Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sustainable Mothering for a Sustainable World

--Feature: "Living Loud w/ Joy Rose"--

There isn’t a one step program for finding your authentic inner voice as a mother, and as a woman. You might even ask, what does that mean – My ‘authentic inner voice?’ Who has time to be authentic when the kitchen needs sweeping, the bathroom needs cleaning and the bills need paying, and for many of all this comes while juggling a career. You might even find yourself opting for sleep, over self-expression. But finding that inner voice means connecting to your true self, so you can hear that voice that speaks to your own needs, your own desires and communicates your own dreams. This can only be done when you get in harmony with your own world. But how to get there? This is where LIVING LOUD comes in.

Would you believe me if I told you it’s sometimes more important to feed your soul than feed your kids or meet your other seemingly pressing deadlines? Would you think I was selfish if I told you I value my personal time over everything else? Before you cut me off at the knees or call me names, let me preface all statements with one simple truth: You are no good to anyone if you haven’t taken care of yourself. You are useless living a life that leaves your spirit silenced instead of a spirit that is “living loud.” I should know – I learned the hard way.

My kids were 0-5. My days were filled with relentless baby rocking, cooking, soothing, shopping and sniffling. I had a handy mantra when things got a little too unmanageable, and it went something like this, “I am nothing, I have no needs.” Sounds a little Buddhist, doesn’t it? Well, there’s a big difference between the meditating monk on the mountaintop and the overwhelmed mother in the kitchen.

Often times motherly motivation comes in a shape that is not only unhealthy, it’s also unsustainable. Although I’m not enough of a historian to say whether this is an entirely recent development of our modern world, but women have a history of giving themselves away for the purpose of parenting. Although I am sure that one part of this patterning is driven by instinct, another part, is driven by conditioning. History has for the most part forbidden women from any other meaningful roles beyond mother and wife, and so in those functions we became almost solely defined (by others, and ourselves). But commerce, politics, and all the infinite currents of social change and progress have redefined how we engage with our world, and the roles which are available to us. In that change, we must come to terms that how we mother, and the experience our children have of us as mothers, must also change (for their good and ours).

Choosing to become a mother means not only giving over your body to the creation and well-being of another, but in it’s most extreme versions can mean metaphorically sacrificing your entire life for the birth of another soul. This challenge is also the great gift that mothers are given. It is our calling for our own transcendence. Giving while not giving oneself away, is both the lesson and the key to who we can evolve to become as women and as mothers.

Coming to terms with a love that is neither selfish nor selfless is hard when it comes to our kids. There is almost a compulsion to give all ourselves away (our time, our money, our energy etc.) to have this love feel complete. But that type of “complete love” leaves us strapped for money, time and running on empty daily. And the shell of a woman who we are left with is not the vision of what society, or ourselves, know to be a fulfilled modern woman or mother. We have ultimately outgrown the stereotype that would have allowed for this kind of mothering even a half century ago. Whereas before we would still be miserable in this martyr role, we would have swallowed it like a bitter pill because the world justified it – now we can’t. But many of us do not realize it until it is too late.

Because I love my kids, and because I love being a mother, I believe that women in the twenty-first century, more than any other time on the planet, must nurture their mental and spiritual health just as surely as we embrace our physical well being through sterile instruments and modern medicine. We do everything possible to assure for the optimum delivery of our unborn children, yet leave their futures on shaky ground by failing to care for the “spiritual and emotional delivery” of mother who raises them. In fact, beyond failing to care for the delivery of the mother, we have a new phenomena on our hands called “helicopter mothers (and fathers).”

‘Helicopter Moms” are teaching their children that their world begins, ends and exists only because of them. Mothers become the sacrificial lamb to the whims of entitled kids who can’t differentiate between needs and wants and have no “moral rearing” to curb their tidal wave of demands. Mothers spend entire days driving kids in over stuffed mini-vans, from one activity or party or play date to the next, leaving no time or space for their own needs. Lacking sleep, proper nutrition, or even brief snippets of free time to explore their own needs (or that of their marriage in many cases) – mothers deplete themselves while ultimately misleading their kids. This approach not only sabotages the parent, who can never ultimately deliver the “goods” on such an unrealistic promise, but also sets up their child for disappointment in a world which will never entertain such delusions. Mom is left spent, and child is left astray. No one wins. And the future leaves emotionally, mentally and spiritually bankrupt women, with adult children left in the wings to wonder how mom ever got to where she is.

For my children, I hope they each find a mode of personal expression that is rewarding and valuable for them. I hope that they will take moments, daily, to communicate and engage in “soul work” to understand what that part of them even needs. Soul work will hopefully be the utmost priority, if even for the purpose of being an evolved, joyous and loving parent. Weather it is through meditation, art, travel, or whatever path it is that leads them to their own centers, I hope that this will be a core theme in the journey of their life. I hope that this will be in part at least, inspired by my personal choices and commitments that exemplified this; that parenting is a journey for the parent and child, and that there must be room, and a voice, in that relationship for both of us.

Coming April 9, 2008 - Part II of " Sustainable Mothering in a Living Loud Life" – featuring practical tips on creating a sustainable daily life as parent.

Joy Rose is a contributing columnist on The Lohasian. Her column "Living Loud With Joy Rose" explores self development ideas and tools meant to inspire and mobilize women to create an extraordinary life. Joy is the Founder and President of The Motherhood Foundation and Mamapalooza; a multi platform event, music production and entertainment development company that specializes in creating media brands to empower mothers and other women nationwide. Mamapalooza's unique message reaches an estimated five million consumers each year.

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