BEHIND DOMESTIC LINES
★ ★ ★ ★
LET IT BURN
Image by Matt Hoffman
By Jami Ingledue
I see you.
I see your big open heart and your fierce love for your babies, your desire to do right by them, a desire so big that it often feels bigger than yourself.
I see your courage. You have faced so many things in your life, you have gone to the depths of despair and back again, you have bravely destroyed things that were wrong so that you could build what was right and true and beautiful. You are strong.
And now it’s time to destroy again. To let it burn. And you can do it.
Here’s what we need to destroy, to set on fire and dance around the flames: the message we have received all of our lives, that motherhood requires us to make ourselves smaller and smaller. That a good mother is selfless and therefore must sacrifice all that she is in order to properly care for her children.
In order to do all the work of raising children. That unpaid, unvalued, invisible work. We have been wrongly convinced into thinking that true motherhood equals unpaid labor.
And our whole society runs on this unpaid labor, and on the assumption that women, especially mothers, will do this labor.
The pandemic made this painfully clear. How did we react to all of the needs of our children during this once-every-hundred-years emergency? We dumped it all on the mothers. Now we had to oversee our child’s education and replace an entire school building full of staff, all while working ourselves AND trying to figure out how we would feed our family, not to mention manage the emotional fallout of the pandemic..
It became more clear than ever that we are all (unconsciously) carrying around this expectation that moms will take care of it all—even long after that becomes completely impossible.
You see, it’s a lie.
The truth is that it’s the job of ALL OF US to raise children, of society. We can argue the details of that all we want, but the fact remains that we evolved to raise our young collectively. That throughout human history, we have not raised kids alone in our separate boxes, like we do now.
And that’s not an accident. It’s very convenient, isn’t it? Get women to do all of the unpaid caregiving labor so that others can make money, and even rest and play. Then convince the women that that should be their ultimate goal in life, that the very best person they can be in this life requires them to completely surrender their very personhood.
And so, many of us one day look around and realize that we desperately love our children; and we desperately hate our lives. We have built a life around caring for our children, but in doing so we have created a life for ourselves that we would never want for our children.
Can you see the insanity of this, mama? We all know that kids do what we do, not what we say. And that applies to the big things, like staying in jobs we hate, marriages that smother us–just as much as the little things, like the occasional f-bomb.
Jung said “The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of its parents.” Don’t give up on the truth and beauty of your one wild and precious life and think you are helping your kids. You are not. You are saddling them with the biggest burden possible.
We have a great opportunity, right here and now. Never before in human history have women been both so empowered and so connected, and this time of great disruption and upheaval has, perhaps, opened a door. We can rewrite the script. We can start from what we know inside to be the truest, most beautiful version of motherhood, and we can build it.
But first we have to let the old version burn. We have to reject the false notion that the sacred calling of motherhood is the same as the labor of caregiving. We have to know what we are worth, and then we have to demand it.
You see, making ourselves smaller for motherhood has it all wrong. We are not meant to become smaller when we become mothers, to become a kind of servant to our families–we are meant to expand, to dig deep and reach far and connect, to touch all of humanity, to walk with our ancestors and our unborn children’s children, to weave the earth and the divine and the sun and stars and nourishment and love into a sacred fabric of life. We aren’t meant to shut down our needs and feelings, we’re meant to feel it all, to have our hearts burst open so wide that we can contain the whole universe. The depth and ferocity of our connection to these tiny humans is our super power, it is our path to opening and rewilding, to our own inner knowing. It leaves us no choice but to build a better world for our babies; the future is not just theoretical, we have skin in the game, and if we listen to that call, if we feel that pull, we must also act, we must do our own work to bring that better world forth. That is our purpose, that is why we are here.
And the only way to do that, the ONLY way to find and fulfil our purpose here is to follow what makes us whole and beautiful, NOT to numb that voice or smash it down until it’s smaller and smaller so that we can do what we are “supposed” to do. We can still look after our families without abandoning ourselves.
The world needs you lit up, mama. Your babies need to see you full of joy, living a rich, big, juicy life, because that’s the only way they can imagine that for themselves, that’s how you give them permission to do the same, and to feel worthy of it. Living your best life is not selfish. It’s the only way to make the path for your kids to lead their best lives.
So break open this iteration of motherhood. Dig deep and root out the messages you’ve been given, the ones that don’t come from your own soul, your own knowing. Pull them out and examine them, and then light the match and let them burn. Dance gloriously and wildly around the flames, with all your joy and fear and pain. It will hurt. It will be dark and uncertain in that in-between time. It will be like ripping through old layers of skin, and you will feel raw and bloody.
But that’s birth for you.
Jami worked as a librarian for over a decade before choosing to stay home when her son, now 4, was born. She also has a 17-year-old daughter. She makes all-natural soap and body products and sells them through her company, Dancing Bee Farms (dancingbeefarms.net). She lives with her husband, daughter, and son on an acre of land in rural Ohio, where they keep bees, garden, and brew beer.