A few months ago, at wits end, I visited a physician to ask for help to care for my asthmatic boys. I felt a third party should give them the supplementary therapies they needed–detox, massage, etc.–so that I could take a break and be more of a mother than a caregiver they might already be starting to loathe. I felt then that all I did was administer medicines, lather massage ointments and oils, give footbaths, tell them to brush their teeth, drink more water, easy on the sugar, hold off the meat, etc., etc….it was eating into our ability to just be a family and enjoy each other. I was at the point where I felt I was carrying too much with the medication and therapies. I was at breaking point. I couldn’t breathe.
The doctor looked at me calmly and said, “Let’s work on you first and when you are stronger, your children will get better.” At that point, a lightbulb really went on. We know this conceptually: put your life vest on first. But to will the self-care is yet another thing we need to do! For hands-on moms, the easiest way –at least superficially–is to put yourself at the back of the line and concentrate on the needs of your children because that is what is needed most. It is just too great a task to organize your own health. You just need to get by. You don’t think of the growing tiredness, the eroding quality of your sleep, and the everyday stresses as you get through the daily and constant caring, loving and raising of your children. Especially on this path where we are constantly reminded that a mother’s tender love is the best ingredient in healing our children, the bar is raised so high above our actual capacities that it seems we are constantly clawing our way up but sliding hopelessly down a flawlessly sanded wall. Yes, you can do it all–or die trying anyway–but in the end something always gives.
All these things are invisible yet they take up all your inner spaces. The bulk of parenting has to do with this inward carrying of your children, wherever they are, all hours of the day and night. Only mothers know this well. This is why we are much more tired than the yayas! The connection between us and our children is so potent because we are bound together quite literally; the yaya can still define the space between herself and her ward, but there is no dividing that space between yourself and your child, especially if they are still very little. No wonder there is this feeling sometimes of being “touched-out” and wanting to retrieve as much “me” space at the end of the day. We are full, full, full to overflowing.
I know of some women who gave up being stay-at-home moms because it was too difficult for them. It was much easier to be at work missing their children, but they could not handle the daily demands of motherhood. Indeed, conscious and hands-on mothering is consuming in every sense of the word and I often wonder what we need to develop in ourselves when we are made into and become mothers? There is a part of us that needs to individuate, to awaken to who we truly are yet here we are, totally enmeshed and entangled with other human beings borne of us. It is an intricate, messy, intimate dance towards uprightness. It is a mostly unclear movement towards the integration of masculine and feminine–at least it feels that way to me. It is a stretching, forming, and culling towards something strong yet pliant, warm yet firm, clear yet fuzzy. It is not meant to be easy. It is definitely a true path towards wholeness, if we can navigate it with grace and a healthy sense of humor!
As mothers, we hold and carry so much more than we are even aware of, especially if we are trying to live consciously and raise our children differently. Yet, when we think of taking care of ourselves–oh please–ang hirap. Which is why the lightbulb suddenly went on for me the moment the doctor said that the health of my children depended on my health. Yes, I thought right then. It’s about time, what a great idea, and there you are, you can help me, I don’t have to do this one again all on my own. It was like letting myself fall into a cloud. I put that as a priority and I really do feel a shift even in my children. Because I have allowed this impulse of health to truly begin with me, we are all the better for it. It is important for my children to see that I have taken steps towards caring for myself so that a picture of inner balance and a conscious striving towards health is also born in them.
It is so important that we remain healthy in all our bodies–physical, spirit, and soul–yet we fail to see how nearly impossible it is to do it alone. As our children need us to care for them, so do we need the help of others to gather that in us which is seeking wholeness and restoration. It is important that we get support. It’s almost like someone with a strong ego has to come in and say, “Now! March your way back to health because you can be a better mother if you care for yourself first. No guilt. It’s not a luxury it is a requirement!! March!!” I know I needed that. It was important for me to have heard it from someone else, because even when I’m ill I feel I should be getting up and doing. The modern world has taught us that illness is a luxury! I am so fortunate that I was drawn to my doctor and her nurse because it really takes a team for healing to occur, at least if you’re trying to do it from the point of working on the whole.
Mothers need good care, in order for us to hold our families together in a vibrant, dynamic and joyful way, but no one in our immediate family will want to see that unless all hell has broken loose because no one wants to be without their mama! But we cannot do it alone. Yet, because we are so used to being the ones who hold everything together, it isn’t easy for us to accept help. When we think of caring for ourselves, we scoff and call ourselves spoiled, thinking we can do it all on our own but just never get around to it. In my case, I had to reach the point of frustration and desperation to be shown a soft cloud on which I could lie. Yes, we must also learn to happily and gratefully turn over the caring to someone else and accept the grace of healing for ourselves, towards the healing of those we love the most.
If every husband and partner were to realize that a happy, secure and fulfilled mother equals happy, secure and fulfilled children, the world would be a totally different place. In the meantime, mothers everywhere have to learn to stand up for their health with full awareness of how important it is in the health of the whole family.