Wisdom came to me, late in life. Motherhood did not. I gave birth to my oldest child, a daughter, at age 18. Sixteen months later, I had my son, at age 20. I was clueless. Having had a mother who birthed me when she was just 17 and my father only 15, my role models for appropriate parenting skills were greatly lacking. I’m not faulting my mother, knowing that she did the best she could. I was damned angry at her for not doing well enough the whole time I was growing up and well into my 4th decade, but that’s a story for another day.
The truth is: I muddled through. In fact, I struggled through a lot of things including: addiction, anger, unrealistic expectations, poverty, deep-seated feelings of unworthiness and incompetence. And, those are just a few. Looking back, I have many regrets, but none so large as the fact that I was so focused on doing the motherhood thing “right” that I forgot to have fun. I read books and magazines, practiced techniques, and maintained a rigid schedule. I was inflexible, taking the idea of consistency to the limit of sanity. And, because I could never live up to my own expectations, and nor could anyone around me (husband and kids included), I drank.
A few months before my 40th birthday, my children were both grown and out of my house, and I looked in the mirror to find a complete stranger. I’d become so numbed and emotionally absent that I had even abandoned myself. I quit drinking. I worked through stuff. I learned that the real energy of the mother is that of transformation. Mothers grow 2 cells into a person. We nurture children into adults. We care for our furry creatures. We birth ideas, take them to fruition, and push them into something beyond the initial conception.
Two years to the day I got sober, my oldest granddaughter was born. I know that it was a nod from the universe, an acknowledgement that I was capable of participating in nurturing this little soul. Shortly after, I made peace with my own mother, suddenly becoming aware of all the many challenges that she had. Since then, my daughter and son have provided me with 2 more grandchildren — another girl (age 1) and a boy (age 6 months).
Today, I’ve learned to use those transformative mother energies in many parts of my life. I can be a playmate, mentor, and participant in the raising of my grandchildren. Those roles can extend beyond my own family and into my spiritual community, where I’ve developed close relationships with younger or less experienced women. In this, I can function as a teacher and mentor and support person as they incubate their own truths and find their own transformative power.
Even more, that transformational energy extends to the earth, who is mother to all of us. She calls to me and I listen, having learned that I am not her steward, but rather her child. She doesn’t need my protection, but she does require that I learn to live symbiotically within my environment. I am striving to make changes in my home and work life to embody that understanding.
Michele Warch, MCC, is a mother, grandmother, therapist, instructor, practicing witch, priestess of the goddess tradition, mystic, and explorer of the worlds within and without.