Motherhood - The Oldest Occupation
To be a mother is the most challenging, beautiful, heartbreaking, testing, loving, frustrating, tiring, honourable job in the world. The wages are terrible, the hours are long and there are no redundancy payments. Yet thousands of us sign up for this lifetime commitment every year.
Outsiders see our tired faces, flushed cheeks, stern faces and angry words. They see our children with dirty, crying faces after a tantrum in the street. They hear us talk of sleep deprivation, not much sex and tired limbs. They have opinions of our teenagers and wonder what kind of mothers some adults must have had. But they don't see us in the playground, on the sports fields or at school plays. They don't see us at weddings, births and playgroups. When we speak of gut wrenching love, overwhelming joy and timeless moments, it is rarely heard as loudly.
Our first pregnancy is a time of joy and grief as the journey from maiden to mother has begun. Memories of our own childhood flood back and tears flow while sickness and well-being merge. This cleansing experience prepares us for birth and opens our hearts allowing our emotional buttons to be pushed to their limits. Our experiences of birth vary from the most beautiful to the most horrid. Yet we all pass through with stories to tell, and stories to create with our new babies.
Before the humbling presence of a newborn, the surrender to another being, to timelessness and selflessness is easy for a mother. But as children grow into walking, talking, thinking beings, we are challenged in ways unsurpassed. The decisions about their childcare, schooling, clothing and spiritual growth are far more important on a daily basis than the trade deficit. Any mother who has stood at a gate, or sat in a car to pick her child up from a concert, or held a hand of a child in fear of a situation that seems so scary knows only too well the primal protective feelings that arise.
Then there's the pleasure of conversation with a seven year old, an age where innocence and independence merge. The dependant cycle fades into the independent (but still physically reliant). After years of being right about every thing we say, we must now relinquish this platform for the blooming young adult before us. It is with a sense of grief as well as joy that we watch them change. Suddenly it all seems to have gone so fast.
Then one day, somewhere between birth and 60 years old, we realise that there is little more we can do, our job is actually done, our child is its own being. And yet it is never over, for we are always there, on call, just in case our children need us.
So what is the resume of a mother? It will at least have to read 'experienced in a variety of emotions!' It will say financial planner, doctor, chef,teacher and taxi driver. It will state her ability to be caring, angry, selfless, selfish, giving, loving, flexible, humble, passionate, frustrated and of course, able to juggle a variety of complex emotional and physical tasks at the one time! Responsibilities include birthing great teachers, leaders, artists, warriors, athletes and fridge mechanics. Our ability to handle stress and have a sense of humour at the same time is remarkable. (We won't mention that we have been known to lose control under these conditions on occasions as well!)
Because of these qualities, our name is used to describe many powerful elements. Mother earth, Mother nature, Mother country and Mother tongue. Despite this, when I looked up the meaning of mother in the Oxford dictionary, we are simply defined as - a female parent. Is that all that distinguishes us, our gender? But the next listing was for Mother goddess. Here I found the words that offered a true meaning. ' ...goddess of the entire complex of birth and growth, commonly a central figure of early nature cults where maintenance of fertility was of prime importance in the religion.' This sounded more like it! And so it seems we are goddesses. Have you thought of yourself as that lately?
We are culture creators. We are the first loved person in our child's life. We guide creativity and discipline. We have been belittled, persecuted, demoted and denounced. Yet a wave of pride and knowledge of our integral role in society is now present. While we humbly perform our task on a daily basis, we are also embracing our rightful status. Our Herstory may have been hidden, but we are now reviving our knowledge of ourselves. We are lovers, workers, women, individuals, doctors, teachers, retailers, craftspeople, accountants, real estate agents, healers, and more.
So when someone says 'Happy Mothers Day' this year, let yourself be honoured. And may others reflect on the enormity of your task. You have chosen the most incredible occupation that life can offer. You have been rung through every emotion, physical hardship and been pushed to utter exhaustion - then got up the next day and done it all again. You have stumbled your way through the hardest job in the world along with the rest of millions of us. From the raw emotion of birth, to the flow of breast milk, to the leaving of home, to the strained relationships of adulthood, grandmotherhood and beyond. These are the greatest spiritual and emotional challenges that life has to offer.
You are a living goddess. You are amazing. You are a mother. Be proud, there's a long line of us, and yes, we are the oldest profession in the world. So, lots of love, and Happy Mothering to you.
Story by Jannine Barron
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