By the time I was 38 years old, I’d been widowed, divorced, and abandoned by three men I’d married, and I had a toddler and a teenager to raise on my own. It was no small undertaking. There was deep disappointment in me. Blame, shame, resentment and even fury were often my closest companions.
These emotions are dark feminine energies that come through the experience of being a daughter of the patriarchy and subject a woman, or man as mothering is not gender specific, to becoming a conduit for dark mothering. Children face these harmful energies, and as a mother I instinctively knew that I must not slip into the archetypal force known as death mother who lives in the collective unconscious of the human psyche. It was a risk I wasn’t prepared to take. So I had to learn how to stay conscious in the mothering of my children and it meant going against all my familial, social, and cultural conditioning.
Conscious mothering demands we be creatively maladjusted to the world as it operates now. And I learned this first-hand.
Mothering taught me to overcome the self that I believed was me. I had to grok the lies of the patriarchy. It had to be okay to not fit, to live on the edge, to exist on the periphery, in the margins. I had to build the stamina to do things differently. And oh the endurance it required! What my children taught me, which I in turn taught them, was what became our family mantra: Whatever you do, be true to you!
Let me tell you a story about what happened when my teenage son started to date.
When his first date arrived at our door, I did my best to not react in any way that would reveal the uncertainty that I felt within. I believed I was ill-equipped for the moment. I tried to act natural. But a part of me felt completely unsupported and vulnerable. Nobody ever talked to me about what I was facing, and I didn’t want to be overbearing or controlling which demanded I meet my own fear without projecting it onto the teenagers. It seemed, at the time, I’d accomplished the task because when the teenagers left our home they both had smiles on their faces as though having Mum’s approval and blessing meant something to them.
More than anything, I wanted my son to be autonomous and in authority of his own life. But I also wanted him to know that I had his back with a level of expectation that a teenager requires in order to understand he is accountable to something that is overseeing his best interests. I let him see the light I see in him so that he might shine.
It’s old-fashioned and patriarchal to orchestrate a first date the way we did. But my son has always had a traditional streak in him that longs for all things conventional. It’s probably just another expression of the human need to belong. However, it’s always baffled me because being a conscious mother has demanded that I be anything but conventional. For starters, my son’s first date two decades ago was with another boy. And it felt like the most natural thing in the world to a part of me while it also heaved another part of me into deep fear.
I was entirely at ease with his sexual preference because he was simply being himself, and I’d always known him to be who he has always been. I knew well that part of me who instinctually knew what was required to mother him. The dismay in the pit of my stomach was fear of social pushback that my beloved boy would most certainly face in the world as a gay man. And the only fear greater than this was the fear of how I would surely fail to protect him from that social pushback. How would I reconcile the fact that I mother him to be all of himself in a world that does not accept the perfection of who he is by nature?
After the boys on their first date were on their way, I left the house, too. Sitting in my car in the driveway, I heard a voice in my head whining and it wasn’t the voice of conscious mother who had just done a fine job. This voice was querulous. She was in full-blown pity-party mode. I knew if I succumbed to her that I was at risk for becoming death mother. Tears welled in my eyes. I felt like I couldn’t take another thing that the world had to give me. I was overwhelmed and completely done with all of it!
Why me? Haven’t I lived enough hardship? I’m widowed and divorced! I’ve left my third marriage! I’m a single mom! Jesus Christ Almighty, why am I now the mother of a gay son? How will I keep him safe in this world the way it is? When does it all end?
From behind and above me, in what felt like a magnetized silence, a deep voice had me turn to catch a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror.
“This is not about you,” it said.
A veil lifted. I saw through myself. I wiped away the tears. I took a deep breath and sat very still. I then sensed a loving presence all around me. I was being held and instructed.
“Why not you?” was spoken into this field of love holding me.
Right there and then I declared to myself that if I am privileged to be this young man’s mother, then I’d better shape up and get my act together. Because if I didn’t, I’d never be able to live with myself.
Many years later, I overheard a young woman describing my son to a small cadre of friends. She proclaimed, “He’s never not been out!”
For the conscious mother in me, it was about the best thing I could ever imagine anyone saying about my son considering the social climate I’d raised him in. I was proud of my work as a mother. I’d lived by the truth. His humanity mattered more to me than the ideas I’d been socialized to think and believe about his humanity.
It may seem simple to read, but the writer telling this story dares the reader to walk this walk for just a day and see where it takes you. What are you being true to? The socially constructed you? Or the deeper you? This walk is not for the faint of heart or the weak-minded. It takes guts and there’s not much glory. But one well-loved child can lift millions. It is the entire human endeavour.
Many women have been responding to the idea that the men in their lives have been “wounded boys.” I’d love to hear about your experience! I invite you to download this Story Form, use it to tell me about your experience, and email it back to me at [email protected]. Let us unite in the truth of our lives and rise!
This post is republished on Medium.