Photo credit: Dawid S.
By Emelda De Coteau
Motherhood is different for everyone. I am not sure I fully understood this until giving birth five years ago. It’s easy to become distracted by all the cute faces peering at us from Instagram and Facebook feeds, but I like to unplug and take in the real world, minus filters, and editing. More than ever, particularly given the current political and social climate, we must make room in our hearts for understanding the many truths and experiences of Moms. For they are deeply bound to our own in ways we may not realize.
On a warm Saturday afternoon in a yogurt shop, I saw her eyes, worn from worry, filled with lingering sorrow, as she moved her son away from the other mother who looked slightly shaken. I missed some of what transpired as I settled Nai for her snack, but I think he reached out to connect with this other Mom, and it startled her.
Perhaps she wondered why he didn’t just say hello or ask her for something. Then I heard his mother say matter of factly:“ I’m sorry. He’s autistic.” Then a chasm grew between them as the other woman moved closer to her children and husband; not long after that mother and her teenage son left hurriedly.
Everyone continued moving as if nothing happened, but I could not stop wondering what any of us could have done as reassurance that there was no need for this Mom to apologize. I wanted to dart after her, offer a long hug as the afternoon sunshine coated our backs in warmth, and simply say, it’s ok. Your motherhood experience is not less than, just different, as Temple Grandin’s mother once reminded others.
Dr. Grandin did not talk until she was three and a half years old, according to her website, but later became a prominent author and speaker on both autism and animal behavior. Today she is a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University while consulting on both livestock handling equipment design and animal welfare. And again, I hear her mother’s wise words: “Different, not less than.”
What would trips to the park, grocery store, or anywhere else be like for all Moms if instead of turning away, recoiling, or looking befuddled because their kid differs from ours we simply held space for them, tearing down the walls of judgment and fear? I believe mindfulness in parenting and everyday life is the pathway to a liberated consciousness, which is at once acutely aware of our feelings and those of others, not as separate, but within the continuum of this human journey.
Thich Nhat Hanh, the poet, peace activist, and Buddhist monk nominated for a Noble Peace Prize who speaks around the world and has penned numerous books, defines mindfulness in True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart as “the practice that consists in bringing the body and the mind back to the present moment, and every time we practice that, we come to life again.”
Isn’t it beautiful? We are reborn again and again, by slowing down enough to not merely react to what happens around us, but courageously stand within it. We all live various mothering truths and some days these are an ever-shifting tapestry of beauty, challenges, sorrow, and joy. Let’s stop working to fit within the boxes of what society dictates and thrive outside the lines, not only for ourselves but the Mamas standing next to us.
Photo credit: Annie Spratt
Emelda is a loving wife, mama, creative, and believer seeking God anew in each moment. She serves as the founder of Women Creatives Chat, a community dedicated to empowering all creative women through events (launching in the fall of 2017), workshops and daily inspiration on Instagram and Facebook.
She is also a founding member of Black Womyn Rising, a radical intergenerational organizing collective for Black womyn and girls rooted in global sistahood. She blogs at Live In Color, about faith, activism, and inspiration, is a columnist for Beautifully Said magazine, and contributing writer for the Pretty Entrepreneur blog (a community which empowers women of color in business).
Like us on Facebook