Currently motherhood exists outside the sphere of net worth measurements, except as a cost in sick days and maternity leave from paid work, or as a career-stopper for all those degrees that go “nowhere”. Although in the bigger picture motherhood could be seen as adding value, as a solution to national ills, health expenditure and personal and societal heartache, I couldn’t wait for central government to wake up to this before I took action, my kids would have left home by then.
If I couldn’t change government approach to social policy I figured I would have to change my approach to my days as a mother. So I took my life into my own hands. The personal is political after all.
I chose to stay at home with my children, working with the important task of raising them with the most love I could provide, the most care and attention, and apply all my skill, training and experience. And I was good at it. Still am. I also struggled. I felt the frustration of not pursuing my recognised career. I felt the challenges of tiredness, domesticity, and in amongst the gems, laughter and feats of the day, I might snap, shout, complain, blame, give in, feel lonely. I was not always the person I wanted to be. I could get to the end of the day feeling ground down, invisible, unproductive, unsuccessful, like I wasn’t a very good mum, like I wasn’t a very good person.
The human solution I came to was to live beyond the paradigm of current social policy, to live as I would want to live in any situation. In response to the close-up challenges of contemporary motherhood I decided it would be my training ground in gratitude, appreciation, compassionate learning, mindful breathing, conscious language, adjusting expectations, embracing the light and the dark, taking responsibility, finding joy and purpose in mundane tasks, patience with myself and others, assessing what matters, forgiveness, collaborating with life, valuing my choice, working with what I’ve got, taking care of anger, choosing my habits, making friends with time, being good enough, discernment, self-care, growing goodness, choosing happiness now, living with clear purpose, reaching out to build connection.
I chose to practice these things, to make developing these things consciously my human mission and to embrace motherhood as a path to becoming my best self.
All mothers want to be the best mothers we can, we want the best for our children more than anything else. We’ll be the best humans we can for our kids, when we wouldn’t necessarily do it for our colleagues, neighbours, or even ourselves. And we so often go it alone in our mothering days, feeling inside like we sink or swim alone, coping, making do, getting to the end of the day drowning not waving, while others appear to glide through.
I know many of us, most of us, nearly all of us, aren’t gliding. We’re grappling because it’s important and invisible work that matters to us. We’re trying to do and be our best, to pass on our best habits but in the stress of the day so often react, and enact our less conscious responses. One day we’re nailing motherhood, the next it’s nailing us. I’m proposing that we don’t just get through, each in our box, comparing, worrying, struggling. I propose that we engage with the most political act we can, claim our value as mothers, stand for the best of humanity amongst the insanity of a system that values money, status and things over human worth.
Policy is typically a late adopter, but we have not a moment to lose. Now is the only time for our love and joy. Now is the time connect to ourselves, our human purpose and worth, and to recognise it in each other. Drop the judgement and talk, let go the shame of a mess, a bad day, the overwhelming horror of failing as a mother, and be alongside each other sharing not what we did wrong or didn’t do right, but what we are practicing, and how.
We’re not trained for motherhood, or for connecting without judgement and comparison. In fact, we’re programmed to compete, to fit in. But we are also programmed to love, to include, to assess risks, it just depends on what we choose to favour. We practice tolerance, sacrifice, compassion, restraint, and more for our children. I suggest while we’re there we go for it, let’s have it for ourselves too. And it’ll ripple out, affect our partners, our parents, our colleagues, our communities. The more we do this the bigger difference we can make, the more we live this the more we’ll be the people we want to be, the society we want to be, live to love, appreciate all we have and the wonder of our being at all, and leave behind us a better world for our having been in it.