With our inaugural posts this week we extend a hearty welcome to all of you! Thanks for taking a peek at Mothering with Soul. To set the tone for the type of sharing we envision for the blog, we are letting you eavesdrop on our conversations. Over the course of the week you will get a glimpse into our minds, homes, and dreams. Next Monday, we’ll begin our weekly rhythm by drawing one of 52 cards from The Mother’s Wisdom Deck, and exploring the light and shadow of whatever mothering theme it poses—from Awareness to Strength.
Day 1: We Begin…
Where did this all start? What inspired The Mother’s Wisdom Deck and this blog?
Niki: I’d have to say that these projects were born along with my first son, Haven. He came into my life like a zen koan, posing questions like ‘Are all babies Buddha?’ that could not be understood with my tried-and-true rational thinking. Haven also elevated everyday tasks into conundrums like ‘How does one chop carrots while nursing a newborn?’. It was my intuition that enabled me to reframe motherhood as a path to insight rather then insanity. Feeling my way through dreamlike days after sleepless nights, the idea for The Mother’s Wisdom Deck grew out of a dire need for tools to help me access my deeper knowing.
Elizabeth: I totally get the insight versus insanity polarity, and I teeter precariously between the two on a seemingly daily basis. For me, I find mothering to be the truest mirror of myself—the good, the bad, and surprisingly often, the ugly. Mothering takes me a on a long, interesting trip within, uncovering my deepest needs, my unhealed wounds, my secret longings, and my purest heart.
photo by Sarah Kate Butterworth
As for how I came to be involved on the project. I was working at the time as a freelance journalist, and sometimes I was writing about things that didn’t inspire me personally or feel close to home. It was so cool to be able to write, express, and articulate my experiences of being a mother. Motherhood changed my life completely, was on my mind 99 percent of the time, and felt like my new all consuming practice. I was changing as a person in ways I could sense but didn’t have time to explore in depth, and this project gave me that chance.
Jenny: It was a wild transformation into motherhood indeed! I can wholly relate to the peculiar mix of absolute clarity, bliss, and mania. For me, the confusion began somewhere in that first year as I began to invite parts of my previous life back in (primarily, my art career) but couldn’t see where they fit. Prior to that, I happily poured ALL of my creative energy into Tulsi. For months I remember not having any desire to create. At some point though, I began to feel a little lost without my art and started asking for a meaningful project that would renew my passion and allow me to reflect on mothering. Then my husband met Elizabeth who invited me into this project. I thought it was so perfect that the first two cards I painted (with Tulsi in my sling) were Surrender and the Hindu goddess Kali, who represents time. Those two paintings helped me let go and breathe deeper!
N: Motherhood completely transformed my relation to work as well. When I was pregnant I started a documentary project and a folk art gallery only to discover that for me these more worldly endeavors were incompatible with motherhood. I had a several other false starts until I realized that I needed to approach my work as an extension of my mothering rather than a departure from the home. It has taken The Mother’s Wisdom Deck, and a patient therapist, for me to accept mothering as my true calling for the time being. Mothering with Soul is my way of connecting with others on the same path.
J: Niki, I really respect how you began to look at your work in relation to being a mother. I love pouring most of my creativity into Tulsi and our home, garden, and food. I have also redefined what kind of illustration work I want in my life for now. I feel so blessed that my children’s books are wholeheartedly connected to my daughter. I do wonder sometimes how much “better” a mama I would be if I put my art aside for some years, but I think the most important thing is to keep striving in whatever ways feel right.
Also, my mama-baby groups were a saving grace and a perfect balance to the solitude (and still are)! I think this blog-space can be a place to commune, support and inspire each other!
What soul work has mothering entailed for you?
N: Not a day goes by in which I am not faced with my most formidable personal demons while trying to show up lovingly and wholly for my children. It is extraordinary how they take me to my edge and yet fill me with incomparable love that keeps me coming back for more. It is easy to excuse or ignore your shadow until you see it laid bare before those you hold most dear. My work is to be fully present to whatever arises over the course of a day. Some days I experience unimaginable wonder and joy. Some days I am brought to my knees.
photo by Dustin Brunson
E: Nothing like motherhood to bring on the shadow. I didn’t know how truly impatient I was till I had my son, and just trying to get him diapered, fed, and dressed in the morning would stress me out and have me grasping for the rescue remedy. I am taken aback by the rage and anger that mothering brings up. I try to regulate the stress I feel at always being in a hurry, the chaos of trying to get out the door and anywhere on time, the sounds of grunts, whines, cries, and screams. I notice how my children react when I get upset with them: they offer me the gift of continuous feedback and instant karma.
And, I didn’t have the best model for parenting, which I think was why I was so ambivalent about taking motherhood on in the first place. Lately, the soul work for me entails knowing that I am OK, trusting my own authority, and loving myself despite my shortcomings.
J: I have a feeling this work is compounded with two children. Still, constantly seeing myself through my daughter’s mirror is incredibly revealing—especially in this new, almost-three-years-old stage of independence, opinion, and flux of emotions. Throughout every day, I have endless opportunities to be gentler with my words, to be kinder to myself, to kneel down to meet her eyes, to hold her hand or let her go, to breathe deeper through my frustration, to stay close when I want to walk away from screaming, to whisk her away on adventures because I love them too, to feel confident, to follow my intuition, to let go of patterns, and to trade a clean house for play and magic.
I am also a dreamer, and mothering helps to ground me in the present moment and slow down. It is teaching me more about creating boundaries—that it’s ok to say “no” and that “no” translates as a “yes” to something else. Motherhood has shined a magnificent bright light on what’s most important. I want my daughter to feel my self-love and confidence, so she too will know it deeply. This is something I am always working on.
What do you see as the greatest gifts of motherhood? Challenges?
J: Being wholly connected with my daughter in love and seeing the world with fresh eyes and openness. I have more compassion, love, patience, courage, and strength than I ever knew. My greatest challenge is remembering this daily.
E: The gift of being truly absorbed by love. The challenge for me is being the example, upholding integrity and modeling mindfulness.
N: The greatest gift is to know thyself through unconditional devotion to other. The greatest challenge is the unconditional devotion to other part. The devotion comes naturally, but I struggle to temper my fierce attachment to these miraculous beings that bless my days. Gratitude and non-attachment are my mantras.