On this Mother’s Day, the Mama’s at Mother’s Acting Up asked me to add my two cents to the boiling pot of what mothering and activism looks like, this on a day that began not as a reason to give flowers to our mother’s but as a call for mother’s to rise up and take action with the Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe.
She begins, “Arise then … women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts…” and ends with the powerful, “That a general congress of women without limit of nationality, May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient And the earliest period consistent with its objects, To promote the alliance of the different nationalities, The amicable settlement of international questions, The great and general interests of peace.”
Now there is something to celebrate! (You can read the entire proclamation here)
Mothering and activism. Mamavism I like to call it, has been quite a journey for me.
It has had it’s ups and downs, twists and turns, always begging for me to stay on my toes and ask difficult questions of myself. Am I showing up where I can? Am I showing up at all? Am I showing up too much?
One thing was for certain when I became a mother, in an instant I understood how universal the feelings of motherhood were. One instant is all it took. My son was six weeks early, he spent 21 days in the NICU after delivery. I was terrified. And he had the best of modern medicine around him.
What of the mothers who aren’t so lucky? Who are terrified for their children, and there is no way they can give them to the best of their ability a chance to grow up, a chance to live out their dreams, a chance to eat today? Those mother’s feel the same way I do about their children, our hearts are the same but our circumstances are entirely different.
I had always been passionate about so many issues, but once the motivation to get off the couch and actually take action shook me at my core, I spent a lot of time outer focused. I got angry at every, what I deemed, injustice. I took it personally. I got frustrated. I carried the burdens emotionally. I got fired up and put myself in the public arena.
I got burnt out too.
Then I began to take something my minister had said over and over to heart, “If you want peace in the world, start with yourself.” Ahh…so often I argued over that simple statement. I pushed against it. I ignored it. I disagreed with it wholeheartedly, I surmised that if you see injustice and sit on your meditation pillow you have checked out. I always said to myself, “If you ain’t helpin’ to paddle the boat, get the heck outta the boat.”
But I started to realize I had room for improvement. I yelled at my kids more often than I would have liked, I began to wonder if I can’t keep a peaceful heart towards my children, those whom I love most in the world, how do I expect the Israelis and Palestinians to come to an agreement? If I could so easily get angry over water spilled across my table, into workbooks and papers, why am I surprised that people become angry and take matters into their own hands when they feel that they have been suppressed for decades? If I claimed to care so much for the environment and the plight of workers around the world, how did I happen to end up at Target so often buying ‘stuff’ because I was bored, or lonely, or both?
For now, my mamavism starts closer to home. Where I can cultivate my own compassion for those in my immediate world, and practice radiating that out instead of frustration. How can I be an example to my children? What changes can I make in my own life that support my beliefs instead of pointing to the outside world to change? Can I bike more? How much food can we grow in our own yard? Can we get almost to sustainability? Can we live more simply? How is it we can build a sense of community in our cities and towns so that we all feel more engaged, more capable, more accountable, more supported? Can I be more present and connected with all who I interact with, instead of my head down on my keyboard or sending a text message instead of deep listening in the moment?
The world could use some more deep listening. Luckily I don’t even know how to text…
Yes, mamavism takes many different forms, many different paths, and is forever changing based on our own life circumstances and what our mothering is itself demanding of us at the moment. That doesn’t mean we don’t jump in when we can, it means that we show up mindfully, aware of what we are giving up to be there, who is gaining that we be there, what it is that lights our hearts on fire and when we need to kindly say ‘no’ and take care of ourselves and those closest to us instead.
Mothering and mamavism, each a delicate balance. Every day, every moment, begs us to balance what we need, what our families need, what the planet needs, what humanity needs. And there is no map to help us navigate, just our own inner being to let us know when it is time for action, time for rest, time for nurturing, time for rallying. Let us learn to listen to our own voices, but ARISE none the less, wherever and whenever and however that may look.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!