"We all have, within us, different aspects of ourselves that deserve appropriate nurturing and attention."- Rachel Hart
Every quarter, ReConnectEd to Life presents a self-care educational workshop as part of our ConnectEd series. We try to theme the workshops around the time of year- a gratitude workshop around Thanksgiving, for example. So, in honor of Mother's Day, we presented an opportunity to contemplate the idea of "mothering the mother", in order to drive home the inarguable fact that, we, as mothers, deserve as much love and attention as we give to our little ones. Even if we have not given birth ourselves, we were all born from a mother. Therefore, we know the difference in having received adequate amounts of nurturing care, and we know just how debilitating the lack thereof can be.
After taking a moment to "Get Self-Centered", a grounding practice we always open with in any of our events, the participants were asked to journal five words describing the definition of "mother". Common words used were kind, loving, and tired. Next, we asked people to describe how they were mothered in various stages of their lives from infancy, as a toddler, as a child, and as a teenager. Interestingly, all described a feeling of love and nurturing as a baby and toddler, but then something happened to fracture those feelings, which led to certain amounts of uncertainty, anxiety, and feelings of decreased self-worth. The first part of this exercise was designed as a mindfulness tool to increase awareness of the correlation between how we were mothered and how we tend to mother ourselves. It is not uncommon to identify mostly with our adult selves because we have so much going on at any given time. However, if we could stop from time to time and offer ourselves the love, compassion, and even discipline that the other aspects of ourselves needed, we could better care for ourselves in a holistic way. There will always be an infant who lives inside us and simply desires that our basic needs be met. There is a toddler self in there who likes to throw tantrums and scream NO all the time. There is a child in there with lots and lots of creativity and energy who just may need a bit more structure in order to develop healthy habits. And our teenager self needs the understanding and space for the highs and lows they experience,and for the multitude of mistakes they will make on their journey to adulthood- which, by the way, I question whether we ever really get there.
"Celebrate your small victories. They are the building blocks of increasing capabilities and amazing accomplishments."- Rachel Hart
What is adulthood anyway? Some magical arrival where all your self-conscious feelings give way to unwavering confidence? Where no mistakes are ever made, no tantrums ever thrown? Where everything is well-organized and you always follow the healthiest routine for your self-care? Of course not. Yet, we often mother in ways that create that perfect persona, making it difficult to connect with our children because we are unwilling to first admit to and connect with the imperfect perfection that simply comes from being human. How can we identify which aspect of ourselves is showing up to demand some love, attention, or discipline at any given time? By being still. By practicing meditation, one of The Four Seeds of Self-Care, we get quiet long enough to notice our feelings and behaviors so that we can properly address them. We notice which aspect of ourself is needing the self-care and we begin to respond appropriately. Sometimes we just need to be held. Sometimes we need a time out. Sometimes we need to insist on a proper bedtime. And we need to be loved and forgiven over and over again for our mistakes.
Most importantly, we need to be celebrated. Anytime we have done something to contribute to a consistent self-care routine, however small, we must acknowledge that and be proud of ourselves. It is in the commitment to the sometimes excruciatingly slow and tiny successes that we learn to continue on long enough to realize huge change and enormous growth. I was at a dance competition for my daughter last week and saw some amazingly talented dancers. It was obvious they had been dancing for years. You could just see the confidence in their steps and in their entire body language. They knew they were good and they had a crowded audience there to celebrate them. I also saw a tiny girl of about four years old take the stage. She was beautifully dressed and knew what to do but her steps were unsure and certainly not polished. Sitting in front of me was her mother, taking video in one hand and mimicking her child's routine in the other. When she finished her routine, her mother stood up, wildly waving her arms and whistling in delight. It was a proud Mama moment to see her child get up on that stage even though she was obviously intimidated. The accomplishment was not lost on the crowd, either, who praised the tiny girl for her courage and vulnerability even louder than they did for the seasoned, nearly perfect dancers. Having the guts to be perfectly imperfect, to connect with all aspects of yourself for your own self-growth, to get on that stage and dance even when you're not quite sure of the steps, to do it anyway until your consistency gives way to change and positive results, to enjoy the stumbles and to forgive the setbacks, all of it is worthy of celebration. This is motherhood. This is how you mother the mother.
With love and gratitude,
Kinda and Rachel