I can’t count how many times have I been asked what I do all day as a mom. I take a breath and wonder if I should shrug and say, “Oh, not much,” or jump into a list about laundry, finger painting, and cooking. How can you sum up motherhood in just a sentence? It’s impossible.
I love the image of the Tree of Life. It beautifully displays our work as mothers in a way that no bullet list or job application ever could. Roots dig deep into the ground, providing nourishment and support. The trunk provides a solid foundation. Branches reach out for sustenance. The leaves collect strength and the fruit gives of itself.
All day every day I am a source of love, identity, and belonging, a place of secure attachment, a first responder, modulator, nurturer, mirror, cheerleader, mentor, protector, and a home base that can be returned to time and time again.
I am a mom. A creator of life. A nurturer of life. Together, mothers around the world will determine, through lullabies and gentle guidance, the fate of the world. What do we do? So much more than changing diapers and fixing meals. While we might take on many roles throughout the day, nothing and no one can replace the essence of motherhood. It is the ability to provide safety, love, security—all just by simply being.
Motherhood is everything.
I think back to a year ago when I felt myself withering away, crying silently at night after everyone was asleep. I wondered how I was going to make it another day. I remember seeing my husband drift further and further away and my daughter fussing more and more. The more depressed I became, the more my whole family suffered.
For a long time, I thought if my husband just saw and supported me the way I needed, if I had family nearby, if I had more money to spend going out during the day, and on and on. If, then all of this horribleness inside of me would go away. And then one day I stopped looking at everyone else and thought, “What if I change?”
What if I recognize that my roots are not nourished and give myself the time to take long baths, surround myself with good friends, set boundaries, and stop putting everyone else first? What if I choose myself? And I did.
And so much changed.
As my roots grew, my trunk became solid. My ability to be home base came naturally.
I started to see all the love that had been poured around me, but that I hadn’t had the ability to soak in and turn into strength and love and fruit. As I came alive, I saw my family come alive as well.
Friends, I don’t know why it took me so long to see that I mattered, too. But I have an idea: we live in a world where we value doing, accomplishing, finishing, being able to show our work. The value of mother will never fit nicely in a box on a job application. We may be able to say we cleaned, cooked, wiped faces, and wore a hundred different hats in one day. Other days we look around, in the middle of our true act of creating and we see the house a mess, dinner burned, laundry piled high. And we feel like we did nothing—and therefore are nothing.
While there may be some part of us that knows that, while our work may look like nothing, we really do accomplish something beautiful with our endless snuggles and butterfly kisses. Everyone will look at us like we are crazy if we say we spent the day beaming love into the world, creating a safe space where our children are seen and understood and loved just the way they are. But that is what we do! It is what we are. We are healers and nurturers and, most importantly, creators.
Our truest value comes from our existence, our temperament, our essence. These things cannot be measured. We stifle our inherent worth in attempts to get things done —when we focus on doing instead of being. Consider this: if a tree does not have strong roots, if it cannot pull nourishment into itself, what chance does it have to be a place of refuge for the lost sparrow or provide fruit for the playing child? Similarly, how can we expect ourselves to pat the back of our child through their disappointments if we have not worked through our own? How can we be a place of love and healing for our partners and babies if we have no health to give?
Nourish your roots. Let yourself be healed. In doing so, in learning to be, you will become the source of energy and light and love that fuels your whole family through the trials of life, allowing them to be healed when broken and nourished when unable to provide for themselves. In case you forgot, let me remind you: you matter too, Mama.
QUESTION: What areas of your life feel undernourished? How would paying attention to these enrich you and—through you—your family? What support systems do you need to put in place to help you take care of your whole self?
CHALLENGE: Write out a list of your basic human needs: physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and social. Which of these, if nourished, would bring you the most peace? Reach out to the people in your sphere who could support you in pursuing this need. Talk openly to your spouse and children and ask for the help you need.
Edited by Dawn Wessman and Becky Fawcett.
Image from Shuttertock; graphics by Julie Finlayson.