“When women tell their truth,
they create rings of possibilities all around them.”
Is the myth of perfect motherhood doing more harm than good?
Society has always pathologized women who don’t want to have children.
But maybe that decision can create more good than harm.
Society has always expected women to give birth and to feel instant selfless, endless love for the child. What if that myth was detrimental to society and its evolution?
Is every woman automatically born with the mother archetype in her psyche and dna?
I’ve spent the last eight months researching the motherhood archetype out of my own need to understand what happened in my maternal lineage — a lineage marked by repetitive abandonment and motherlessness for generations before me.
I have been the daughter and granddaughter of alcoholic mothers for nearly 38 years now. The maternal instinct never kicked in for my mother. When I pulled on that thread as I sat 35,00o feet above the Atlantic ocean on my flight back from my French native soil.
What if my mother had never meant to be a mom to begin with and I had held it against her all those years?
What I discovered transformed how I related to my mother and how I relate to my own mother wound today. It lead me to see my mother as a victim of the choices that had been forced on her when in fact, she was not wired to be a mother. It was an important step for my process as my inner child truly grasped that her choices had nothing to do with how defective I was.
Through my personal research and studies of psychological data and testimonials of women around the world, I discovered that not every woman is born with a positive mother archetype. That’s right.
Women may have the physical organs to create life and give birth, but not every woman has the mother archetype built into her psycho-physical wiring.
My grandmother also suffered from chronic alcoholism and abandoned my mother while raising her other four children in an unsanitary slum that was in ruins back in France. The slum they lived in had no running water, no electricity, and no real bathroom. My mother was alcoholic and abandoned every single one of her four children merely a few months after their birth. As part of my personal recovery, I have undergone stages of shame, anger, forgiveness and healing. The pattern of motherless women in my family was so uncanny that I had to understand what happened in the core of these women’s bodies and psyche so that I could totally heal from their imprisonment. That incredible journey has led me to learn how to re-mother myself and become the Good Mother I never had for myself.
What could be the common denominator that led my foremothers to dismissed their assumed maternal instincts in favor of dive bars and self-destruction?
The mother archetype is not a switch that a woman can flip whenever she wants and the pressure to become a mother when one is not ready can prove to be really detrimental to both mother and child.
For some women, the budding mother archetype becomes engulfed by overpowering, darker archetypes that are already present in a woman’s psyche. My mother struggled with the magical child archetype, one that she desperately wanted to animate because her grandparents told her she was so fabulous that she would never have to work one day of her life. When reality caught up to her, she never had the strength to sustain the disconnect between what she had been told and what life was showing her. She mostly suffered from the motherless girl wound that she never overcame. It was the fatal shadow that took over her entire life.
Primatologist and evolutionary theorist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy argues that women will struggle with the instinct of survival when facing the incapacity to raise a child. My mother could barely feed and clothe herself — how was she supposed to fend for little ones when she couldn’t fend for her own inner child and adult needs?
I remember a conversation with a French professor over a minuscule cafe table in Le Marais district in Paris. Her daughter didn’t want to have children because she didn’t feel she had the maternal fiber in her. Her mom, we’ll call Mrs. LeBette for privacy purposes, just told her that she would grow maternal instincts during her pregnancy. But what if that wasn’t the case? What if society pressured women to have children when motherhood was not in their bones. These women would in turn cave under the pressure of procreating because we have told women for millenia it is their primary purpose in the world. The motherhood myth has suffused every culture since the dawn of humanity.
Don’t get me wrong. I have two daughters and they have been the single greatest source of joy in my life. My life beats for their happiness and well-being. But my maternal instincts also took a while to arrive with my first baby; thankfully they did kick in after a couple of week. But as I look back on the life of my mother, who abandoned her children only a few months after giving birth to them. How could she live with herself knowing she had little ones she hadn’t seen in months? She was turned into the black beast of the family because she never healed her own mother wound enough to mother herself and her found children.
I remember imploring my mother to stay with me after she left me stranded in front of my great-grandparents’ house at 2 in the morning when I was 8 years old. There was no amount of tears on my part that could make her stay with me that night. She tried to fit into what society deemed honorable, taking marching orders of an old world paradigm only to come back to the insufficiencies she kept hidden inside herself. Her mother would won and her maternal instinct never bloomed.
She had a gapping hole in her internal love tank she hoped would get filled with having children. But it didn’t work that way unfortunately. My kids filled my own mother wound hole in a span I never knew was possible. But that my love was never sufficient to feed the heart of my own mama.
The psyche of a young girl who suffers from an absent mother archetype creates a contraction of compassion and self-care in our psyche. Growing up without a stable, loving, self-respecting mother taught my young psyche that my mother didn’t treat herself with care and respect, therefore I wasn’t worthy of such.
The domain of trauma psychology informs us that our mother becomes a building block of our identity at a very early age. She is our first source and foundation so when we don’t experience Mother as a positive archetype, it overshadows our own ability to mother, instinctively and emotionally.
When we suffered from an absent or negative mother, that archetype becomes our own blueprint for motherhood and femininity until we do the work to retrieve the good mother in us. The orphaned girl/woman feels like she needs all the care in the world and can barely provide for her own needs, let alone provide for her own progeny. We develop a hunger for love that can never be truly filled and that hunger directs our other instincts in life.
Not only she didn’t have the mother archetype within her original psyche but she also struggled with overcoming her own mother wound. She was under-mothered and reproduced the same template in her role as a mother. The relationship our mother had with herself is the grounds our own emotional health takes place. My mama identified so much with her own mother that she was never able to grow and heal her own self.
As women, we learn to treat ourselves according to how our mother treated herself.
My mother de-valued herself all the time so I internalized her self-devaluation by believing that I was defective and unlovable. She learned from her mother that she wasn’t valuable and I learned the exact same fallacy. As a result of my own autodidact pursuit these last ten years, I have learned and practiced tools that taught me how to re-mother myself.
I re-learned to create a womb of compassion against the walls of my mind when it attacks me.
I re-learned to nurture my emotions with liberating acceptance when I descend into dark thoughts.
I had to heal what my mother couldn’t give me in order to hand over my inner little girl to my adult self.
I had to grieve her loving touch, something that only happened a few times a year. I grieved her absence at my schools and performances. I grieved her encouragement when I was wandering the streets alone looking for any comfort at all.
What I really want to convey to you, mothered and under-mothered women, is that there is a good mother lining somewhere in you no matter what type of relationship you had with your mother.
A lining of genuine caring, nurturing, kind mentoring, a place of attachment and a home base where you can feel safe. An inner layer of unconditional support and maternal love that lines your psyche. You get to that lining through your imagination, the steps of your own pain walking through the silence of your mind, in your meditative space, on the lines of your journal. Day by day, tear by tear, you discover the Good Mother that was always well and alive in you. We work with imagery of the good mother and we remember all the woman who have been good mothers to us.
In the resurgence of the Feminine aspect in the collective psyche, it is important we reclaim our bodies as women, which means reclaiming our choice to be mothers and how we mother. Some women are so afraid to reproduce the same patterns with their own children and that they will mess up their kids the same way. It doesn’t have to be true — at least now, we have the power of information and we know we can heal from our ancestral bondage.