Surrendering into That Kind of Mom

I want to be that mom. That mom that is always ready to have her kids’ gaggle of friends over on a whim or moment’s notice. That mom who has her kids and their friends come to her for support or guidance.

As my kids get older, i am starting to see just why i want to be that mom. It’s because i’m a therapist and am well versed in hard vulnerable conversations. The ones that need to happen and rarely don’t. It’s also because i so needed that in my own childhood. My mom couldn’t be that for me. She tried – she got the snacks ready, she hosted the sweetest birthday parties in my younger years. And yet, i couldn’t turn to her for the big stuff as i got older.

For one reason, it’s because she was faced with her own big stuff. I know this because she turned to ME for support and guidance, for solace and to grieve.

When my youngest kid’s friend recently had a period scare, i was that mom – that mom who was not only at the right place at the right time, but also that mom who they could come to in their embarrassing need for help.

And it was a few months later that i was told i made it to the Cool Mom Club. Did you know that was a thing? It’s not really. I made it up but i know that we all claim to not care about it. That we would rather be the kind or funny mom. I don’t want to be the (insert sport here) mom, or the chauffeur mom.

I do like the sound of the cool mom though.

It means i am someone who is safe to turn to for embarrassing stories, hushed secrets, for questions that are hard to ask but important to, and to feel less alone in this thing called life.

Recently, my cool mom status was put to a further test when i let my kids go on amusement park rides on New Year’s Eve. The test really came when i agreed to go ON a ride. You know the one, it’s where we go sideways and backwards really fast and lose all sense of gravity. My first mistake was thinking i was not only cool enough but young enough. My second mistake was picking the seat for pure colour (it was PURPLE) and not logistics like it spins more.

In the end, I did get off the ride when it was over. I also needed to take care of myself by sitting on the curb for quite a few moments to gather my bearings. It also meant that my family was able to care for me while i took one for the team. My daughter also was grateful to share the experience of this ride that took me by surprise in more ways than one.

“Always appear what you are, and you will not pass through existence without enjoying its genuine blessings, love and respect.” Mary Wollstonecraft

Now that my kids are not so little anymore, their pains and feelings are getting bigger. They are in fact very similar to ‘real life’ stuff like managing conflict with friends and peers, healing their own heartbreak, and figuring out who they are. Me eldest child is starting high school in the Fall, and is really thinking about who they are. My youngest kiddo is dealing with friend drama and is heartbroken with a recent full-blown conflict with people she thought were her best friends.

When i hold them in their pain at age 2 – and it’s about sharing their favourite toy – i can be there to hold them in the much bigger life lessons. I can’t stop the pain from happening but i can be there to hold them so they are less alone in the pain that has to metabolize and heal.

This is what i truly wanted and did not get as a child. I had a bully and mean girl drama in grade 6 that was very isolating and alone. I was alone in my suffering and i do not want that to be the experience for my own kids. My mom didn’t really know my friends as i got older, and my peer orientation became so separate from my life at home. I also have to track my own reactions so that i don’t transfer my scars unto my kiddos. What is mine is not theirs. Thank goddess for good books like THIS ONE that keep me on the right path.

I may not sing in key, but i also know a lot of the best and most current pop songs, even if they are sourced by Tiktok. By the way, while my status as a cool mom is valid, i am not that mom that will allow my 10-year old to be on Tiktok or have a phone. I’m still very much a cool AND feminist eyes-wide-open mom.

This recent experience also helped me anchor my word for the year, which is SURRENDER. I don’t see surrender as giving in but rather soften into trying something.
Surrender is not giving up. It is much more active than that. It is not passive, but rather permission giving. Surrender is sovereign. It is not giving my agency or power to someone else. Permission from within to myself.

It also means i do not have to do it alone. Surrender is a very intentional acceptance of softening, which allows for the gift of vulnerability of asking for help. It means reaching out at the same time as turning inward. So, it’s time for me to read the beautiful wisdom of Sil Reynolds’ book Mothering and Daughtering. She co-wrote it with her own daughter when she was a teen. I’m ready now to accept my new phase of motherhood is to teenagers – this is new terrain indeed. Just when i thought i knew what i was doing with school-age children, they are now blossoming into adolescence.

So, as all rites of passage remind me – this is the ebb and flow of life. It is the birth/death/rebirth cycle. Speaking of witch (ha ha!), this year, I plan to surrender to my witchy side, to the divine feminine in me, to the goddess. This is a part of me I have been keeping hidden and quiet. I’m ready to surrender to this calling. Surrender is spiritual and divine, it is acts of ritual and an all-in attitude of acceptance.

I’m also planning to offer something new in my work. So surrender is needed to take this next step, to stop resisting this dream. Stay tuned! Hint: I’m putting the final touches on a course for parenting after experiencing trauma!

Surrender is also needed to help guide me away from stuckness. It is about making peace with the messy parts of life. I hope it gives me space and new ways that are aligned with the me I have evolved into. Not the old me.

Each year, I find words that act as guideposts or lights for my main word. Besides the theme for each month, these words play a role in helping me make a decision. Some are seasonal and some are more regular visitors.

Let’s see how I will surrender myself into this.

I am Not My Mother, My Daughter is Not Me

“Until you make the unconscious conscious it will direct your life and you will call it fate” Carl Jung

I like a good podcast to keep me company. I don’t always like to listen to them when i walk home after work: I like to immerse myself in the walk and the quiet. And yet, i was pulled to have company on a few walks recently. So, podcasts were a great solution. And guess what, they gave me both company and pause.

For instance, on Glennon Doyle’s recent podcast episode on her wonderful program We Can Do Hard Things, she had Dr. Becky on a two-part episode. They talked about parenting in modern times and the struggle to be present parents. And yea! They talked about IFS.

There were some nuggets in there for sure. As an attachment-based trauma therapist, a lot of what she shared was not new to me. And yet the timing in my own life is pretty serendipitous.

Here are some quotes i got straight from the source:
– “It’s the child job to have feelings and it’s my job to guide them to be able to have a way to process through them”
– “I need to embody my authority and boundary AND honour my child feelings”
– “We can’t learn to regulate feelings you don’t allow yourself to have”
– “We react most to who and what provokes our earliest attachments”

So this felt really relevant to me. I definitely have witnessed and experienced for myself that we look to shutdown in others what was shutdown in us: It is just too much for us to bear. It’s partly because we are triggered by our children in areas that not finished in our story. What doesn’t get healed and integrated in ourself can manifest into anxiety. And as Dr. Becky reminds us “anxiety is a symptom of what you want to do right or new but it old wiring and need to update the circuits.”

Um…yup yup yup.

In my recent therapy session, my own therapist reminded me to track what is my story and what is about my daughter directly. This was not a new idea to me: I’ve been noticing that this ending and beginning interplay between us has been quite present over the years. I have learned to say to myself “what is mine and what is not mine.” It’s a way of helping me discern where my own story ends and my daughter’s may begin, especially if there is overlap.

Lately, there has been a lot of overlap.

Some of it goes further back and i am also noticing what my mom’s story was.

It’s important to have this distinction because it helps to know what is within my control and worth tending to. It also gives me some agency to know what is worth my energy or when i might be transferring my own needs and experience onto my daughter.

For instance, i shared last month how my daughter is again facing a year at school where she is separated from her friends. I know this is a common experience, and yet it angers me that it still continues to be so. I wish that more consideration went into what we know now about children’s self-esteem and attachment theory.

I know what it’s like to be alone, separated from friends and not having a felt sense of belonging. Having a community is essential to help us grow into more actualized adults. It also can help buffer us from further pain related to relationships. When we have a good foundation, it gives us a healthier perspective on relationships and life in general.

Let’s not forget we are social creatures, wired for connection.

My mom did not have a big community when i was growing up. She had a few friends and spoke to our neighbours. My parents came to Canada during a mass immigration, but before the diaspora due to the war in what was Yugoslavia. She didn’t belong to a community, even though she supported family to come after her. I saw her try – with exercise classes, Spanish lessons, and talking to other dance moms. She was shy and quiet, mainly due to feeling insecure about her strong accent and a deep distrust of sharing herself with others. So that meant that i didn’t really see her socialize and have friends. It was rare for her go out in the evenings with a friend. More rare, or in fact never happened, was a weekend event outside the home.

Now, as an adult, i am catching myself comparing myself to my mom. I see one of the hardest struggles she endured was loneliness and a deep aloneness in her experience. She turned to me to be her confidant and emotional support. Even at 15 years old, i knew my place was to hold other people’s needs. It’s no surprise that i chose to be a psychotherapist, holding space for other’s feelings and narratives.

In my personal life, I make an intentional point to make plans with friends. This is important modeling for my kids. I want them to see not just that i value community but that having a felt sense of belonging establishes a healthy self regard for ourselves. It is also tied to feeling joy and pleasure in our life. I am grateful for a dinner out with friends or being able to start hosting them again in my home.

And yet, these past few months have been more lonely and alone than i ever would have expected. And that comes on the heels of a pandemic, rather than at its peak most isolating period.

So, when my daughter learned that she was not in the same class as her friends, i couldn’t help but put myself in her shoes. We are the same size so i actually worry i put her in my shoes.

My trauma is not my daughter’s trauma
My mom’s needs are not mine

Relational and attachment wounds start in childhood, mainly due to an insecure attachment to a primary caregiver. They can also arise later in life, due to an unhealthy relationship with an intimate partner or toxic friendship. They are a type of trauma. Being separated from friends in school can be a “small t” trauma itself. We feel so alone in the classroom, it feels like noone has our back and it is us against the world.

Here is the distinction though: not all events lead to trauma. What may be impacted by one person as trauma, another person who experiences the same thing may not be traumatized. In The Body Keeps the Score, countless stories remind us of this truth. It is not just that they are more resilient, but rather they were not alone in their experience and had a space to unpack their feelings. Peter Levine shares that one reason that trauma gets stored in the body is because we are alone in experiencing it and no one was there to help hold the story for us.

In the book What Happened to You, the authors shared their concept of the Three E’s of Trauma: Event Experience Effect. All three need to be reviewed to get a sense if the person is experiencing trauma as a response to an event.

This knowledge of trauma healing work gives a better backdrop to a family’s trauma cycle: the generational experience and patterns that may lead to intergenerational trauma.

Did you know that the egg that made you was first embedded in your grandmother? So her life experience can carry into your own cells. This includes legacy burdens.

“Only with heightened coping skills will we be able to rise above our shell shock and be who we want to be. All of us have the capacity to do this, and when we do, we will increase our own happiness and be of greater service to those around us.” Mary Pipher, Reviving Ophelia
Break the Cycle
I’ve been thinking a lot about epigenetics and the impact of intergenerational trauma. I have been tracking what ages of my children have been harder for me, not just as their mom but also as it brings up triggers of my own experience. At times, it shows me the scars of my unresolved traumas are being cut open again.

There are some things are definitely mine: The pandemic, my own birth trauma, i left home at 16 and i am the only mother in my extended family who also works outside the home (to name a few examples). And there are other things that are in my mom’s backpack baggage: Driving is hard, dating as a wife and romance was not visible, she left home country at 20 and had no family support.

How do these very different experiences impact us? One way we are impacted by intergenerational trauma and attachment wounds is our self-esteem. We witness our mothers and how they care for and see themselves. That modelling gets passed down to us and we internalize how we think we need to think about ourselves.

Self-esteem is the internal understanding of our self-regard. It gets mixed in with confidence, but that is an externally based reflection, due to a focus on attributes, success and sought-after items. Take for example, my parents got me a car in high school. It helped me get to dance class and yet it was a hot commodity with my friends. My confidence was boosted by the popularity i received by owning my own car.

Our self-esteem is a lifelong journey. At times, it is tumultuous. Many of us were raised in an era where our self-esteem and worth were not at the forefront of parenting or child-related systems (i.e. school). Now we know better.

Girls’ self-esteem peaks at age 8. In an era of social media and technology, i can’t help but wonder if the age is even younger now. According to Richard Schwartz, who created Internal Family Systems, we are born with all our Parts. What changes their role is how our life is shaped between the ages of 0-11 years old.

My kids are 13 and 10. No pressure, mama.

I have not always caught what triggers me until after the fact. Case in point: my daughter’s room. I thought i’d be that mom that didn’t care about how messy a kid’s bedroom got. For a while, i would just brush off the impact. At other times, i would go in and clean it up. Now, i barely go in there – and let’s be clear, it’s almost impossible to step foot on the actual floor. But i have to be mindful of what i say here – i am not a fan public shaming. Rather, my point is noticing with surprise, the impact my daughter’s room has on me. I have learned it’s a trauma response for me that is still unhealed, that makes it hard for me to accept the state of her room. I was never allowed to have a messy room. I internalized that in order for me to feel safe and calm, i needed a tidy space with everything where it belongs. For the sake of my nervous system, this helped me feel safe when i felt like i walked on eggshells at home.

Does that make me a permissive mom? Maybe. It also makes me a conscious, respectful and regulated mom who accepts what i cannot change.

Gretchen Smeltzer wrote in her book, Journey Through Trauma “the feeling of safety is an outcome, not an input, and trauma work. You create a safe environment in mind body spirit emotions and relationships and then you practice taking safety in.”

We become our patterns especially when we are not aware of them. That is what gets repeated.

I had an out of body experience recently, looking at my life from the outside in. Going through my mom’s things had real hon me how similar I have become to her. I have been so dreading becoming my mother for years. Her unhappiness, her endless craft works in progress, her lack of community. And lately I feel like I became her subconsciously, without realizing it. I noted that I don’t have to repeat what had been broken.

Coming out of the woods and back on our path is like healing from trauma. It is a hero’s journey – what we do with our life after healing trauma. Judith Herman’s theory of the 3 stages of trauma therapy really unpacks this process well. They mirror the journey of the hero, finally getting to integration.

Trauma is not just what happens to us, it’s what was taken from us because the trauma got in the way of our development. It’s also not having the support and resources we need to heal.

Trauma is a nervous system wound, and it is also a heart wound. “The ways it shapes and takes and changes us could be nothing less than heartbreak.” Syanna Wand. So it is also grief work – grief of what could have been, and was taken from us and can never be.

Trauma resolution is moving from a trauma vortex that’s designed to protect us from further harm to a more embodied place of pleasure and living life with full expression

Healing takes time and new wounds can happen, as new traumas can be had. What shifts is the dual awareness of what we need now, and what no longer is stored in us as a trauma vortex, but a more healed one.

So this is where I sit now – being able to notice where my story ends and my kids’ begin. It’s a way of stopping the intergenerational trauma from continuing on.

No pressure, mama.

The Ever-Changing Growth and Development of Children

My daughter’s class is about to start their lesson on puberty at school. I know this because she told me and the teacher sent a heads up letter. So I was able to look through the curriculum and appreciate some of the topics. It covers themes from anger management and stress reduction tools, healthy relationships and learning more about how the body works.

This info is not new to her. At 10, she already knows about puberty, menstruation and how her body will change soon. Her body is already changing – she has small breast buds, tiny new armpits hairs, and a new awareness about herself. We’ve had some great chats at home about the body and how it works. Both of my kids know what menstruation is, and what i use when i bleed each month. We have talked in child-friendly ways about abortion. Read this old journal article to get a sense of this. We use the ‘proper’ terms for all the body parts. And now we are entering that territory where it’s not just theory and information but actual embodied understanding of it.

My son is on the cusp of puberty. He’s grown in all directions this year, and his body is changing before my eyes. I have never been a 12-year old boy and yet i know I’m the adult in his life who will talk about this the most. Sure his dad will play a key part (especially about wet dreams and how to take care of his penis), and i know we will have talks about relationships.

Because we already do. Because this is an example of how I work as an matricentric feminist. Motherhood is a Hero’s Journey. It is a shapeshifting alchemy that forever changes us, hopefully for the better. But the change it gives us is inevitable. This beautiful book by Lisa Marchiano has been keeping me company these past several months. In it, she shares fables and stories of the sea change impact of motherhood on her clients and herself. She also uses the analogies of old traditional fables to help us see that this is a universal journey.

It’s going to me who shapes his understanding about how to be a good friend and partner, and how to be comfortable in his body and find was to access pleasure. Not because i’m a mom and woman and this typically falls on us to do, but because this is a big part of my work and life’s mission.

My passion is to help others attune to their body and embody their pleasure, from an embodied place.

I can’t wait to have my daughter talk about this more fully as well. I was 9 years old when i got my period for the first time. It was the summer before grade 5 and i had no idea what it was. I thought i hurt myself outside while playing in the backyard. In grade 6, there were a couple of girls who had it and we were already started to form mini breasts. I have known most of my life the power (aka attention) i get for my breasts alone. For many years, it felt more like an alien invasion.

Now that my daughter is 10, she’s older than when I first started my menstrual experience. We can’t wait to celebrate the transition into puberty. She told me how she and her friends were talking about being embarrassed about this transition and I heard her tell them that she knows I will be honouring it with a rite of passage celebration.

It’s important to tell our children about this important step in their journey in life. For me, this especially honours the journey towards womanhood. So we need to tell them your war stories around bleeding through your pants and explain the changes that happen in the body. We need to prepare them and also be there for those stories of their own.

I now feel connected and proud of my body as i have journeyed to a place where i am aligned with my feminine side and connected to it. For many years, the feminist in me went through many iterations – i was unsure what kind of feminist i was, and mainly how i dressed to showcase this identity.

One thing we’ve done as a family is normalize this as much as anything else in their lives. We have books and regular conversations. We watch shows and have a great dinner time conversations. This is a work in progress and i wholeheartedly believe that we do not have just one talk about ‘the birds and the bees.’ Rather we have several over time, and again and again as our kids get older and can take in more.

Speaking of books, here are some that I have found to be really great and wish they were around when I was experiencing this transformation. My kids keep some right beside their bed. And i have totally caught them reading them. In a good way, of course, not in a shaming way. That is so important to me. The puberty books i knew of as a kid were hidden away, and i could never ask my mom to read them.

*Sex is a Funny Word – i can’t wait to read the newest one by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smythe!
*Celebrate Your Body and It’s Changed: The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls
*It’s Perfectly Normal
*Puberty is Gross but also Really Awesome

I was already planning to write this article. Now i had to finish it. The timing of it is magical: Now the States have decided to possibly not allow abortion. These are conversations I’ve had with my children. In fact I also spoke to my son last week how I felt about this decision. He heard it and we had a pretty inspired conversation about it.

Learning about puberty, sex and body autonomy is so important. We cannot let anyone in power dictate what is true and real about our bodies, and what it is our right. My kids may be a bit embarrassed and yet they still come to tell me. That is the path i wanted to create for them.

The Serpent and the Butterfly: Shedding the Skin that No Longer Serves

When i was contemplating my decision to have children many moons ago, i had to ask myself some hard questions. What kind of mother did i want to be? Did i want to be a mother? Who would be part of my village as a support to me? What work did i have to do first in order to show up as a mother? Did i feel aligned with the label of Mother, and how would parenting change me?

In order to help me grapple with these questions, i looked at my models of motherhood. I reflected on these relationships to help me get a sense of this role. My own mother was very invested in her identity as a mother. She made sacrifices as a woman, a newcomer to Canada, in order to be as present and active as a mom. She took my sister and i to every dance, music and swim class. She sat in the lobbies and waited for us. She showed up and was always around. Of course, she had a life outside of us but i didn’t really see it, nor ask her. It was assumed that she was solely, or at least mainly, mom.

I looked at other mothers – my friends’ moms, my dance teacher, TV characters – all mainly showed that mothers martyred themselves for their children even when they balanced this role with other parts of their life.

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.” ~ragneesh

In the end, i knew that i wanted to include children in my own life, and yet i also knew that remaining a therapist was important to me too. I further knew that keeping parts of me active was imperative in my transition into motherhood, and coming out of the other side of it. While i appreciated the sacrifices mothers made at the time, i knew we deserved better ourselves.

And yet all the good books on becoming mothers and having children were more about how to feed and clothe babies, instead of helping us with this major rite of passage we experience. Patriarchy still enforces, and not so subtly at times, that women’s role is to raise children: That it’s an inherent knowing versus a learning-as-we go imperfect model. We are told to bounce back to who we were before, or at least our bodies are supposed to.
We are not meant to bounce back. We are not the same as before. We are not yo-yos or slinky toys. We may be better or not but we are clearly changed. We all die these little deaths in our lifetime, because we are supposed to.

When it came to this massive shedding of skin and reckoning, mothers are still coming out of the goo of chrysalids on their own. While we are creating a new skin, the idea of being more than a mom is still kept in the shadows.

Now, 12 years into parenthood, i have a better sense of the mother i want to be. I also know that we cannot make this transformation alone. Luckily, there are more books, resources, and communities that speak about this openly and directly.

The death of former me is now my chance to rebirth a new version of myself. This is the snakeskin transition. And yet, we are not given time or permission to grieve the old version of us. We are supposed to jump all in and celebrate motherhood wholeheartedly. We arn’t supposed to regret it, and if you do…good luck.

We need to grieve for the person who we were or hoped to become, and also take from her what we want to continue holding. This is alchemy in human-form. Alchemists work to completely change (or devour) what was in order to become something new and stronger. It is meant to be a cyclical process.

I participated in a powerful workshop over the summer, where Kimberly Ann Johnson had Deborah Quibell as a guest. She is a Depth Psychologist who focuses on Matrilineal Reconstruction through the lens of Jungian Archetype work. I know that’s a mouthful and yet it really shows a light on this identity shift.

The pervasive and traditional paradigm of what makes a mother is based on these roles: nurturer, protector, empowerer and initiator. Phillip Moffitt speaks further about these functions in this amazing article by Bethany Webster. And yet, i also think that the Mother Archetype is deeper than that – she is the creator of life, of manifesting into being what was not there. This could be a child, but also creating art, a new job, or a garden. So much emphasis is put on the work of nurturer, protector, and empowerer that it seems to be disregarded that we also initiate, or create.

What we also create is a new version of ourself – our former version is now dead and we have been reborn as in this new archetype, identity, or role. So it’s important to ask yourself “where am I now? What is my transition now? WHO am i now?”

Jung spoke a lot about archetypes and the different processes of transformation. The process helps us contain and right us in our story. As a Cycle, it holds me with some parameters for safety. And yet, people going through this major metamorphosis of parenthood are not reminded of this shift overtly. This sea change has fallen to the shadows.

So, it’s important to revisit these archetypes, as a way of normalizing this magical identity crisis. This is where Empowerment comes – i cannot empower anyone else, that work comes from within and is embodied.

Some of us are not mothers by birth nor have children to care for. And yet, the Mother archetype is more than raising children directly. The concept of “Mother” archetype is when you are in the “full bloom phase of your life, where you step into maturity and claim your inner power. It is about losing the charge of the child (or “maiden”), answering your soul’s inner calls, tending to your own inner wounds from a place of maturity—so that you can answer the convictions and calls of the world that is in such desperate need of mature feminine, Mother energy.” If you want to learn more about this, check out Sarah Durham Wilson of Motherspirit – her work is transformative.

The Mother archetype is for anyone, including those of us who is not a physical mother —it’s one thing to be a mother and another thing to be in the Mother phase of life.

Marion Woodman was a Jungian analyst who focused on this body of research. “The woman who is a virgin, one in herself, does what she does not for power or out of the desire to please, but because what she does is true.” This article dives deep into her work, as she believed the archetypal rite of passage was maiden-mother-virgin-crone I kind of love that she tried to reclaim the word ‘virgin’ to better reflect someone who is

There’s a beautiful word called matrescence that speaks to this messy transition and change in role and identity. Only after becoming a mother of two did i see i wasn’t prepared for the grief and loss of my life beforehand. When I realized this rite of passage needs to be messy and then integrated, it allowed me more self-compassion, acceptance and autonomy with this new role. Not all of us who are maternal are mothers and not all of us identify as mothers, and yet it’s such an age-old expectation. So having time to grieve is a empowering way of holding on to our full range of feelings. Having space to share these thoughts is itself a wonderful way of finding community when we feel so invisible.

All change takes time to integrate. The transition into motherhood takes up to 2 years. It’s a messy process, not unlike a butterfly coming from the goo of a chrysalis. Jessie Harrold speaks about this a lot and i love that she also refers to this messy transition as goo. In this article, she shares more about this change of rites of the heart.

“What the caterpillar sees is the end the rest of the world has not met as the butterfly”. ~Lao Tzu

Rites of Passage have three phases: separation, liminality, and incorporation (integration), as van Gennep describes: “I propose to call the rites of separation from a previous world, preliminal rites, those executed during the transitional stage liminal (or threshold) rites, and the ceremonies of incorporation into the new world postliminal rites.”

Here is a summary of the three stages of transformation:
1) Nigredo – Separation or Death
Here, we are reminded that we need the dark soil to give us nutrients. The shadow is not a bad or dark place, but a necessary reflection of richness in the dark. It is a passage, and opening. So, similar to the chrysalid, we need to take this time to retreat inward and reflect on our journey thus far, be in the moment, and breathe

If we think of a garden, it needs the dark soil to give nutrients and the shadow to let it grow. There is Richness in the dark. That is why we now hear the phrase “dark night of the soul’ as a passage: When we recognize this as a necessity to move through, it’s easier to do so.

If you are in this Phase, take some time to 1) Meditate on softness, breathe fully 2) retreat inward or in nature, 3) be still and settle in. Drop down, just like the model of a garden dropping its roots in the underworld 4) find images that are peaceful in the darkness 5) light candles to honour the shadows

This process creates a fight within us. When we break apart, that’s when we see the light. So we need the darkness to help us and guide us where to go

2) Albedo – Liminal (neutral) Space Between
This is a time that brings some clarity. We start to wash away impurities or inconsistencies. This is a marked change in attitude and deeper meaning to the process of change. So, it’s important to not rush and declare suffering is over. There is still some fragility and vulnerability in this new version of you – again, i see a young seedling that is trying to survive an early Spring storm.

The people in your life may expect more of you than you can give. They might try to put their thoughts on you. So instead, honour the quiet moment for its simple, innocent beauty. Embody a felt sense of joy and relief to come out of darkness. Ask who has come, and what does it need? Get close to suffering and sift it to find the gold.

It is still early to explain this to others as you are still tender here. What is the conversation you want now? You haven’t truly integrated yet – this is the liminal space that is messy and tender. You may still be bracing in case you may suffer again. As Deboarah put it, “it is Daybreak but not sunrise quite yet”

A ritual here could be to light a candle and then say out loud what you want to bring out of the shadows. Bringing the Shadow into the light with curiosity, self-love or compassion. The more we can embody our feelings, we are able to bring into the forefront our shadow. Movement and dance are key. Breathwork and posture helps too.

3) Rubedo – Integration and New Beginnning
This is the time of reckoning, of integration into a fully initiated and incorporated Self. It is when we are bursting in our new bloom and bounty. There is a warmth and light of consciousness, and yet there may be still a slight inner conflict as a part still wants the old, the new is still raw. This is when the butterfly sines in the light, or a new flower blossoms in all her glory.

We need to embody this new place in order to integrate it into our other parts. Some Parts have died. Others are new and don’t feel integrated or seamless yet.

So, ask yourself questions: Who am I now? What came out of this change? What do I need to bring to the world? How to bring out the story into that world. This is where the warmth and glow starts to happen – the gift of my transformation.

Don’t ignore this new self who worked so hard to appear and be heard.

One activity I love to do as a way to honour this phase and completion is to make an artifact or anchor. First, do a mindfulness exercise to see where you can locate that sensation in your body now. If it had a colour what would it be, a shape, a smell or temperature? Create the item in clay, paint it, collage, or write a poem about it.

Why am i going into detail about this? For one, it’s because a big part of my work is supporting people with their transition into parenthood as well as the metamorphosis that happens as they incorporate all their Parts back together. For another reason, i see so many of us still stuck in the role of mother, and they haven’t yet crossed the threshold into a fully initiated being. So many of us get stuck in Stage 2 – the liminal space of the role of mother superseding all else. We deserve better. Patriarchy wants us to stay in this place. It needs us to still identify more as a mother or in the Mother Nurturer realm. Patriarchy is afraid of our power and wisdom, that comes with a deeper connection to feminine energy. Patriarchy needs us to be stuck in our role as mothers, and doesn’t value us as more than that.

I have been grateful to witness this Collective emergence, both from the pandemic and reclaiming sacred feminine power/energy. There has been a re-wilding of our feminine energies, our sexual root energies that connect excitement and pleasure mixed with nurturance and creativity of mother. This excites me as i know I’m not alone in this calling to be more than a mom, to be a fully initiated woman.

For too long, the Divine Feminine and Mother archetypes have been hidden by their shadow parts. They have been deemed as less than, as secondary. This has led women to internalize shame about their worthiness and sovereignty. There has been a reckoning in becoming comfortable with the unknown, be wild and be with people who are okay with this.

As Sarah of Motherspirit reminds us “until a woman descends into herself..her own worth, purpose and voice, She will be seeking these treasures outside of herself for a lifetime, and no one will be served.She will remain a child begging for permission to trust herself, to feel her feelings, to take the healthy risks to bloom.”

Recognizing those archetypes in us helps us know ourselves more fully and that can lead us to being more intimate with ourselves and authentic. Having stories like these help us see the larger story of humanity and not just our own personal experience. It allows space to play with this new capacity of being a person who creates life (or art, or gardens) as well as the one who gives it vitality and energy to thrive. This is that fine balance shedding skin that no longer fits and coming out as a more full version of you.

Two Sides of the Same Coin: The Journey to Embracing Myself as a Sexual Mother

These past couple of years, i’ve been diving deeper in the parts of me that make me whole. It’s been a very intentional journey of getting to know what is important to me, and what has been missing. As i have found a way to integrate the mother role into the rest of me, i have now put all the other pieces back together. This is how matrescence is a journey of re-entry. The metamorphosis of who i have become is based on what i have been already, and than a new version of me arises.

I’m a big fan of the Wheel of Life resource. It is typically used by life coaches to help people make goals for their life, and to see where it is imbalanced. A few years ago, i did this exercise for myself. I use it further as a feminist therapy tool to see where the burn-out may be happening, and if there are parts of our life that we are living for external reasons or expectations.

I also like this way of looking at 6 parts of our Self – Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, Social, Intellectual, and Environmental. It was through this process that i started to see that my Sexual Self was not listed as its own (and well deserving) category. Is it physical, emotional, social or dare i say, spiritual?

I realized it’s important to add a couple of parts of self to this configuration. For me that includes my sexual self, my inner child, and my inner goddess. It also includes my healer, wise woman and warrior. While these may be more archetypes that make me whole, i value them as the parts of me that are steeped in my values, dreams and full essence.

It can’t be an oversight that these various self-help tools and resources don’t intentionally include a category for Sexuality. It’s typically assumed in the relationship category. So what happens if there is no other person to be intimate with? Really, i think we can look back over the centuries and see how our sexuality was always pushed to the shadows. This is especially true for women and mothers even more so. Back in the days of yore, religion and white colonialism ruled over all other parts. Since i’m not a historian, i’m going to skip ahead to how this impacts us now – our spiritual selves are still what is pure and right, and our sexual self is dirty and unholy.

This is where the dichotomy of mother/whore comes in – virginal maiden and mother are seen as wholesome, safe and acceptable. Whore and crone are pushed to the shadows. One is too sexual and the other is seen as unworthy. Yet we need them all in order to live a full life.

Gender roles and sexuality was put into binary lines. Anything that was deemed women’s work was soft, gentle, nurturing, and in the home. A major part of women’s role was to bear children and raise them. It was then that sexual acts were deemed valuable only for reproductive rights, and not for pleasure or connection between the partners.

Research is now showing us now that our brain’s nervous system is designed to include a social engagement system for attachment, connection and safety. While we have made so many gains to reclaim sexuality for pleasure and joy, as well as for connection, there is still so much more collective healing we need to go through. First, i think it helps to look at the benefits of feminine sexuality and energy.

The benefits of reclaiming our sexual self? What’s that, you wonder? For me it’s access to pleasure, attunement to self, and seeing it is a superpower for energy and a life force in and of itself. And yet, reclaiming sexuality takes time, steps and a commitment to do the messy work of unpacking age-old embedded stories. It also takes resilience to do something defiant and subversive.

Most of us have been taught about sex in school, and a very basic overview by our parents, if we were lucky. One way to heal and integrate this part of our Self is to heal our family of origin’s repressed view of sexuality. As women, we are socialized to be modest. So instead, let’s reckon with our desires, body image, internalized shame; this is built from a false idea that our sensuality belongs in our shadow.

Part One: Reclaiming My Sexual Self
Before we can integrate our sexuality into our motherhood, we need to reclaim it in our womanness. Here are some ways i have found this reckoning, and this reclamation of my divine sexuality. It is our birthright after all. As you choose to journey to rediscover yours, think of what your sexual story is. What is the word that honours it? Be mindful that you will need to push past the discomfort to get to a better end. The history of your sexual self is important to acknowledge, as is the future of your reclaimed pleasure.

1) Know your Body and Nervous System
We have been taught only part of the story regarding female arousal, desire, and our reproductive system. It was only when i was trying to get pregnant for the first time that i truly learned more about my anatomy and how it all works. When we know our Nervous System response, we then don’t replay the stuck circuit.

Fo instance, it takes 30 minutes to get blood to engorge the vulva. We are not fully aroused during foreplay, and we can arouse over the course of a day, just by thinking or fantasizing. This helps us get to arousal so it’s important to know what turns you on. And yet most heteronormative monogamist couples centre the man’s orgasm as evidence of successful sex.

Foreplay isn’t just the step-by-step guide that happens moments before sex. It is also the acts of attention and care in the day. It really is the emotional and mental offerings that give us self-permission to relax in pleasure. Women today more than ever are taught to only do self-care acts after getting all the to-do items done. We literally can’t relax if the kitchen is a mess, or the bedroom is not conducive as a boudoir. And if you are a parent, well… Anyone who has been a mother to young children knows the feeling of being touched out. Even if the rational part of the brain can see that partner touch is different than a child’s need, it is hard to disentangle the exhaustion on our body.

For those of us that experienced sexual assault, whatever that looked like, it can be hard to feel safe when aroused. So it’s crucial to find ways to reclaim that felt sense of safety. Learn how the nervous system kicks in with a fight/flight/fawn/freeze response. Learn where the trauma is stored in your body. Find ways to tend to the emotional, physical spiritual parts of you. One way to do so is to remind your brain that you survived: “That was then, this is now”. And this healing takes time.

Self-pleasure is a wonderful way to reconnect with your body, to learn how to attune what you like. Learn more about vagina mapping, sensate focus exercise and mindfulness to get some hands-on awareness. This will help get to a deeper sense of safety. Breath work is also a major component of access pleasure and presence in the sexual realm. Practice vulva breathing by placing your hand on your vulva and simply breathing mindfully. Have a yoni steam – controversial i know, and yet it can be just what you vag has always wanted. Give it the same care and attention you give your face, teeth or hair. Oxytocin, or the love hormone, can work wonders to help access pleasure and desire.

2) Consent Consent Consent!
Learn more about the dance between consent and approval. Betty Martin has a great resource called the Wheel of Consent. In her new book, she dives deep in explaining how to practice giving and receiving pleasure, and sees how consent ins pivotal in both receiving pleasure and giving it.

Planning a date night ahead of time, even when you don’t leave your home, also helps with informed consent. The date is agreed upon, and it can be helpful to explicitly put sex on the table (literally or not, wink!). It is also a chance to track how you feel about the upcoming date, and to plan accordingly.

There are 6 Pillars to Sexual Health and consent is the #1 pillar, for good reason. That’s why it’s so important for couples (whoever and how many they are) to explicitly discuss their needs, desires, worries, and fears. We also need to bear witness to past experiences of sexual behaviour, especially of one partner has a history of sexual violence. As we know that 1 in 4 women (cis, trans or non-binary folx) experience sexual assault in their lifetime, it is crucial to learn how to be a trauma-informed partner.

3) Core Erotic Theme
Once we have a felt sense of knowing what our body feels when safe, we have more capacity to tend to the desire that lives there. Female desire has been stigmatized in such a way that it is hard at times to honour the eroticism that hides even further in the shadows. So, it’s time to bring your sexy self out of the shadows. Spend some time thinking back to old fantasies. Maybe you have favourite not-to-be-talked-about scenes from books or movies. Maybe there is an old scene that you have always wanted to create. Spend some time with a journal and pen, putting these themes to paper. What might be the core fantasy theme. What is sexy to you? Is it that you want to dress sexy? Maybe it’s that you want to be kissed all over, and have your toes sucked. Or having sex in a shower turns you on. Once you have your core theme, then see how you can ask yourself to start putting it into practice. If you’re not partnered, don’t worry – you can still get your sexy on! If you want to know more about finding your core fantasy, adrienne maree brown speaks about it in her book Pleasure Activism or this article here.

Maybe for you, nature is sexy. Nature’s elemental life force definitely is sexy and invigorating. How can you bring more nature into your theme? How about setting up your space for fresh greenery, candles, or a photo of your favourite place.

If finding a core theme is tricky, how about doing an experiment to find what your sexy is? Can you let down your guard a bit? Try being vulnerable – there is courage there! And, definitely try to turn off the inner judgment, move into it, and move through feelings to get them out.

Activate your senses by taking some time this week to put on sexy:
*Sight: Clothes, makeup, visualization, show to watch
*Sound: music, listen to a story, read erotica
*Smells: Lotion, candles, incense
*Touch: texture, skin, massage, water
*Taste: what spices, foods, or treats stimulate your desire

“The way to maintain one’s connection to the wild is to ask yourself what it is that you want. This is the sorting of the seed from the dirt.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estes

4) Daily Pleasure Acts
It is hard to know what brings us pleasure with lovers when this feels foreign in our own body or daily life. Pleasure shouldn’t just be about sexual or erotic practices, but daily ways to feel joy in our body. For me, dance, the sense of smell, and being creative with paints and clay are ways i access pleasure. Maybe you can channel Georgia O’Keefe, and paint some erotic flower scenes. Just take a look, a real look, at the painting in this article!

Have a pleasure practice – be it meditation, stroking your body, lotion, masturbation, yin yoga practise, connecting with senses, flower bouquets, anchor smells, being present, candle in the bath. What can you do to make the thing you are doing 5% more enjoyable? Ann Nguyen created this concept of making an event or activity 5 % more pleasurable. This helps to build capacity to enjoy the day more. This increases pleasure IN the bedroom as well.

I also love the idea of working on ways to surrender. I don’t mean to give up, or to be passive, but rather to build up the pleasure muscle: we need to do it mindfully and with exquisite risk. Think of the words of pleasure, alive, vibrant, abundance or ecstasy. These words may be challenging for you. How about Primal – do you need to go to this deeper place, can you dive in? Or how about dipping your toes in that? Our depth of eroticism is tied to self-expression, as well as that energy and full essence i alluded to earlier.

Part Two: The Sexual Part of You and the Mother You are Can Co-exist

Okay, so with those first few tips you now have a good foundation to re-connect with your sexual self. To take it that step further and feel sensual after becoming a mom, we need to claim space for your Self. This is more than just getting regulated and rest. It is deeper because it means intentionally visiting the other parts of ourselves – remember that Wheel of Life resource?

So, how do we do this? It can start by seeing yourself in your body. You may have brought your child into the world (by birth or not), and you existed before them. One simple way to acknowledge this is the voice practice of claiming your body in a moment. For instance, you may want to stand or sit in front of a mirror – and yes mirror work is a vessel for this work. Look at your self (your eyes, mouth, neck, or anywhere that feels safe enough. Then, place a hand there and say “This is my body.” “This is me.” “This is my cheek, these are my lips.” Hold the pose. Breathe into it. Take a moment to notice it.

We can access pleasure with grounding exercises like this. This can be triggering for some of us, so track your breath. Take time away from your kids. Masturbate. Feel the water on your body when you next take a bath. Eat juicy watermelon mindfully. Walk barefoot on some grass.

5) Who’s Your Role Model?
What is your sexual legacy? How you tend to yourself, and take care of yourself builds on this legacy. Who were your actual role models and how did they receive pleasure? This gets stored in our body and psyche. Is there a character from a story that you loved? Is there a person you know (IRL or not) that you can channel. What do you want to continue on you family line, or not?

One other way i have reclaimed my sexual self is to get to know the role models who have paved the way for me. This has helped me feel less shame and has been a beautiful way to get to my authenticity. One of my role models and mentors is Kimberly Ann Johnson. It was through her various courses on reclaiming our sensuality that i found my wild side. Her new book Call of the Wild: How we Heal Trauma, Awaken our Own Power and Use it for Good has been such a gift. My long hair and big boobs have been a source of objectification by other for years. I was sexualized at a very young age. I started a path to get to know the various goddess figures this past year. It was when i saw one that looked like my body that i realized i could reclaim this feminine energy and power. More recently, i have found that my Inner Goddess feels so empowered and confident when on top, in bed. I love feeling my hair flow around us, and feel so in control. I have my own fantasy attached to this, but that’s my story to tell (wink).

Maybe you need to rewrite the story of the Siren or seductress, the Goddess/priestess, whore, vixen or slut. Just think of the term ‘Cougar’ and what it even means. For women, it’s a pejorative word of a woman who enjoys sex with younger men. But maybe it’s because men her age and older don’t turn her on, or they are not seeking her out. When i think of our animal counterparts, i love the idea of a cougar or jaguar seeking out what she wants and tending to her body’s needs. That is powerful shit.

Putting the Pieces Together
Now that you have sat with some of the reflections, tended to some of the body exercises, it’s time to put the pieces together. Similar to a Venn diagram – where is there overlap?

Since it is said that feminine energy is to teach, that means we can guide our children in all aspects of life. Babies and kids share our body territory so it can be hard to feel agency autonomy over own body. The journey into motherhood had been a sexual act for most of us. And yet, the afterbirth experience almost erases the sexual act. In the early postpartum period, we intentionally heal the body to get into wholeness again. We are taught to bounce back – but to what end? To be sexy again, pure? Or to produce more children? I like to think my postpartum journey has been more about moving forward – a process of Self reclamation and putting the new pieces together. It has been about finding ways to be sexual and mother intentionally. It’s like a bouquet of roses mixed with peonies and ranunculus. All separately are beautiful, but a more blended bouquet is even more stunning.

Our society doesn’t value nurturing or pleasure in the same way as being financially successful or productive. So one way i have created an intentional split from this is to not keep my sexuality in the shadows. I dance in front of my kids, i kiss my partner, and we remind our kids that date night is as important and family game night.

My daughter has noticed that the dates her parents use to have, where a babysitter came in, and mom got dressed up, have obviously been put on hold. While we have gotten creative to still be partners in the midst of a global pandemic, that too has been impacted. As my children are getting older, we have updated our conversations about sexuality. We normalize sex and discuss it if they hear about it (from us, from shows, from songs – it finds a way in pretty easily, doesn’t it?). We talk to our kids about relationships, love, pleasure, and dating. I also have updated the books and resources my kids are reading, to complement this information. And more books for adults on this are coming out, be it slowly. While my pre-teen cringes at the kissing scenes in real life and on TV, we still want to model this as natural and right.

There is discrepancy between partners’ desire and arousal after having children. Foreplay can become more emotional and practical. The primary parent is touched out and exhausted by the end of the day. Modern parenting is definitely playing a role in our lack of intimacy. Just read this article to get a better sense of this. The non-primary caregiving partner wants to be intimate to feel connected, and the primary parent wants time alone to feel rested. These are not incompatible needs, and yet they can feel like it.

We need to soften our edges, so that the parts are not so separate. We need to blend them to take the strengths and gifts from both – it is not either/or. We are creators so need to respected and supported, but we aren’t tended to now as mothers are still devalued. Postpartum mood challenges add a further barrier to desire and sexual intimacy. This research article shares more.

Sexuality is not just about an act but rather being part of the parts that make us whole. That includes tending to your feelings, physical body and spiritual rituals. It also includes consent and the felt sense of pleasure. This then connects our body to strength and embodiment.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” ~ Anais Nin