3 Ways Mainstream Culture is Wrong About Motherhood from an EcotherapistSep 20, 2021
Our socialization as mothers starts when we’re young. Our whole lives we absorb what it means to be a mother, as well as what it means to be a “good” or “bad” mother, through our interactions with cultural messaging through family, friends, and the media.
As a nature therapist, I think we can benefit from turning our attention to nature as a guide in how to approach motherhood, especially as nature challenges exclusionary and limiting cultural messaging that can do harm to mothers and our families.
So here are three ways mainstream culture is wrong about motherhood:
- There is a “natural” mother
No way. A mother is someone who undertakes the work of mothering, or nurturing a child, as a central part of life (O’Reilly, 2014). This is true if that mother is male, female, nonbinary, younger, older, someone who gave birth, adopted, or joined a blended family. Anyone can be a mother. Expanding mainstream understandings of mothers can enrich and expand our communities and help us embrace the rich mothering knowledge within our diverse communities.
- There is a “natural” way to mother
Nope. There are as many ways to mother as there are relationships between a mother and a child. Each of us are unique as mothers which can be hard to remember in a culture constantly promoting problems that need to be solved with specific products or services. In trying to do what is best for ourselves and our children, we can forget our own authentic authorities as those who know our children better than most anyone. You are the expert on your mothering. We can find freedom in connecting with our inner wisdom and remembering that are we are unique expressions of the living earth and can move that way in our mothering.
- Mothers “naturally” know how to mother
The transition into motherhood is called “matrescence” (Athan, 2015). Matrescence is a developmental period where mothers learn, often through trial and error, who they are as a mother. It’s a period of rapid change in physical, spiritual, emotional, social, spiritual, and political realms and can often be disorienting (Athan, 2015). Understanding motherhood as a process can help us grow and adapt and grow again with more grace, ease, and compassion.
Nature teaches us that diversity is a characteristic of a healthy ecosystem, even as our mainstream culture erases difference, propagating “status quo stories” of normal (Keating, 2010). Nature can guide us back to harmony in motherhood by helping us to embrace our full community, find our own inner compass, and embrace the whole range of experiences in growing into the mothers we envision for ourselves, our families, and the planet.
Athan, A. (2015). Matrescence Conceptual Framework. Unpublished manuscript.
Keating, A. L. (2010). Teaching transformation: Transcultural classroom dialogues. Basingstoke, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan.
O’Reilly, A. (2014). Motherhood Hall of Fame Keynote. Museum of Motherhood, New York, NY, United States. https://mommuseum.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/procreate_andrea_oreilly_july_1_2015.pdf
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