss? Are we happy in the suffering of a loved one? Of course not.
We can stop our aim at happiness and instead focus on the notion of personal peace. While happiness is impacted by the external, peace is a state that can be cultivated and maintained in any circumstance. It is possible to be sad but at peace. It is possible to feel compassionate but at peace. Peace is even possible in loss.
My external world with a young family feels chaotic most days. Getting little feet in socks and shoes can rattle my nerves before the clock strikes 9am. Kindergarten has me and my child melting, and then there is the noise. Noise noise noise noise noise. As moms we owe it to ourselves to be honest. Not every moment of life deserves our happiness, and it’s okay for our kids to experience that.
Today, I suggest we give ourselves a break. We can relinquish the idea of exclusive happiness being imperative for our family. We can allow ourselves to be human with our kids, allow them to see the true range of emotions of their mother. We can replace the idea of a “happy mom” with a more attainable state, a “peaceful mom,” a mom with a true range of emotion who manages the ups and downs of life with underlying grace and steadiness.
When we approach life from a honed state of peace the external begins to mirror the internal. A peaceful mom makes a sock slide on easier, and a rattled mom will almost always twist up the sock. Try it. It’s basically science.
When we look to peace rather than happiness we realize that peace comes with a gift that is beyond a basic happiness. That gift is joy, a spontaneous grace bestowed upon us that removes the lens from our eyes and we see our families as the blessings that they are. In peace we pause. We notice the twinkle in a five year olds eye. We notice the crooked smile in a precious baby. We see that time speeds by, and all we have is the moment we share now. Bonus, we also get the sock on smoother, every time.
So let go of happiness. Your kids don’t need a perfect mom or a happy mom, they need a peaceful mom, a mom with a true range of emotion who manages the ups and downs of life with exemplary grace and steadiness.
A new mother hears, “You must take care of yourself in order to take care of your family,” but what does this really mean? What does a woman really need in order to show up for this demanding and vital role day after day? Women really need help, but in the modern nuclear family new moms just don’t get the support they need, so instead of real help the world throws them a vague rhetoric encouraging them to care for themselves in addition to caring for everyone else.
A woman knows how to care for herself in the moment: personal time, a shower, a meal, a walk, and so on. A search of “self-care for new mothers” yields predictable results: sleep, accept help, make time for solitude and friendships, put on make-up, schedule a trip to the salon, exercise, plan a girl’s night, and treat yourself. While there is nothing innately wrong with basic self-care, to advise a new mother to look to a tube of lipstick as a source of strength can feel like a cruel joke in a critical time. An afternoon at the salon may mean a very necessary moment to reset and relax, it is not a manicure that is going to sustain a new mother or strengthen her capacity for the perpetual nature of mothering.
A mother is facing a deep personal inquiry; superfluous self-care may be highly necessary in nursing the immediate symptom, but it is certainly not the cure for a mother in throes of realigning her entire reality as a woman.
A new mother can find that prioritizing self-care in the early moments postpartum can feel both unrealistic and conflicting. Initially there does not exist a surplus of time or energy for self-care. In the postpartum period a woman is navigating a massive adjustment to her entire concept of herself while endlessly caring for and bonding with her baby. Having an infant is all consuming, and mostly the needs of the baby will come before a mother’s needs initially and indeterminately. Organizing time for the even most basic self-care ritual like shampooing her hair may seem like an intricate mission that requires a fully trained staff, and for a new mother prioritizing self-care easily becomes another impossible and failed task on the to-do list. Secondly, the weeks and months following birth are not a time of individuality. The fourth trimester and the postpartum period are crucially interpersonal. This is the “critical period” (Odent, http://www.primalhealthresearch.com) and is instinctually a time of imperative togetherness.
Even more critical than self-care being unrealistic and contrived, it is crucial to acknowledge that focusing on self-care too early adds to the longing that can naturally accompany new motherhood; already a new mother finds herself fanaticizing of personal time as she mourns a level of unbounded freedom and the unexpected loss of her “old self” and independence. Fixating on self-care perpetuates the longing; the woman’s attention is moved toward some future event or past state rather than attuned to the present moment. It pushes a woman out of reality and leads her into a daydream, a delusion. Looking outside of this remarkable experience makes a new mother believe that the life she once had or will have again later is in some way more desirable than her present assignment; and the present assignment of new motherhood is not to be evaded, as it happens to be filled with a tremendous richness and potential for personal growth.
All humans fall victim to a mirage that future external circumstances will bring fulfillment, happiness, or satisfaction. Across many traditions it has been wisely guided to tame the cravings of the external and move toward the inner realm not because it is morally correct, but because the inner is the foundation for the outer. The outer is always the mirror of the inner.
To encourage new mothers to look solely to surface self-care for lasting fuel is both perpetuating un-satisfactoriness and minimizing the full potential of the experience of the woman. The manipulative message of surface self-care is feeding women an insulting line — that consumerism, materialism, or some other “ism” outside of herself will fill her cup. Modern self-care is an immature message that diminishes the transformative experience of motherhood and does not begin to address the critical needs of a woman becoming a mother. An honest look at the demands on a new mother shows that this moment of service encourages a temporary taming of outer cravings and cultivation of the inner dwelling.
A new mother can look toward the postpartum experience rather than making effort to the escape the experience. Motherhood is a uniquely feminine and powerful moment that is rich, it is demanding, it is full of growth potential, but it is hard. Postpartum has a way of bringing a woman to her knees. It will expose the range of her gifts and weaknesses unapologetically revealing the hidden depths of her heart and the source of her triggers, her wounds, her capacity for connection, her opportunities for healing. In complete outer depletion, a mother comes to meet her truest version of herself where she unmasks her capacities as a woman: the creator, nurturer and healer of all things. In mining the authenticity of her being, what no longer serves is pulled away. This peeling away is not a process that is pure bliss followed by monetary abundance and egotistical manifestation as the current culture would love to have believed; this peeling away can feel excruciating. As the inner realm expands, the expansion will first bring out everything that needs to be healed, everything that is not pure. All that is unhealed will be revealed. There is no freedom in the perimeter of pain. A woman must move through the experience not around the experience.
In this process of exploration, a new mother needs a self care that focuses on self-awareness far more than superfluous self-care. Early postpartum self care should allow a woman to witness what arises rather than avoid and escape her new reality.. Everything that comes up must be examined not evaded; the full spectrum of postpartum is to be held in honesty and awareness in order for a woman to experience the full potential of transformation into motherhood. More crucial than a manicure is a mother becoming intently aware. She can watch the longing, the realignment of priorities and ambitions, the sense of loss that is mixed with a sense of everything. She can watch the wounds easily exposed in her raw, sleep deprived un-showered state. She can watch as all superficialities are stripped away, and what is left is the core of humanity: a tangible love and intimate connection that is unprecedented. She can delight as the half smile on the lips of her babe holds the ability to dissolve her. She can witness this moment of pure service and relation to another, a moment where she is being pushed out of her own way bringing her to surrender to all that is real, and holy, and pure in this life.
Self awareness is self care, but it is care of the Highest Self. Reframe self care to look more like embrace-ism rather than escapism while working carefully and consistently toward inner growth.
Awareness opens a space within, and a continued watchfulness grows this space within. As this space grows larger it becomes a presence, an experiential inner alignment. Contrary to the fleeting pleasures of small-self self-care, this presence is the seat of sustainable peace that is so desperately needed and pointed toward in motherhood. Inner alignment is the place where actions, decisions, and outcomes are not contrived but are attuned in perfection. A mother will always face challenges and cravings, but through watchfulness she becomes freed of the conflict of these circumstances. She operates from a place of watchful acceptance of what is, rather than a place driven by delusion, cravings, triggers, and unconscious reactions. Self-awareness is the foundation for a mother building her life on rock. An insatiable pursuit of self-care will lead a mother to continuously fall victim to circumstances, but caring for her inner alignment she will strengthen the power of the center, the unshakable, that is the highest necessity in mothering well.