I turn off the shower and peel back the shower curtain to grab a towel. Of course, the entire family is jammed into our tiny bathroom; my husband is brushing his teeth to get ready to go to work, one child is sitting on the potty, feet dangling and bum hovering precariously close to the water, and the second child, bouncing from one foot to the other in the middle of the room, not one to be left out.
Though I rarely think about my body on weekday mornings like this – heck, I rarely manage to squeeze in a shower on weekday mornings like this – today, as I reached down for a towel, water dripping from my breasts and running down my knees, I thought to myself, “wow, my body has changed.”
It was probably the presence of my husband that did it. I was looking at myself through his eyes, and wondering, albeit momentarily, if he ever thought about the many iterations of my body over the past ten years.
It wasn’t a moment that was about stretch marks, or the way my hips had widened or how soft my breasts were now; no, not so much that. In fact, as I stood there towelling down, my thoughts quickly rearranged themselves like the images on a slot machine and I stood in the shower, looking out over my family and thought:
“Wow, my body.”
Here were the two children I had grown in my body. Here they were, these two that I breastfed for over six years, all tolled. Here was the man who loves my body, who often needs it, as a touchstone of our commitment and the currency of our connection, just as much as the kids do. Here, my hips upon which even the eight-year-old still perches occasionally, making a grab for the chocolate chips in the upper cupboard. Here, the only arms whose embrace is as powerful as any analgesic. Here, the legs that keep up, every day, with school drop-offs and playdates and beach combing and here the hands that draw and paint and fasten shiny superhero capes to naked shoulders.
My next thought: everybody here wants my body. Everybody here needs my body.
And then: my body is the centre of this family.
Several years ago, I heard a podcast interview with Graeme Seabrook, who is a coach, speaker and a self-proclaimed “Mom for Moms.” She said something in the interview that has stuck with me ever since: if mothers are going to be the hub of their families, tending to their needs, taking on the emotional labour of the family, knowing which library books are due and when the last time the toddler peed was, then mothers’ needs have to also be at the centre of the family.
If mama is going to be the axis around which the familial universe turns, then mama gets treated like the centre of that universe.
This feels to me like reclaiming motherhood.
In fact, it feels like reclaiming matriarchy. Reclaiming the central role of women and mothers in the healthy functioning of our families, communities, and the world.
No more motherhood as martrydom, no more devaluing of women’s hidden labour.
It’s time we mamas climbed up on to the pedestal – or maybe the throne – at the centre of the family and took up our power.
Operationalized at the level of the family unit on a day-to-day basis, I picture breastfeeding mothers perched in a Laz-Y-Boy surrounded by beautiful foods and fresh hot cups of tea; I picture mamas scheduling their commitments into family calendars before karate class or swimming lessons make the cut. I imagine a world where mothers aren’t just revered on Mother’s Day or in some treacly (and somewhat dangerous) “thank you for all your sacrifices” kind of way, but quite literally, in the everyday functioning of the family, mama comes first. Because there is more truth to these words than cliche: if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Seriously.
As I remembered Graeme’s words about mothers taking up the power of what it is to be the hub of the family, not just in the way they meet their family’s needs but in the way their needs were met too, and something clicked in me. Something became that much more real, more tangible.
If my body is the centre axis upon which the tiny universe of this family revolves, then so too must the needs of my body be central in this family.
My body needs an hour, every day, to move. To go for a hike or lunge deep in yoga class. My body needs great gulps of fresh air. It needs solitude and spaciousness, time when no one needs it, when no one is touching it – tugging or snuggling alike. My body loves to be nourished, and it needs time, each day, to sink in to the meditative preparation of that nourishment; the methodical chopping of vegetables or crushing of garlic, the scent of homemade bread fresh out of the oven.
And so it is that if this family needs my body so very much, then so it is that my husband makes sure he has time in his schedule so that he can look after the kids while I go for my daily walk, and then so that I can make dinner. So it is that there is room created in the family budget to fund my yoga classes. So it is, perhaps, that when I want to have a shower, I get to have a shower.
Let’s be clear: life is not always like this in my family. But the image of me at the centre of it all, and therefore me with my needs at the centre of it all, helps me claim the space I need to feel up to the task, without guilt. It helps me to put myself first, unapologetically. And it helps me to occupy the role I naturally play in my family – as the one who does the emotional and spiritual labour, who plans the meals and buys the birthday presents and knows how many toilet paper rolls are left (no matter how feminist I am) – with a sense of willingness, if not pride, and way less frustration.
I wonder: how can you take up the role of matriarch in your family? What needs or desires would you like to centre as priorities in your household so that you can continue playing the role you already so masterfully play with something that might even lean toward joy?
Reclaiming motherhood and matriarchy is, in so many ways, the focus of the MotherSHIFT program.
Designed to support women in the first five years of motherhood, this program will help you fully embody the identity shift into motherhood, learn to identify and care for your own needs, reclaim your MotherPOWERS, and so much more.
Registration for MotherSHIFT opens September 1st, and the program runs from September 29 to December 15.
Click on the image below to learn more and to register.