A Mother’s Pain

This is a story to create awareness of the gap between motherhood and culture. For the first seven months’ of my daughters life, we lived in Germany and France. I felt something was wrong, even though other mothers told me that these symptoms would be normal:

  • isolation

  • depletion

  • loss of identity

Motherhood is connected to self-sacrifice — meaning to give all of yourself to your children as you lose contact with old friends and activities.

In the first few weeks after birth, people were really interested in my shift of life. But as time passed, they were back to being busy with “their own problems”

In this story I am not blaming certain people, this is more to raise awareness of the culture we are co creating.

Now I am living with a traditional Balinese family and being a mother finally feels right. The contrast of my life here and there is so big and I am sure in other indigenous cultures I would find a similar feeling. The old saying:

It takes a village to raise a child.

But what has happened to us, to us western people, that we are living such a different dogma? These are some statements I have heard or friends’ mothers have told me they have heard:

“You wanted a Baby- now it’s your responsibility”

This sentence speaks of the individuation we are living. Everybody is following “their” own dream and disconnected from their context in the search to design a life that is suiting their best interests. If personal choice might bring personal freedom it also brings about separation and isolation. Especially in this special moment of life when you are becoming a mother. This is a time of being dependent. You just can’t take care of yourself and a newborn at the same time. Mothers who make the impossible possible often “burn out” in their forties and turn away from their children and focus “on their own needs”.

“You only want to talk about your child”

This might happen as a side-effect to be pushed out from the cultural platform. Like a “nerd” in the school that is not part of the popular activities and becomes more and more “special” because they are losing contact to others’ social games.

So if mothers don’t feel welcome in art galleries, cafes, in the street, supermarket, clubs — they meet in special mothers groups and lose contact to what’s happening beyond their babies pampers.

“Ohh your baby is sooo sweet”

Yes we hear this a lot. That’s nice of you to notice. But unfortunately I (as a mother) have not heard any compliments for a long time. I still exist. I am still a woman.

I am really trying to make sense of this gap. You know, first I did not want to even think about it. Because I felt ashamed: “maybe it’s just me? Maybe I am really not interesting anymore? Am I too needy? Maybe other mothers manage better?” So bringing my isolation to the surface was exposing myself to a lot of self-criticism. And then I started to realise that my doubts are not as personal — this is a phenomena of our culture. So I started to talk with other mothers.

There is not a person to blame, but let us have a look at this kind of culture we create. Woman with children lose their confidence because of the isolation, they get weaker and more and more invisible. In some cities you might not see any traces of children existing. In Paris for example finding a baby chair in a restaurant is quite hard. Children are too loud. Too distracting. Too honest. So they are in special institutions where somebody else has to deal with them.

And as a mother if you want to be part of the common culture and not pushed away in the ‘nerd corner’ you better pretend like this major event has never happened. Try to get your “body before” back. Hence they are ignoring that they have changed. Why does our culture not promote the beauty of mothers’ bodies? Mothers’ bodies have marks of pure love. Of unconditional giving. Why would any women want to exchange this for a body of a younger, less mature woman?

All of this needs to be discussed and communicated. Because yes, becoming mother is an initiation. Some things are hard to explain unless you have experienced it. One big realisation I had on becoming a mother was my own insignificance. This was BIG. Until then I felt infinite. People acknowledged me as “the future is yours”. The moment I saw my daughter I realised that I am her past. She is the future. And for the first time, I saw that my life will end eventually. Accepting this was deeply humbling.

And I understand that some people might not want to face the fact of their death, of their short life. Especially in the so-called conscious community I see ironically a lot of concern about SELF. “What is MY biggest contribution to the planet?” “Who am I”- All questions that originally came about when overcoming self-absorption. Have you heard of the term ‘spiritual bypassing’? It’s when you consider yourself as aware and conscious but actually you are blind to yourself.

It’s so interesting that the people who cared less about me being a mother were the people busy with spiritual “activities”. That hurt and surprised me the most. I could accept that if somebody who is egocentric and ignorant would not see the significance of a mother — but how could it be that somebody that talks about “the future- community- awareness” could not see me?

This observation is also shared by other mothers who are surrounded by people calling themselves ‘spiritual’.

A friend who is also a mother imagines that the reason could be that in the spiritual community it is most important what you can give to others. How connected you are. The moment you become a mother all your time goes into raising your child and taking care that you don’t forget to eat or drink. Literally. This is not a joke. Mothers’ instincts are amazing, we would die for our child. This is not poetry. It’s our daily life. So this friend told me that one time she went to a cafe that serves as a meeting place for the spiritual folks. Her baby was with somebody else. She was approached by a Yoga practitioner that eagerly engaged in a talk with her. Talking about spiritual concepts of being connected, caring for humanity and those kinds of ideas. Then her baby was brought to her. The “spiritual man”, abruptly stopped the conversation and had to go all of the sudden.

Coincidence? … It happened to me in similar ways.

Again — this is not to complain or blame. Honestly- I don’t wish the same culture on my friends who might have children one day. So let’s learn from our mistakes together and make a new story. One that puts mothers in the midst of culture.

As I see it in my Balinese family. The mother here is in the centre of the family compound. Her baby is cared for by many, somebody offers her food and sends her to rest.

And I see Balinese mothers with grown up children, how they are still balanced, loving and giving.

So if some of this makes sense for you and you want to contribute to a healthy future, to a culture that raises a positive future — what can you do?

Are you a mother: reach out. Communicate what is happening for you with your peers. Don’t fall in the trap of only sharing sweet pictures of your baby. This is what might get the “likes”- but its not what will enable you to provide for your child in the long run.

For all of you: Reach out. Do you see or know a mother? Can you support her? Even just offering a glass of water? Seeing her. Even the Baby might be super sweet- just give her a look. See her. Acknowledge her.

This will make a much bigger impact to a conscious culture than offering one more workshop, updating your website, or sitting in meditation one more hour.

I know your business and your dreams require your presence. But please think about the bigger picture? If it’s all about YOU YOU YOU, there is not a whole lot of WE left. And YOU might fall into a similar isolation.

Clara Hahn