We know that the transition into motherhood is deeply challenging.
It shakes our very sense of who we are in the world; it asks us to transform and adapt and surrender, every step of the way. Not only that, but modern-day mothers are navigating this transformative process in a global cultural and political context that makes it even more difficult.
All of this is true, and it’s also true that we often forget the potential and possibility that exists for women – and the world they live in – in spite of, or perhaps because of, the challenges they face in matrescence.
This is not just another gratitude list, or a way of bypassing real challenges. We must find ways to see this power and potential if we are to fully embody our motherhood at all.
You see, I have come to truly believe that matrescence is so challenging for so many women in part because becoming a mother is considered a demotion in our society. It represents a decrease in our value as humans – sometimes quite literally, as we become less able to stay productive in our capitalist society. It’s no wonder that mothers everywhere don’t want motherhood to change them or define them; it’s no wonder that we try, often despite the wellbeing of our bodies and our health, to do it all. To become a mother and to let that process have its way with you and completely transform you can often feel like becoming invisible in our culture. Perhaps, in fact, the unspoken fear behind “losing yourself” in motherhood is in fact a fear of losing your worth in society.
And so of course we fight matrescence every step of the way.
Dr. Aurélie Athan, the world’s leading matrescence researcher, talks about how there are two very common cultural narratives of motherhood that impact us: motherhood as pathological and motherhood as oppressive. (in last month’s blog post, I shared some thoughts on the “motherhood as pathological” narrative) There are plenty of ways in which our society certainly oppresses mothers. From overmedicalized birth practices to the lack of adequate maternity leave to the BIPOC maternal mortality crisis, it’s critically important for us to acknowledge these oppressions, and to be activists for changes to policy and culture that supports mothers. But in addition to the work we must do to make systemic change that lifts oppression, it’s crucial to question where we might change the narrative of motherhood as oppressive in our own individual lives in order to begin to access the power and potential that exists in matrescence and motherhood for ourselves, right now.
Because the work of dismantling the systems that oppress mothers might happen at a march or around a boardroom table, but it might just as likely happen because we – each of us – found a way to see, grow and assert our power as mothers in our families and communities.
Let me explain.
We mothers are asked, over and over again, implicitly and explicitly, to deny the fact of our motherhood in order to participate in a world that values money making over caretaking, productivity over presence, and individuality over relationality.
But, last I checked, most of us don’t want to live in a world that values money making over caretaking, productivity over presence, and individuality over relationality. Last I checked, most of us are contorting ourselves, denying our authenticity and our most basic human needs, and often becoming physically, mentally or spiritually unwell in our efforts to try to survive in that world.
And so it’s time to change the world rather than trying to change ourselves.
Because so many aspects of motherhood are oppressive only within the context of a world that is not set up for mothers (and, let’s face it, most humans) to thrive.
It’s time to explore mothering as a countercultural act, and to recognize that our motherhood is not what is holding us back, but is in fact what makes us change agents and leaders in a world that desperately needs mothering.
Here’s the thing, mama: remember how I said that our current global and cultural context makes becoming a mother so challenging – perhaps harder now, in many ways, than it has ever been? Well, the other half of that equation is that the world, right now in this particular moment in history, is waking up to all of the ways in which our culture is broken. And there is a growing movement of people who are, in all kinds of acts of subversion both radical and subtle, speaking out and speaking up for change. For so many women that I work with, motherhood has catalyzed them to join that movement.
You see, we, as mothers, have the potential to advocate for a world that allows for the fullness of our humanity; for the acceptance of natural cycles of rest and productivity; for intuition to become a way of knowing that is just as valuable as facts and figures; and for the ability to hold complexity and think non-linearly to become just as important an asset in a job interview as the ability to achieve and produce. Because these, and more, are the skills, capacities and powers that mothers learn to master as they traverse matrescence.
These your MotherPowers, mama.
These are the abilities and proclivities that happen to make you good at raising your babies, yes. In many ways, they’re the abilities and proclivities that will keep you grounded and well during the tumultuous early years of parenting. That too.
But they’re also more than that.
These are the superpowers, as it were, that mothers gain, that I deeply believe will change the world. They are a set of skills and ways of being that, when cultivated and wielded unapologetically, have the potential to balance and shift the power structures that have caused so much harm to people and the earth, alike. The MotherPowers are as old as the hills – ancestral, really – and accessing them isn’t so much about learning something new as remembering something that lives somewhere inside of you, waiting to be awakened once more.
This is motherhood-as-revolution.
Are you in?
Exploring the power and potential of motherhood – your MotherPowers, as I call them – is a key part of the MotherSHIFT program, a three-month journey that supports new mamas with the transition to motherhood. It’s also a part of the core curriculum for The Village, my program that guides professionals who work with postpartum mamas to support them on this journey.
To find out more about these programs, click on the images below. Registration is open and the programs start on September 28th and September 30th, 2021, respectively.