My Magic as a Mother

My children are not young school-agers anymore. With that comes new ways to care for them, as well as the balance of joys and problems that come with this developmental age. And yet, this is the stage of life that i know well – i studied human development and specifically adolescent psychology in my undergrad and was a youth shelter worker in the beginning period of my career. In fact, one of my favourite jobs was going to middle and high school classes to talk to students about healthy relationships, puberty and self-esteem.

My kids may have a different idea about me doing this with them though.

I also remember my own pre-teen and teen years more than my childhood.

My eldest is adjusting to high school. I spoke about this Rite of Passage before. With all its curve balls and adjustments to embrace, one thing continues to be evident: They come to me to talk about the stuff that i deem important and know something about. I may not be good at math or science homework, but i am so here for chats about friendships and heartbreak.

Here’s another example of a work-in-progress: I recently learned about some very upsetting incidents at my daughter’s school. Boys in her middle school said intentionally provocative and violent things about their female classmates. My daughter shared only part of the story with me, and kept out the main concern – the gender-based violence that these words represented. Of course, i quickly found out because our small school is a village and the news was passed around. I’m so grateful for this.

It has prompted me to be more intentional with how i address the things that are important to me as a mom.

When i was talking to my kid about this incident, she shared that she was uncomfortable because the topic (with her parents specifically) was ‘cringy.’ She assumed that i also felt this way when i was a 12-year old having these talks with my own parents. Little did she know that i desperately needed and wanted these talks. I did not get to have these conversations at all, and was alone to carry the feelings and confusion, let alone the decision about what to do about the hard things i lived through as a teen.

And i had more than my fair share of hard things.

Out of the talk i had with her, as well as ones i have shared with other mothers in our community, i realized i have something to offer our community: a circle for our children and us together.

I have found my magic as a mother: I can talk about things like puberty, healthy realtionships, and hard emotions and also WANT TO, and i can offer a community gathering (aka Circle) and build a container for this topic, and more like it. I even have a name for it – Seed and Snake. I’ll leave the explanation of this for another time.

I wholeheartedly believe we all need a village to care for each other. I love the reciprocity of support and guidance we can give each other. I am so ready to shift away from an individualistic care model, and one that sees village aunties and wise elders as the valuable members they are. Of course, i also see that no one is going to care for my children like I do. They won’t have my kids’ best interests in mind: rather they will have their own core values and instincts at the forefront of their support. Being at the centre of my children’s needs is my maternal, feminine responsibility and mine alone. My partner, their father, also has his own gentle masculine way to guide them.

This is the balance of finding a new way – an old way in fact – that is post-colonialist, and not patriarchal. It is the both/and of feminine flow and seeing we are stronger in community, versus taught to believe we are vulnerable and weak when asking for support.

Motherhood unveils our mortality. It reveals our inability to control everything. It is as much tethered to grief as it is the experiences of joy and love. It is the practice of loving so much and the inevitable letting go.

Any Dally shared these powerful words: “There have always been mothers, but motherhood was invented.” What does she mean by this? She goes on to say: “Each subsequent age and society has defined it in its own terms and imposed its own restrictions and expectations on mothers. Thus motherhood has not always seemed or been the same.” She wrote this in 1982, in her book Inventing Motherhood.

When we see that motherhood is a social construct, it creates space for us to become empowered and have agency to transform how we experience being a mother. Sophie Brock, a sociologist who specializes in matrescence today shares that “this understanding unlocks our power in redefining ourselves, reclaiming our experience, and moving towards revolutionising motherhood – for us and future generations.”

It’s also important to note who are mothers, be it via birth or adoption, and not all folks who birth their child identify as mothers. Not everyone who cares for their child in a maternal way is a mother. And at the same time, mothering is a verb that characterizes the act of caretaking with compassion and presence. This is part of the social construct.

Matricentric Feminism is a theory within feminism that centres mothers’ experiences. Coined by the feminist scholar Andrea O’Reilly, it intentionally looks at the context and challenges of mothers today. She claims that motherhood is the ‘unfinished business’ of feminism. While i do not totally agree, i understand her view. As more and more research and discussions are being held about matrescence, maternal load, and maternal mental health now, we are seeing a boost in the role and identity that the term ‘mother’ is tethered to. So, it’s important to look at the psychological, socio-cultural, economic, and political pillars that impact this identity. Having an active voice and reminder of the experience and plight of mothers is essential because it is us who have to keep cleaning all the finger-prints of our children and patriarchy alike off the glass ceiling. The ceiling may be higher and we have some more room, but it is still nonetheless present – and as oppressive as ever.

At the root of matricentric feminism is this reclamation – that being a mother is a powerful role to have. It is in fact the predominant role of all life – creating, giving birth to, and raising humans. It is about embracing a maternal energy, regardless of our gender. This is not easy to do in a society that still clings onto a patriarchal worldview. We are given a load to carry through the matrilineal burden of mothering – a verb now versus an identity alone, and yet being a mother is a role that is undervalued.

Understanding the social construct of motherhood “allows us to embrace and acknowledge the deep personal growth that can come from becoming a mother, coming to know ourselves in a completely new way, stepping into our power and experiencing fierce love and transformation. This understanding unlocks our power in redefining ourselves, reclaiming our experience, and moving towards revolutionizing motherhood – for us and future generations.” Sophie Brock

Here is the glass ceiling showing up again: We will never be good enough when judged according to the standards of the perfect mother, because we were never MEANT to be. This is impossible: The dial keeps changing, the room feels more spacious. That has been the biggest magic trick of all. “The problem is NOT with mothers not being good enough, not doing enough or not juggling well enough. The problem is the way the ‘tank’ of patriarchal Motherhood has been constructed and the rules that are written on it.” Sophie Brock

When i started to see how i was internalizing patriarchal mothering, i was first surprised that i could succumb to this. As a feminist myself, i understood the mom shame and guilt i carried was not mine. It was not my mother’s hand-me-downs either but something i definitely inherited. So i did something about it. Little by little, i have been taking off these emperor’s clothes that never fit me, and instead putting on my favourite magical cloak of feminist mother.
It’s been a healing, messy, and reparative process. It’s like i’m learning new magic tricks, ones that have been hidden in the dusty books at the used bookstore.

For instance, I took my kid to her first music concert earlier this year. It was a pretty reparative experience for me. My own parents not only struggled to ask about my interests, let alone embrace and encourage them. My mom had a much better sense of what i liked than my dad, and yet there was no way i could ask them to take me to a concert or the event of last year, the Eras tour Taylor swift movie.

I don’t want to be my children’s friend. I want to honour the relationship we have. In fact, having a hierarchy is okay – more than okay. We are our children’s teachers and elder (or at least we should aspire to be). We are not equal. That doesn’t mean i can’t also be a part of my child’s life, and let them know that what happens to them matters to me; what matters to them matters to me as well.

When i was a new mom, i needed others with shared values and rhythms. A pregnant person needs others to protect us who are NOT in early parenthood too – it’s a circle of life after all. What i now understand is that we also need to not feel guilty when we enter a different stage of life. I will always be a mother but i don’t have to solely mother in my daily life.

Of course, i am still a mother and identify with my role of Mother. Now that my children are older, though, i get to find this balance of life everyone talks about like it’s a treasure.

Let us not take it for granted that we can heal our mother wounds and be cycle breakers. We can be the mother or parent our children need, and also be a mother to ourselves, our community, and be a voice for change. Being maternal is for any gender to access.

Let us birth a new way.

More than my Baby Daddy: Becoming Parents and Staying Together

Having a child is a life-altering portal for everyone, regardless of how you crossed the threshold. Since parenthood is a rite of passage, we become someone who never existed before. I used to cringe when i heard that giving birth to a baby meant that we too are newborn mothers and parents. Now i understand that a new version of me was indeed birthed when i evolved into motherhood.

This sea change also impacts the couple as they are also all-together new beings as co-parents.

Many couples have to find their way back to each other after becoming parents. This is a natural occurrence as it takes time to learn how to be in this new role as a parent. We need to sacrifice other parts of us so that we can integrate this new role into our life. The sacrifice is meant to be temporary. What makes it hard is that there is no map or guidance on how to come back to centre. We will never be who we were before as a childless couple. And yet, i think one thing that sets couples up for failure is the unrealistic expectation that they just ‘bounce back’ into their own way of being together. We assume that we just add a child to our life and it all goes back to the way it was.

Now that my own kids are older, i am starting to feel the integration of motherhood into the rest of who i am. More specifically, i am finding ways to balance my main roles, including the role of partner.

My partner and have been together for over 20 years, 15 of them as parents. These last few years have been some of our biggest growth years. We have come to know that our evolutions are mostly parallel journeys, if not always at the same place or pace. In my own relationship, we’re lucky that we are on similar aligned paths. I know this isn’t always true for many families.

It’s not lost on me that i may have an advantage as a therapist who specializes in life transitions and matrescence. I’m also a couples therapist and one of the main areas i specialize in is the transition of parenthood and how it impacts intimate relationships. I support others through areas i have lived experience in so i have been reflecting on what worked for us, i’ve come to see that we did some key things subconsciously.

I often get asked what my secret is to a lasting intimate relationship. It’s such a gift when others comment on witnessing my love with my partner. So i wanted to share some of the main takeaways that have helped me maintain and flourish in my partnership.

Human Development Stages
Growth and development isn’t just for kids. Our foot size may not be growing anymore, but that doesn’t mean we are done evolving as humans. The growth and maturation just happens in our psyche and emotional realms, or at least it should.

Becoming a parent is just one of the stages that fall into adulthood. It’s right up there with getting your first ‘real’ job, buying a home or signing a lease, finding chosen family and community, and paying taxes. Like all of these very adult tasks, becoming a parent isn’t just something that happens to our body and happens on weekends. It’s an all-encompassing sea change and is meant to turn us upside down.

We need to learn how to become something new. It’s not enough to assume a role, as that will not be enough to full integrate this rite of passage. When one of us takes on the task to learn more about becoming a parent, it serves both parents to benefit from this. And yet what happens more often is that the other parent falls into a default way of parenting as they were parented. This can lead to defensive when advice or information is shared. Knowing some of the key issues new parents face in their relationship is a great first step.

One of the most significant learnings i have benefited from in my own development is understanding Attachment Theory and attachment styles. We don’t have one stuck style, and we can absolutely heal an insecure one. This growth fits in well when we are setting intentions to mature into who we are not as an adult, versus getting stuck in our earlier versions and wounded former parts. Knowing how to heal your attachment style so you can have a reparative experience with your own child is a key component in embracing your developmental stage. This has been a huge healing edge for my own parenting journey.

Relationship Building
It is helpful to know what stage of a relationship you are in – not just how long you have been with your partner. Susan M. Campbell has a brilliant theory that highlights stages of building a deeper connection with your partner. These 5 stages of relationship building move any relationship through a process. While she first created it for intimate couples, i think this works for any relationship.

Romance is the first stage. It is when we are so excited by this new match, there are feelings of infatuation and limerance fostered by oxytocin. This is the honeymoon stage, and can last up to 6 to 9 months. After a few months of getting to know each other, Power Struggles start to show up. This marks the time of uncertainty. For many couples, this is the dance they start to cycle though. If the relationship is strong enough, the couple can progress to a stage of Stabilization.

A lot of relationships cycle through these first 3 stages. When a baby comes along, this is a great opportunity for the parents to make a Commitment to learn more skills about communication, conflict resolution, division of labour, and time to get rest. This next stage of relationship building is crucial to get to the ultimate stage of Co-Creation and Bliss. It is necessary to intentionally commit to the relationship again as a couple, and not just a level of understanding as co-parents.

If you want to know more about this theory of relationship building, i love how Jessica shared some insight about attachment styles as they impact the stages on her podcast HERE. Also this article does a wonderful job in reframing some of the stages – Initiation, Experimentation, Intensify, Integrate and Bond. I really appreciate this update as it lands for my own system with more ease.

Village Members
One thing that can help us feel more solid in our footing is to know that we are not alone in this newness. We may feel like a fawn just newly standing and being expected to run into this new life full steam ahead. And yet, while we have never done this before, many have.

This is where village comes in, and why it is so important in fact. I also know that finding this said village is so much harder than it should be, and even used to be. As social creatures, it is so helpful that we can have space to talk about what is coming up for you. I love being happily surprised when my situation is reflected in others i chat with. That could be connecting with a new friend in yoga class about motherhood, or another student about menstrual cycles, or maybe your cousin at the next family gathering. Being vulnerable is a wonderful alchemizing quality that lessens our assumed aloneness or shame.

Of course, having this community is not always possible: When you don’t have elders in your life, or the people you know that are parents are not your role models, it helps that we have other ways to create a village.

As a book lover, i always fall back on books as my main resource. There is something so comforting about knowing that a book was researched, written, approved and published tells me that i’m so not alone in this stage of life. Now, we also have social media (for better or worse, it’s like it’s own marriage). I also love podcasts and of course, a good blog!

Some of my favourite books on this specific topic are:
*Baby Bomb: A Relationship Survival Guide for New Parents by Kara Hoppe and Stan Tatkin
*To Have and to Hold: Motherhood, Marriage and the Modern Dilemma by Molly Millwood
*The Gottmans and their plethora of books and more here

House Meetings
I know this seems too much like a work meeting, but i promise having a meeting with your beloved about the business side of life can really uncouple all the work from the intimacy. If we are partnered or in a committed relationship when we become a new parent, it is important to have regular conversations with your partner. Talk about things like what is coming up for the week with social engagements and meetings or appointments. Share things you have learned about parenting, or ways to alleviate the mental load. Share resources, have a book club with 2 members!

Take time to create your shared values and needs list. As a place to start, this article shares some key ones. Many people in relationships are surprised to find that what they think is a shared core value is in fact not a shared priority with their beloved. It is the shared values and needs that keep us aligned on a paths in life. They can manifest in things like how housework is done, or when to book a date night. These are the ways to put needs and values into action.

Keep Things Intimate
I don’t mean to jump right back into bed after having a bed. At least, not unless it’s to have a real nap! But I do know that we still need to feel intimacy with our partners. A lot of us are touched out after having a child, especially in the case of the primary caregiver. And yet intimacy doesn’t always have to be more physical touch, but can be beautiful gestures and offerings that foster co-regulation and connection.

This helps us stay in each other’s orbit just enough so that when it does feel that time is aligned, it’s not as hard to jump past these blocks that were put up. And then we can come back to a more regular date night and routine.

In a recent blog article on Momwell, they talk about how different sex drives can impact a couple. This is even more intensified when a baby comes along AND the mental load is not balanced. I really appreciate how they name consent, timing, focus, and pleasure as key tenets of fostering a shift in our responsive sex drive.

It’s also important for the non-primary parent to remember the struggle for the one at home with a new baby is a struggle of duality – the dance of becoming a sexual woman and also a mother. These two archetypes or roles have been quite polarized. I talk more about this in a previous journal article – you can read it here.

I personally really love focusing on what seems like little things – rituals and routines, intentional dates that honour mutual delight, and connection bids that enhance attunement. These are the daily practices that have helped my partner and i through the darkest times as new parents. When we didn’t have energy, time, or resources for any significant date nights, we always had access to cuddles, appreciation and dinners by candlelight.

I want to end with a gentle reminder that all relationships take work and communication, as well as a focus on our Self. Even the great Esther Perel, a renowned couples and relationship therapist, has shared she wanted to leave her husband at times: “It isn’t so much that we leave the person we are with as we want to leave the person we have become.”

How to get Ready for the Fall: Stepping into Being a High School Mom

September is the second January, a time for new beginnings, and also the ending of things. One has to go with the other; one in fact necessitates the other. As Jessie Harrold puts it, “while you are becoming, you are also unbecoming.” This is the dance with grief, and not being afraid to notice it in the corners of your inner dance floor.

It can be as simple as the new season meaning the end of the previous one. Where i live, that means the end of Summer and a crash into Fall. I can’t help but notice that it’s not just leaves and ripe apples that fall to the ground, but us as well, when we are faced with the reality of this change. It does come all at once. So it can be dysregulating, or at least a bit jarring, so we need to slow down and brace for it.

For those of us with school-age kids, it means the end of a summer or seasonal break. However it looked and especially if it meant a bit of ease off the routine and time off for yourself from other responsibilities. If you love Summer like i do, it also means intentionally relishing every last drop of that watermelon, the warm lake water, the fluttering of butterflies.

Not all of us have children, and yet September does mean a fresh start, whether it is for our own work or school programs, or digging up our wee gardens and their bounty. It also means preparing for the cozy season of Autumn.

“I have done nothing all summer but wait for myself to be myself again.” ~ Georgia O’Keefe

I am faced with this reality of many new things at once – not just the rotation of Earth and a new season, but as a mom to teens, i now am officially a high school mom. This is a messy and pivotal practice of Radical Acceptance.

There i said it – i am a Mom of teens now. This is a new Rite of Passage of Matrescence. I was just starting to get comfortable with my role and identity as a school-age mom (and i guess i still am with an 11-year old). And yet, i am at this threshold, this sea change of not quite a high school mom, but no longer just a mom to young kids.

One thing i’m noticing is that I’m more familiar with this age because I remember my teen years more. Maybe that is what’s guiding me and also adding a bit of anticipatory worry to my body. My own teen years were not easy, and the start of high school was especially messy and jarring. So, now i need to create a Nurturing Shadow Part for my own Inner Teen who is very much present for me now. Thank-you Rachel Macy Stafford for this reframe!

When i’m faced with this crossroads, i’m using what i know about Rites of Passage to hold me. Typically, this passage is when we move from one stage of life to another. It is marked with ritual and ceremony. Or at least it is supposed to be. Our culture has lost its way in truly marking this transition. We might host gender reveal parties or proms, but that only acknowledges a part of the story. We need to honour all three stages, otherwise our leap into the new experience can feel untethered and overwhelming. And, if we stay stuck in grieving what was, we can spiral into a felt sense of suffering in our mourning. It becomes more than just the understandable period it is meant to be. We resist the inevitable – the only constant is change.

So, we need to honour the Separation from what we were. That can be in ceremony or ritual. We need to say goodbye. We also need to learn what we need to hold us in the Transition. A map, an elder, a book of common humanity. And we can’t forgo the right we have to be honoured in the Integration. A lot of us get lost in the first 2 steps that we either miss the integration of this new phase in our life, or we don’t become the butterfly at all.

I already had my graduation and experience, and yet it hurts all over again – because it wasn’t held in its fullness. My path on the journey into high school is long over. This is their story now, their growth. Their Graduation comes with honouring endings first. We can’t celebrate until we grieve and close what was, even if it wasn’t always good and roses.

All Endings come with Beginnings
We cannot just jump into this new phase of life, and take it for granted. We do need to grieve or at least say bye to what we are separating from. That’s one reason why i wanted to be a part of my kid’s graduation ceremony planning committee – to honour this transition for them, and to also ensure that ritual and ceremony was bought into it. So, i lead the students in some gentle ritual and ceremony. They have been together for 10 years and i felt this was important to be honoured. We tied string together to connect them, and they all shared kind words about each other. We danced, we sang, and we ate – all good party necessities.

We are both going through our own journey of life, in parallel moving forward direction. One thing i had to reckon with is that my path is a few cycles up the mountain. Whereas they are at the mere precipice of this Hereo’s Journey. That’s why i’m so grateful there are elders to guide us both, to offer a map and lightpost. One such reference is Bill Plotkin’s work on the Five Phases of the Descent to Soul. Our Soul Journey includes Preparation, Dissolution, Soul Encounter, Metamorphosis, Enactment. Knowing there is a map or process helps us feel less alone in the unknown version of our own personal story.

Rachael Maddox does a wonderful job explaining this model in terms of the entry into motherhood HERE. She calls it the Motherverse: the transition and integration of becoming someone entirely new, in this case a mother. In my own work with Kimberly Ann Johnson and the MotherCircle program, this concept is incorporated into the arc of transitioning into motherhood and integrating this identity into all of me.

Rites of passage don’t have to be reserved only for the major stages of life like graduating from university, marriage or childbirth. Any change from a stage in our life is a paradox of no longer being something and not quite being something entirely new yet. It is the fine balance of both/and AND ALSO neither/or. When we honour the initiatory process of transformation, it gives our Soul the gift of maturation.

When i come back to my core values as a mom, these are my guideposts – i may not be there to stop the hurt from happening, but a core value of mine is to be present to love and guide them in ways they need (rather than how i might have needed it). This reframe comes from my Inner Nurturer, the one who holds space for my Wounded Teen.

I am initiating myself into this stage of Motherhood and life. So, as life itself is a living ceremony, i thought it was the perfect time to get a tattoo. Ritual and ceremony are so important to me, and i was pondering how to mark this transition. My youngest kid declared ‘about time, Mom!’ when i told them. And, i do find it a fitting marker – not only am i now a teen mom, i am also entering a new stage in my own life maturation process. But i’m saving that for next month’s journal entry!

I am casting a vision of the future, or at least this first year of high school for my oldest kid. We don’t have to have it all figured out just yet – we are a mere 3 weeks into our chapter of high school. Knowing that there are stages to a Rite of Passage gives me grace – i literally have a grace period before either one of us “has to” integrate and accept this new identity.

When we know that it takes time to transition into something new, this gives us agency and also self-compassion to let the feelings of grief and separation linger. It’s when we get stuck in the grief that it can turn into suffering.

Unleash and Surrender. Healing the Mother Wound

I’ve been sharing here about the loss of my mom this past year. I haven’t really described more about my actual relationship with my mom, and one thing I’ve left out is how complicated and strained it has been over the years. That might be something i explain more in time. For now, what feels important to offer is that i speak about the Mother Wound from my own first-hand experience.

For so long, i saw her as the villain or cause of my own suffering. And while that may be true to a degree, it is more than that. She wasn’t my enemy: in fact, all she wanted was the best for me. My mom was a product of a time, like we all are. Her time of mothering was very different from mine, both individually and collectively. I always tell folks that i have a plethora of books; shelves full of life guides, human development texts, and suggestions on how to be a good parent. My mom didn’t have those books (and not because she didn’t like to read – she read more books in a month than anyone else), it’s because the books didn’t exist.

It’s only now that I’m starting to see her in a new light. One with more clarity, grace and understanding.
For instance, she moved across the world at the young age of 20. I always took that for granted. Mainly because she was always an adult to me. And yet she was just a baby adult herself coming across the ocean, with no shared language to help her. English was a language she learned only after arriving to the country i now call home.

And that became a big part of her messy transition into life in Canada and adulthood, and it shaped her experience. To now realize just how alone she was makes my heart break for her: To have to do that all without family and her own mother, and then to become a mother herself without access to hers. She came here for good reasons, and yet no one should face major rites of passage alone. In fact, there is research that shows when we do go through this alone, it can lead to psychosis. She had no direct models of what a mother is, or at least ones that were the role models she needed. She had to mother and live without a village herself.

I don’t know all her stories and now I never will. I do know that she mothered her siblings and never really had the childhood i took for granted myself. She never got to be a care-free teen, so when i wanted that for myself, it really pushed her limits. She had several miscarriages before and after me. These were losses that metabolized in her body, mind and soul. She was alone in this experience as well.

And so, she carried the mother wound in her. It was absorbed in me as the seed I was.

WHAT IS THE MOTHER WOUND?
There is already a lot of literature on the mother wound, so I don’t want to re-invent the wheel. Bethany Webster shares so much wisdom. care of my time is in fact another way I heal my mother wound: I am enough as i am, and i don’t have to prove that to anyone else. Instead, I want to focus on what can heal. I share my first-hand experience having done some work.

The mother wound is an archetypal paradox where those of us who are socialized as women are taught that our innate gift and role in the world is to be a mother*. Since it is assumed to be innate, we are not taught this. And then we fail: We either don’t mother in a way that is aligned with our children’s needs OR we martyr ourselves and lose our self. We are forced to believe we are not good enough either way.

*Anyone who is not a mother to children whether it’s challenges/ infertility or choice are also put into this paradox. It is not just about our own relationship with our mom, and we don’t have to be mothers. And it’s also important to note that not all caregivers who mother identify as mothers or women. And the Mother Wound can impact men.

So, in short, patriarchy and capitalism created this wound in us.

Let me be clear: It is not about blaming your own mom, and not all wounds look the same.

It is a paradox or dilemma of choosing ourselves over our children. We are never good enough. We live vicariously or we are selfish. We are not good enough as mothers if we fail and not worthy enough as humans if we don’t become mothers. In this prescribed motherhood, we continue this internalized sexism story that tells us our mother part is the most important part.

The mother wound is a part of a complex intergenerational cycle of trauma inherited from one generation to the next. Dr. Oscar Serrallach is a doctor who supports families. He wrote a whole book on postpartum depletion so I’m glad he describes the mother wound as “the pain and grief that grows in a woman as she tries to explore and understand her power and potential in a society that doesn’t make room for either, forcing her to internalize the dysfunctional coping mechanisms learned by previous generations of women.”

This belief leads to oppressive and impossible standards that expects us to:
*Constantly prioritize others’ needs, at the expense of our own
*Be the primary default caretaker of the household
*Sacrifice our own dreams in preference for what is best for the family
*Do it all well and appear at at ease and attractive or ‘ladylike’
*Relinquish our needs and burnout by focusing on our children – being tired means we are doing the work

This paradox teaches us that we will never be good enough. Since it comes from a patriarchal model of worth, these standards for women are not sustainable because we were meant for more, but the male leaders 400 years ago felt intimidated and feared the power women, midwives, witches, and holy women had.

My mother died and my wound is still healing, but i have done the work to know what i need. That’s why it’s not just my mom, and our patriarchal society continues to keep the wound ‘alive’ vs scarred over. So, the problem is not mothers not being good enough, or not juggling the mental load of life well, but rather who created this social construct and who benefits from it most.

Some rules are meant to be broken. Especially when the pain that is caused can metabolize in our bodies for generations.

THE IMPACT OF THE MOTHER WOUND
Ultimately, the impact of this type of wound can lead to deeply embedded limiting beliefs about ourselves. The wound can manifest in many ways, mainly connected to feelings of shame, comparison, and an ever-present sense of guilt for wanting something different than we have. We may also feel the need to make ourselves small in order to feel any love at all. Here are some that i have noticed in my own journey:

Abandonment issues
I became Parentified and adultified as a teen because my mom learned some devastating news that was too much for her to handle and hold alone. And yet, she felt like she had no one to turn to, to trust, other than me. As the first-born daughter myself, this was a lot for me to take on. And i didn’t know how to say no. I couldn’t say no because i was afraid of her anger, and also because i was afraid of losing her attention. It led me to start chasing love and approval in my relationships, especially intimate ones. I also learned that my own feelings were not nearly as important as hers, and my needs were secondary. I then learned to bottle them up and luckily found poetry and journal writing as a place to unpack them. Not all of us with emotionally immature parents are this lucky. Clearly, this informed my path to become a psychotherapist in a big way.

For many, abandonment issues like this lead to attachment wounds, low self esteem, codependence, being or feeling too needy. We become avoidant in our attachment, or at times disorganized because of the polarizing needs at play – to feel cared for and to not be able to trust

Healing Balm: If this speaks to you, track what you need and give yourself it. You don’t have to be the one that meets your needs all the time by yourself – be a steward of your needs, ask for them to be heard and see who can meet them. Healing takes time, just like our physical wounds. We need to keep taking care of them, so that they scab over. Ask for help and get a felt sense of receiving it when you do. That means really feeling into the experience of having needs met. Doing this work moved mountains for me. I learned that my needs are valid and not too much, and that being human means we have needs.

Attachment Wound
I have talked about Attachment Theory a lot here. To get a better sense of it, go to my previous articles HERE or HERE. These wounds stem from emotional ruptures or wounds that come from a breakdown in trust. For instance, sometimes your parent shows up (be it after school, at a dance recital, or a community event). Often times, they don’t. This inconsistency leads to ambivalence or anxiety in the child – will they be here or not?

When we are ambivalent about our attachments to caregivers, we seek their attention as a form of connection. Sometimes, that means we intentionally (though subconsciously) self-sabotage things because it leads to attention. This perpetual loop keeps us stuck in insecure attachments with others. We say yes to people please, and then sabotage the plan when we worry that the person will leave us in the dust. We do the harm first because it hurts US less.

Healing Balm: Find people in your life that are Competent Protectors. These are folks (real or imagined) who you feel safe with because they have your back, and nourish you. They communicate and connect with you consistently. By doing this, we can heal our insecure attachment style and gain what is known as “Earned” Secure Attachment. It is not earned because we are now worthy – we were already worthy – but rather it is a testament that our attachment style is not static and can change, and heal. I have done this with my own intimate partner, and also with friends. I have created a composite Inner Guide who is a Part i turn to when i need to feel loved and seen.

Adult Relationships and Guidance
In Mother Hunger by Kelly McDaniel, she describes 3 pillars that are necessary to feeling loved: Nurturance, Protection, and Guidance. These pillars continue into adulthood. At times, we may be faced with the jarring reality that our mothers were present and nurturing when we were children. It is as adults that we are finding ourselves alone.

Maybe your mom was a great mom when you were a kid and now doesn’t know how to care for you as an adult – we still need to be cared for and eldered. Our needs have evolved but that does not mean we need our caregivers any less. Adult children still need a wise elder to guide the way. We need guideposts to help shine the light. Our needs have evolved from the physical care of providing us with clothing and food. Now what is needed for survival are the emotional and spiritual sources of vitamins for growth. The need for guidance does not stop.

For many, there is a rude awakening when we notice that the mom we had as a child is not the same person as the adult we have a relationship with now. Of course, we need to also recognize that our parents have also evolved into new archetypal stages of life too. My mom was no longer in her Mother stage, but rather a Crone. So that means she wasn’t actively caring for anyone else. That doesn’t make the need any less important.

Healing Balm: Find an Elder and have a healing corrective emotional experience. We are surrounded by other adults but not necessarily elders. One thing that can help is to have a reparative relationship with someone in your life now. They can’t change what happened to you before (i wish) but they can give you what you need now. Maybe they can sit with you as you have your hard feelings. Or they tell you how proud they are of you. Or they can give you wisdom when you are in a liminal space. This creates new neural pathways in our brain, and ultimately act like a fuse that seals an old wound.

Legacy Burdens
Some of the things that your mom carries on her emotional backpack are not even hers. They are older than her too and she inherits them. We don’t just inherit our parents good genes and hand-me-downs. Their emotional baggage backpacks also get passed down via procedural learning and Limiting Beliefs. Maybe you are a perfectionist like your mom, or competitive, or have a high tolerance for poor treatment by others. Maybe you become rigid or too controlling as a protective mechanism. If that sounds familiar, these are things you learned by witnessing your parents displaying it for you. It’s like the broken statue that still holds centre stage on the dust-filled cabinet.

Maybe you don’t want to repeat your mom’s mistakes and also don’t feel like you can betray her. This is another paradox that is deeply connected to the mother wound. As Bethany points out “we don’t just bond with our moms but also her trauma and limiting beliefs.”

Healing Balm: Practice setting Boundaries. We need to stop repeating the ruptures that have been passed down. Maladaptive coping strategies and unhealthy conflict styles perpetuate this type of wound, so much so that they feel inherited in our DNA. In fact, it is learned and therefore can be unlearned. One great resource is Nedra Glover Tawwab’s book Drama Free: A Guide to Managing Unhealthy Family Relationships. Books like this are a testament that enough people have unhealthy and challenging relationships with their families, and that we deserve better.

Ancestral Trauma
Okay, this is a big one, and one that may feel daunting. It is not any less important. We can do this work in doable steps – to titrate the impact on us. Do you know that the egg that was first created in your grandmother? Think about that for a minute. Who was she, what time did she live in? What may have impacted her. This work is aligned with healing our Witch Wounds and legacy burdens. It’s important to share here because we are not that removed from the experiences of our ancestors. It an be the experience of war, poverty, enforced slavery, genocide.

Healing Balm: One way i do that is to first get to know the path that brought me here. Who were my ancestors, my foremothers? In Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book, she shares that we need to know who came before us. It’s not to hold them in reverence (especially if they sucked) but rather to honour them as the makers of the line that brought us into being. This has been a journey all on its own for me. I am intentionally learning more about my grandmothers and mother line. I learned the names of my great-grandmothers only recently. My mom talked about them before, but to be honest, i never truly listened. Knowing this information is healing: I am the daughter my ancestors needed. Now that i know that, it means i don’t have to agree with their choices but accept them for what they had to endure at the same time.

If this is hard for you, books like It Didn’t Start with You, or What Happened to You are great resources to help explain this legacy and concept of intergenerational trauma.

HOW TO START HEALING
We need to grieve for the mother or care we needed and didn’t get. Since grief is also something we are not literate about, this makes this healing work that much more challenging and necessary.

When we start tending to it, here are some things that heal: our sovereignty, our relationship to our body, Money literacy, the choice to have children and to parent with intention, and our relationship with Inner Child heals. There are many reasons to do this work, to actively address the wounds with loving care and attention. That ultimately heals our ancestral line, or internal parts (namely our Inner Child and Inner Critic), and it can shift the story of any future family we may have. Even if we do not become parents ourselves, as a community member in this world, our own healing has a domino effect on others.

Some of us may need to cut all ties with their mom, especially if they are toxic or continue to cause harm. Ultimately, we can’t expect others to change so even the individual work we do for ourselves can be just enough of a dose to create a ripple effect. There is alchemy in that.

Bethany Webster is at the forefront of leading this shift. She has been prolific in sharing her experience, by offering courses and community. From her, i learned of the 3 C’s concept to heal a mother wound trigger: Be calm compassionate curious to do something different now if you feel activated or stuck. For instance, let’s say you go home to see your parents. Your mom may try to show you that she loves you, but it is somewhat messy. It comes off as yet another judgement or critique. I find that learning new resources to address triggers to be very empowering. We may not always be able to challenge her directly, at times it may not be safe or productive. Instead, do something that helps you self-mother the part of you that is triggered.

*Be Calm as a foundation – learn ways to access your basic Universal needs to regulate your nervous system. What might you do that is self-soothing?
*Be Compassionate as a way of giving ourselves loving kindness, and honouring our needs
*Be Curious so that we can move forward with new options and capacity, having turned that wound into a scar

Ritual to Unleash and Surrender
I love rituals as they enhance a wish or intention. Let’s say you want to let go of an old limited belief, or maybe you want to commit to a new dream for yourself. What do you want to leave behind? One way to do this is to create a ceremony for yourself by bringing in the elements – Air, fire, water, and earth. This is a sacred way to either unleash yourself from a limiting belief or to surrender into a new way of being.

*Fire: Write a Dear John letter to an old internalized belief about yourself and burn it – cut that cord!
*Earth: Plant a seed (a real one) that symbolizes a new dream that is growing inside you
*Air: Scream into the air or whisper love notes to yourself when you tuck yourself into bed
*Water: Have a cleansing bath with essential oils and rose quartz – or lots of bubbles

Have you heard of Womb Healing Rituals? This is a beautiful way to tend to yourself. The practice helps you connect back to your own body and also release some emotional blockages and/or baggage. I love guided visualizations that lead me through a meditation. Here are two such ideas for inspiration if this speaks to you: Yoga for Womb Healing and a podcast episode from Herbal Womb.

Still wanting more inspiration and self-love?

I recently joined a new friend in an offering for Mother’s Day. It was called Unleash and Surrender: Healing your Mother Wound. We lead folks through some guided meditations, somatic and reiki exercises. Mostly, we shared space with others who also feel this wound in their life. Katelyn shares more about the Mother Wound on her website HERE. The replay is available if you want to give yourself a bit of self-love and mothering. The included playlist and journaling prompts are worth it alone.

When we combine the understanding of the Mother Wound and how it impacts us, that allows us room to do the work. This is the Unleashing. Only after this happens are we able to Surrender to this new version our ourselves, where our wounds have healed over and we are able to live a full life without being afraid of the scab breaking open again.

We do this for us, regardless if we are a mother or not. We deserve this.The Mother Wound is called that because the pain is something that continues into present day. So we need to heal it so that the wound can manifest into a scar.

My Lost Self

“What must I give more death to today, in order to generate more life? What do I know should die, but am hesitant to allow to do so? What must die in me in order for me to love? What not-beauty do I fear? Of what use is the power of the not-beautiful to me today? What should die today? What should live? What life am I afraid to give birth to? If not now, when?” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

This is the ending and a new beginning: a death and new version of me. This is the end of my life with a mother of my own. This is me entering a new phase of life self-mothering myself more intentionally.

A Rite of Passage has three distinct stages – separation, transition and integration. In the story of my loss, i went through the separation and then a transition time. Now, i am in a new stage now as I integrate and incorporate the loss of my mom into my life. I think i didn’t experience what others have access to, namely because my mom didn’t want a funeral. This rite of passage wasn’t marked and it wasn’t witnessed in the way that needs to be. These markings are for the grievers, as a path to help them be held in their grief, and to know it leads to something else. There needs to be another side to grief, a threshold as opposed a place that feels stuck in a web.

I’ve been finding my Lost Self again; This is some of the soul work i’ve been doing. It’s been an intentional practice of checking in with my soul self, and asking her what she needs. I think i lost her for a while, years ago. When Prairie posted a reel about this concept on Instagram, my soul jumped in excitement. It so desperately wanted me to notice this was what i too have been feeling.

We banish in ourselves what we want and then resent other people for doing just that. This resentment is connected to jealousy, not anger. It is a messy reminder of what we also have wanted for ourselves but are afraid to ask. What is it you want? I appreciate Brené Brown’s reframe on resentment: Instead of seeing resentment as a form of anger, it is more helpful and accurate to see it as something someone has they were wanting for ourself. And yet on the other side of it I think it’s also this balance of making sure I live my life more fully in a way that my mom never could.

When i became a mom, i went full steam ahead into that identity. I didn’t know another way to enter this new phase of life. I started to notice jealousy or even resentment towards other mom friends who had a more full life. It was only when i noticed this pattern come up that i realized it is because i wanted this for me as well. It’s been a journey back to me and all of me these last few years. It’s been an intentional practice of soul work, where i’m re-connecting with the various aspects of what makes us whole as humans. For many of us, it is our soul self that has been lost, or kept in the shadows. If this concept resonates with you, read this article to get a better sense of how to practice it for you.

One way i did this soul work was to sign up for events that speak to my soul. This helps me do the work deliberately, as an apprentice to it (a term i learned from Francis Weller). For instance, i recently attended a day workshop, a retreat for myself. It was absolutely the treat and reset I needed. With the name of it actually being TEND, I knew that I was in the right place. I joined a few other women who also can relate to this feeling of caring for so many others, that we also need to receive this tender, loving care. There was also a photo session experience, where i was able to fully embody parts of myself that i have lost, that have become lost along the way. It’s been a cathartic practise to sit with the photos, and see my FULL self reflected in them.

Another way to dive into finding myself again is to reflect on where my heart has taken me. Jessie Harrold shared her concept of “Rites of the Heart” again recently. While the term is not new, when i saw it on her instagram page last week, it really resonated with me. These are the (not so) little things we do for ourselves that are on our own, in private but are just a meaningful. It can be quitting a job and starting a private practice, it can be starting a garden in your new home, or deciding to embrace your new sense of style. They are the change of heart that comes with deepening into our soul’s calling. This shift then trickles down into our everyday life: I honour them with rituals like like a candle when i take a bath, or play a special song when i cook, make a cup of a special tea when i am feeling a need for a hug. I love this as it makes sacred the small things we do to give our soul vitamins, by making them rituals and intentions, instead of things we start to take for granted.

I have been really coming into my own with my sense of style. I have embraced (literally) the boho feminine goddess that has always been in me. This lost self is finally free and so happy to be. And, she’s been seen in the best possible ways. Last week, a friendly stranger complimented my outfit and shared she’s been an admirer of my style for some time. Not only was i touched, especially when she said she sees me and notices me – i am also now noticing that she voiced something i was missing with the loss of my mom: the admiration, the noticing of details, being a witness to how i adorn myself.

I don’t want to lose that. This doesn’t have to be a lost self.

I can incorporate (see what i did there???) ways to feel connected to my mom in my life now.

I have a mom still – her teachings and stories are within me. What i don’t have now is the active involvement, guidance and love from her moving forward. And i have so many questions for her that i didn’t get to ask – like how was menopause for her, or what are my great-grandmother’s names? And i wont’ be able to get her appreciation of my outfit, or share pride in our knitting. I won’t get to say i’m sorry to her when i’ll be in the throws of raising teens.

Ugh – i’m not sure how to be a mom without a mom; a mom to teens without my mom.

I have been reading a lot about this transition. Books are a way that i find anchor in a messy storm of life. They help me know i am not alone, and also act as a guide. One book that i just finished ways Rachel Macy Stafford’s latest gift Soul Shift: The Weary Human’s Guide to Getting Unstuck and Reclaiming your Path to Joy. In it, she breaks down into doable steps how to just do that – get unstuck and find your path to joy. I appreciate it has a step-by-step guide like a map. And yes, it includes the necessary involvement of soul work. THIS article does a great job in unpacking the book.

I also have been reading Women who Run with the Wolves for the third time. It’s my bible, really and truly. I read it every Sunday evening, and especially when i take a ritual bath. It’s the first time since becoming a mother, and also in this transition phase I’m in. One thing that’s been amazing isn’t that I’ve been really resonated with this book because I have, but actually the things that I underlined over 25 years ago that are still resonating now. And when i read it now, i have both the capacity and place in my life to make sense of the words and guidance the book shares.

Another lost self of mine is one that chooses pleasure and treating myself to things that i enjoy. My mom didn’t always model that. Recently, I saw a woman going to a movie. It looked like she was there by herself and yet she was there to enjoy a movie. This is something my mom never did. Outings were not something she prioritized, whether it’s watching movies or going out to restaurants on a regular basis, or having date night with her husband. She claimed it was because she didn’t need to or want to, but i never truly believed that. Mind you, she did other things that were more home-based like painting, reading, and watching shows. And yet I’m not sure if I’m seeing her through the lens of my life (where I feel like that is lonely) when in fact, maybe it’s exactly what she wanted, and she’s a homebody or introvert. I will never get to know this now.

A part of me wants to create a version that helps me feel better towards the life she had. And yet another part feels more sure that my mom was a product of patriarchal motherhood that idealizes martyrdom. She didn’t know how to live her own life without being on the periphery of her family’s. She didn’t know how to do it because most moms didn’t back then. And if they did have their own life, they were shamed and judged for it; or worse, banished by the other moms who couldn’t fathom that for themselves.

If you are feeling lost, you are not alone. Life is full of transition, curve balls, and changes of the heart. Each need to go through a process in order to be integrated into our life. That can be after a break-up, adapting to life again after the pandemic, or maybe you are in a messy change of heart with your career path. If any of these is the case, start with where you are at – find your presence in the here and now moment. Orient to your surroundings, ground into your body, and from this place ask yourself these questions: 1) What is your want right now? 2) What did your 8-year old self dream for you? 3) What makes your mind body soul smile and relax? These prompts may be just the right dose of inspiration. If not, maybe one of these articles can serve as a starting point.
* How to Find Yourself Again
* 7 Tips to Help Find You When You’re Feeling Lost
* My Dream for Women

“[T]o be ourselves causes us to be exiled by many others, and yet to comply with what others want causes us to be exiled from ourselves. It is a tormenting tension and it must be borne, but the choice is clear.” ~ Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes