I watch the mother finch feed her nestlings. The bluebird, too. And the phoebe nearby. Constant, tireless attention to nurture and grow their fuzzy-headed babies into healthy, confident, capable young birds who will fly off their nests in a matter of days and begin to build lives of their own. They don’t mother alone. The male birds are right there, taking turns bringing worms and grubs, doing their part to feed and teach these youngsters, making them strong and ready to face a world of uncertainty. It is the goal of every mother, to keep her children safe while helping them become independent. No mother does it the same way, but the goal is the same.
Mothering is hard. For most of us humans it is also joyful, painful, rewarding, relentless. You never stop being a mother, no matter how old your child gets, how independent they become, or how present or absent they are from our lives. Being a mother is a permanent part of our identity. We are connected to that little being in ways no one will ever be able to explain.
Mothers sacrifice a lot – sleep, careers, lost wages and subsequent retirement income, time for self-care. And often, especially these days, many women are having to mother not just their own children, but their aging parents as well. There doesn’t need to be a reward for mothering. It is what we do, who we are, an inseparable part of us, a destiny perhaps.
Mothers’ relationships with their children are complex at best. Even where there is a deep and mutual love, a tug-of-war of emotions takes place over the years. My mother has been gone for over two years now, and I still feel conflicted about our relationship. Too often we do not fully appreciate our mothers until they are no longer with us. I’ve thought about her a lot during the past year when I picked up her eyeglasses, put on her rings, and remembered special times with her – singing songs in the car, reading books to her while she cooked supper, laying on a wool blanket in the front yard watching a thunder storm roll in. I also remember resisting her guidance, pushing away her well-intentioned assistance, being angry at being inconvenienced by her needing me. And I remember holding her hand as she took her last breath…the overwhelming love, the pain, and the gratitude of it all.
We do not choose to be born. We do not choose this relationship with our mothers. But we do play a role in shaping it, in carrying it throughout our lives, in having it become a part of who we are, how we act, what we choose to do with it. So that in our crone years, as our hairs begin to gray and our wrinkles tell of time past, we find the grace and wisdom to appreciate the mothers who came before us, walking the path that led to here, now. The path that connects us to all mothers – human, bird, coyote, bug, plant, Nature, Earth – and to the greater universe from which we all were born. In that wisdom and grace, we are grounded, connected, one.
To all the mothers of the universe, thank you!