This week it was offered up to me that when it comes to motherhood there are two types of women: the women that want to breed and the women who want to work (putting motherhood off should it screw up their careers). Might I suggest that there exists a third type of women (though I’m sure the categories are endless)? The women who are scared of motherhood. There exists a constant and repetitive storyline around motherhood that it is an all round pretty sh*t gig – 100% fear inducing for yet-to-be mummy’s – myself included – and my friends Nicky Lark and Jacinta Tynan.
Nicky emerged a few years ago. She had been meaning to email for some time, she wrote. She was in the year below me at school, had been following my story, had been interested in learning to meditate for a long time but hadn’t taken the steps to start (“I’m a serial overthinker and also not great at sitting still for any length of time and so wasn’t sure I’d be a good candidate!”) but “a difficult 12 months has led me to email you, and I’d be interested in coming along to one of your introductory talks.”
As soon as Nicky and her hubby came in I had a really strong sense that there was something going on around motherhood for them (I think I saw a lot of myself in Nicky, and my own experience in their relationship). Turns out this was the least pressing issue for them at the time. It was not until long after they’d first stepped through my door, when Nicky started to do some design work for me, after learning to meditate, that she started to open up about her underlying reservations and fears around motherhood.
If life is feeling overwhelming well then of course the thought of throwing some small humans into that mix would seem overwhelming as well, I assured her. The more you meditate, the less stressed you feel, the more you start to thrive, rather than just survive, and when you’re thriving you can start to entertain the idea of taking on more things in life. That all made sense to her. But it was also the constant negative messages around motherhood that were coming at her from all directions that were doing her head in. Motherhood essentially, and persistently, being presented to her as a “‘shit gig’ you get no sleep, you have zero time and slowly but surely your mind, body and relationship suffers.”
Yep I’d been bombarded with that one too. So when you have a partner that wants three kids by the time he’s thirty (meaning I’d be preggos and still at uni) because wouldn’t that be “fun” the answer is a big “ummmmm NO!” While motherhood was a hood I’d always wanted to be a part of, I was in no rush to get amongst it. No one was portraying it as a “fun” gig, or anything close to enjoyable for that matter. When I was working as a lawyer I watched as a partner at my firm returned back to work six weeks after giving birth to her baby. She’d pop in and out of the sick bay to express. I’m open to everyone doing what feels right for them, but that was NOT a situation I aspired to. And no, it DID NOT look like “fun”.
A few years ago my friend Jacinta wrote an article about the fact that she was enjoying motherhood. It didn’t go down well. She became “the focal point of a mass mother meltdown.” Target number one for women everywhere not loving life as a mum. And it turned out there were many. It was never Jacinta’s intention to hurt and offend other mums. But masses of mums were furious and the abusive emails and social media comments came in droves. She felt sick leaving the house should she run into one such scorned mother looking to unleash. Cap. Sunnies. Hoodie. Essential items for any attempt at an incognito trip to the park.
She was perplexed. She had sought to express a different narrative than the one that she had been led to believe. And that she was fearful of. That motherhood sucked. BIG TIME.. And it’s that narrative that continues to be expressed – The Let Down being the latest such example – that motherhood is arduous and thankless. A constant and harmful message to yet-to-be mums. Nicky being a prime example.
What came out of that experience is Jacinta’s book MotherZen. You see Jacinta didn’t run away and hide from the experience, though I don’t think anyone would have blamed her if she had – the stuff that people were hurling at her would have been a lot for anyone to cope with, let alone a new Mum. She engaged with it. When she had the reserves to do so Jacinta sat down to figure out how it was that she’d unwittingly caused such an uproar. She read every mean email/comment that had been flung in her direction (often in tears). That takes real strength. She moved through a really difficult experience and allowed it to become a way that she could contribute a really meaningful narrative.
The thing was that she’d left out the bit about how it was possible that she was able to enjoy motherhood and in doing so essentially created a situation that for many mothers seemed like some miracle that they could not relate to and resented her for. She had in fact done a lot of work on herself, including learning to meditate and practicing that twice daily, which had enabled her to come to the experience of motherhood from a less tired and stressed starting point, and she was equipped with tools and knowledge in her back pocket for when times got tough.
I was given her book by my meditation teacher, Tim Brown. I think he saw a lot of Jacinta and her fears in me.
Jacinta learnt Vedic Meditation with Tim prior to the birth of her first son and in MotherZen she shares how having this tool positively shaped her experience of becoming a new mum and entering into motherhood. As she puts it “I was just like every other mother…It’s just that in the nick of time I had learned to meditate. I found a way to calm the hell down and tap into a well of positivity, presence and gratitude. With twenty minutes’ meditation equating to some four hours of sleep, I didn’t crave that either (I mean, sleep would have been nice and it was always a welcome state when I could get it but, since meditating, I could cope surprisingly well on the bare minimum).”
She never had the time to meditate, but she made the time,
“because otherwise I’d hate to think. I would set my alarm for twenty minutes earlier than when I thought the baby might wake up and do it then. It was hard because, oh, the temptation to keep sleeping. But I knew from experience if I forced myself, it served me better for the rest of the day. Or I meditated when the baby slept. He always slept for at least twenty minutes. If he fell asleep in the car, I would pull over (with the windows down) and do it then. I became optimistic and crafty, grabbing twenty minute bites wherever I could spot them, meditation take-anywhere-anytime antidote to intensity.
Which doesn’t mean to say that non-meditators are stuffed (although I know I would have been) or, conversely, that meditators are home and hosed. Meditation itself is not the panacea for the relentless slog that can be motherhood…It just happened to be for me. (So far).”
But Jacinta hadn’t provided any of that in her column. She hadn’t provided the back story. She writes in MotherZen: “I had left my readers with the impression that, when it came to easy motherhood, their were distinct mummy castes of haves and have nots and, by pure stroke of luck, I had wound up in the former – and who wants to read about that?”
Reading MotherZen had a huge impact on me. Especially Jacinta’s explanation that motherhood being easy has a lot to do with perspective. I knew this was the book for Nicky. But I’m not one to provide unsought advice. So I was pumped when just before Nicky was about to head away with me on my India retreat she hit me up for some reading material to take with her.
And she LOVED it, just like I had. And I think you might too.
Describing it as a “god damn breath of fresh air” MotherZen and Jacinta’s positive perspective on motherhood had such an impact on Nicky that she recently penned Jacinta an open letter:
“Your book has allowed me to completely shift my thinking around expectations, intuition, life changes and sleepless nights knowing that I too have information and tools at my disposal which will help me to have a different experience of motherhood. Your book is the positive perspective I’ve been missing all these years.
Thank-you for telling me a different story, for sharing with me an experience that’s so honest yet, so good. The depth of your research, the science and the studies that you referenced, along with your unique and loving perspective has chipped away at my fear and left me feeling really, really good about the next chapter for hubs & I. Finally, I can see the light at the end of the labour.”
I’m excited that Nicky is finally feeling excited about motherhood, when the time comes. And so am I.
Don’t get me wrong I’ve been pooed on and peed on and projectile vomited on to the point that my underwear was actually drenched (how?) #auntylife. And those tiny humans seem to just go and go from 4:30/5am when their eyes ping open (“morning time!!!!” my niece would run in and announce to her parents) till 8:30pm when the adult allocated the task of reading the bedtime story is fast asleep, tiny human still wide awake.
I remember the first time my niece put her tiny hands around my leg and looked up and told me, unprompted, that she loved me. And in that moment I thought to myself, this is how parents do this. This is what makes it possible and all worthwhile.
I spent a long time asking myself how I was ever going to do it. It’s taken miscarriage and fertility issues and Jacinta sharing her experience to see that motherhood is a privilege. And I’m so thankful for that. I’m so thankful for those life experiences. They’ve given me perspective and pushed me to learn to meditate. And I’m so thankful that when that time comes I’ll now have that tool. Because I don’t know how I’d do motherhood without it.
*UPDATE: Since this blog post was published Jacinta has offered to send out signed copies of her book to my readers. Like I said I LOVED reading it, so if you wanted to get your hands on a signed copy you can order it directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Pic via calmlykaotic