My Definition of Motherhood
My grandma watched us while my mom went to nursing school and when my mom took a job in a doctor’s office largely covering admin duties, she brought me to work every day. The sweet thoracic surgeon only known to me as Doc willingly made this workplace “accommodation” out of respect and love for my mother, her energy and, most of all, her ability to connect. While I played on the typewriter or watched her “stories” on the TV in the background (I still get nostalgic every time I hear the subdued piano drone of the Young & the Restless theme), my mom filed paperwork, answered phones and showered the families and patients that were about to have their chest ripped open with genuine empathy. She heard them and gave them a relative sense of calm and support during a terrifying time.
She did it all with a whisper. About ten years earlier, my mom was on Doc’s operating table where he carefully re-assembled her trachea after a motorcycle accident. After weeks in the ICU, she walked away breathing and eating on her own, but her larynx, or voice box, was beyond repair causing her to speak only in a whisper. She was 17.
For the past 45 years, her lack of voice (literally) did not stop her from being heard or felt. It did not stop her from raising three kids or starting three businesses, all of which were rooted in supporting people that are grappling with obstacles. The helpless. The forgotten. The underdogs. My brothers and I grew up watching at least four Blockbuster movies in a row (trendsetters in our own right because this was before “binge” watching TV was cool) and eating Pizza Hut while counting, folding, stuffing and stamping thousands of newsletters for The Pulmonary Paper. It’s a non-profit that my mom refuses to wrap up because she frequently receives hand written notes from people battling COPD or other lung diseases sharing that the newsletter gives them hope. These people across the world struggle with each breath so the unbiased information, the encouragement, the real life stories and the tips about how they can continue to enjoy life inspire them in different ways. It makes them feel less alone. Less ashamed of their 3 pack/day smoking habit. And more human.
My mother’s ability to connect, empathize and support others is innate but it’s also intentional. It’s a way of communicating that requires awareness, connected listening, empowerment and sometimes comfort. It certainly doesn’t judge or interrupt. And her endless hustle and energy…well, that’s a mystery, an inspiration and sometimes a nuisance (all of her devices ring non-stop!).
Why am I sharing this? Honestly- it took me a while to figure that out. I sat down to write my first ever blog post (what?!) thinking I would get real about my experience with workplace discrimination, my identity crisis after having my daughter, the echoing emptiness I felt after a pregnancy loss and the debilitating anxiety that froze me during the first trimester of my current pregnancy. But when my fingers hit the keys- I started writing about my mom. This surprised me for me a number of reasons, including the fact that our simultaneous transitions- - my matrescence and her semi-retirement transition- have taken a toll on our relationship recently. It’s all good…relationships and life and timing are just complicated.
Then I realized that our motherhood journeys begin with how we were mothered (or not). So it’s natural that my first post sharing something about my own motherhood journey and my definition of Motherhood starts with her. It’s a really simple concept that is probably a “duh” statement to most of you- but it’s something I never thought about. The same is true for parenting styles or techniques. I notice differences of parenting approach between me and my husband that are easily traceable back to our respective parents.
But motherhood. It’s not about doing. Or styles or techniques. Or the type or kind of mother you are (#smashthearchetypes). Motherhood is a state of being. That’s the actual Merriam-Webster definition- “the state of being a mother.” Not doing. It has nothing to do with whether you work in an office all day, or cook dinner every night or how you gave birth or discipline your children. It’s not doing. Motherhood is being. So…going back. How do I define Motherhood? How do I be a mother? I start by considering the person, the woman and the mother that my own mother is. Then I make Motherhood my own.
After my disastrous work situation that left me feeling helpless and betrayed (it’s a whole other Oprah show that I will share at some point), I had a two month old baby and the fortune of time to be with her until I figured out my next career move. Rooted in my people development and talent management experience, I enrolled in a rigorous coaching training program to build out my skillset. The program changed me. Sure, I gained additional skills for my resume but I regained faith in myself and the power of connection and empathy. There was magic in the vulnerability shared among the 25 strangers in that hotel conference room. Or perhaps the miracle was that we recognized each other in a different way. As people. We were there to learn how to help others find fulfillment. And the obvious lesson learned is that in order to do that you need to be able to see, actually see, empathize and empower others.
The people in the class who saw me first were the moms. They saw beyond the bags under my eyes and ignored the frequent phone checks to be sure the baby was okay. They texted me where they were going to lunch so I could join after I pumped in my car. We connected over work/life issues, identity transitions, fertility, sex and so much more. Sometimes we shared practical “tips and tricks” but it wasn’t about that. These authentic relationships helped me get my groove back. It was a kindred connection over common struggles but a transformative revelation in our common strength. I am forever grateful to this small group of women who will probably never understand the impact and positive influence they continue to have on my life.
We can “survive and thrive” in motherhood. But the first step is to figure out how to just be. Rooted in my mother’s example, the fateful support I stumbled upon in my coaching training and, of course, the accepting love of all my mama friends (including Cait!), to me, Motherhood means empathizing and empowering. Those are my states of being a mother. Empathizing with and empowering myself and others- including my children. And you.
MotherNation was created to support you. To be the calming whisper my own mother provides to the sick and scared, to spark the fuel and energy that my coaching sisters relayed to me, and to be a mirror reflecting back your strength empowering you to make the choices that let you define your Motherhood. Your way.