Leisure time, Motherhood and the Mother Wound

Just one Kiss by Alessia Iannetti

The choice of whether or not to have children can be strongly connected with the mother wound. 

There’s a lot of talk these days about women who choose not to have children and whether they are selfish or not. The fact that this question is so ubiquitous says so much about our culture.

I recently saw a clip of a male news anchor calling child-less women selfish, decadent and gratuitous. He sarcastically asked what child-less women do all day; go to spin classes, sip smoothies or daydream? I thought to myself, so what if a woman wants to spend her days taking spin classes, sipping smoothies or daydreaming?

Weeds by Khoa Le

It seems that those who express this view feel an undercurrent of anger. They are typically either those that benefit from women’s exploitation or those that have bought into the lie that female survival comes from our willingness to be exploited.

For those espousing the viewpoints of patriarchy, nothing is more enraging than a woman who doesn’t feel indebted or self-deprecating…

Jenna Lyons by Ellie Skrzat

Nothing is more offensive than the woman whose presence unapologetically states:

  • I don’t owe you a child.
  • I don’t owe you a fuck.
  • I don’t owe you my approval.
  • I don’t owe you ego-stroking.
  • I don’t owe you explanations.
  • I don’t owe you my attention.
  • I don’t owe you anything.

I am enough as I am. 

Why does that make them angry?

Because the age-old lie of patriarchy to men is that they are entitled to the control of women. The lie to women is that we are “less-than” and deserve to be controlled.

When it comes down to it, the anger comes from a perceived loss of power when women can no longer be used as a buffer between their ego and the places where they’ve felt abandoned, abused and humiliated.

We must refuse to be instruments of self-avoidance in others, whether our partners, our mothers or others. This is the depth of integrity we are being called to bring to our daily lives.

Celestial Soul Ka by Katherine Skaggs

One of the most powerful things we can embody is:

“I don’t owe you a version of me that distracts you from your responsibility to face your own pain.”

The many women I speak to around the world about the mother wound tell me of mothers who display disturbing behavior that reflects the patriarchal mindset; intolerance for differing views, contempt for autonomy, demands “her way or the high way,” mocking and cruelty for expressing feelings, etc. These mothers are typically women who have been brutally wounded by patriarchy and who are threatened by women who don’t buy into it.

India Bliss by Matt Jones

The truth is that a woman shouldn’t have to justify her existence with what she does for others. In fact, I would say that as women, it’s critical for us to create time and space for ourselves to simply BE without the pressure of giving, providing, fixing, etc.

Let’s stop defining ourselves by who we take care of, by how hard we work, and by how extreme we’re willing to deprive ourselves.

As a collective, we women are longing to rest.

Our lives are so full but we have to find ways to have some unstructured time in our lives to simply BE.

For many there is such a short distance from feeling our feelings to feeling guilty. We have to de-couple the two. The fact that we equate feeling sadness about our childhoods to blaming our mothers shows just how unworthy we feel.

Ali Mabuha (Ali Rahamad)

Feeling our worth regardless of how others respond is equivalent to being independently wealthy. When the knowledge of our worth is de-coupled from the behavior of others, we are untouchable. That is the threat that women’s leisure time has presented to a patriarchal society and partly the reason child-less women are still viewed with suspicion.

We have to face the uncomfortable truth that women have been systematically distracted from ourselves, from our truth, from our power in so many ways and motherhood can be one of those distractions. I recently saw a post on Facebook where a mother duck is in the bathroom with her baby duck. She says, “I used to be a smart person that did interesting things, but now I teach kids how to wipe.” Motherhood that is chosen and desired, inherently brings a degree of loss; loss of free time, a shift in identity, etc. The loss is even more devastating  for women who perhaps didn’t really want to be mothers, or used motherhood to fill a void, or who did it because that was what society/family wanted of them. And since there’s no place in our culture for women to safely express rage, it usually gets taken out on the next generation.

The notion of obligatory motherhood perpetuates the mother wound. 

Motherhood must be consciously chosen if we are to be truly powerful. And mothers need support, WAY more than our society has been willing to give. This intersects with so many other issues. Consciously chosen motherhood is good for moms and dads and it’s good for children. By chosen, I mean not pressured by family and society, not “backed into a corner financially” motherhood. And also not allowing ourselves to be pulled into it unconsciously.

Someone recently said to me, being wealthy is being able to choose what you want to eat and choosing when and for how long you get to rest. That rang true for me. Those of us in low socio-economic conditions do not get to choose the quality of food we eat or when we get to rest. It also struck me that this is true for choosing when and how you want to have children. These things should not be considered a luxury for the wealthy but a human right for all.

Lotus Nature Print by Sue Halstenberg

Leisure time is important for creativity and reflection.

Freedom is unstructured time. Child-less women with time on their hands represent a threat to patriarchy. I think the world needs more child-less women. 

In my situation, I always thought I would have children. In my most un-healed moments, I longed for a child. But for me, the desire to have a child dropped away the more I had some time to get to know myself and what it is I really wanted. Having free time to do what I wanted started to sound way more fun than having children. I realized the gravity of the situation. Being a mother would require me to pour enormous amounts of my inner resources into a child. But there dawned upon me other possibilities for my inner resources besides being a mother. It felt like a new world opening to me, one I didn’t even know was possible. 

Women who choose not to have children play a vital role in society and can be immense support to women who do. Women with children can be supported by child-less women so that they can have the leisure time to create, write, nap, paint, meditate, etc.. It takes a village and we can build that village now.

Bubbling Up of New Desire by Debbie Arnold

The world needs the collective NO from women.

We’re seeing the push-back now. Sandra Bland was pulled over by a cop for making an improper lane change. Not long after, she was found dead in her cell. It reminds me of something Marion Woodman said: our modern day equivalent of the crucifixion is a raped woman. My belief is that one woman saying No is not enough. We have to say NO together. 

I believe that women of the past did not have the fortitude, tools or resources to say NO to the force of patriarchy. To do so meant death. And today it can mean death too. Those of us in the position of being able to speak out and make new choices must do so. We’re doing it not only for ourselves but for others who are more severely trapped by patriarchal confines related to race or class.  More of us are seeing through the lie of female compliance and feeling pregnant with a new earth that is possible, a new earth that can only be born through us.

At Rest by Helena Wierzbicki

© 2015 Bethany Webster

See Related article: “Self care is not Selfish”

Huffington post article: “270 Reasons Women Choose Not to Have Children”

Art credits in order of appearance: “Just One Kiss” by Alessia Ianetti, “Weeds” by Khoa Le, “Jenny Lyons” by Ellie Skrzat, “Celestial Soul Ka” by Katherine Skaggs, “India Bliss” by Matt Jones, title unknown by Ali Mabuha (Ali Rahamad), “Lotus Nature” by Sue Halstenberg, “Bubbling Up of New Desire” by Debbie Arnold, “At Rest” by Helena Wierzbicki

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If you’d like to receive my personal support in moving beyond the mother wound and into your full potential and success, please click here to sign up for a free, 30-minute Clarity session where I can help you get clear on how the mother wound is impacting you and create a roadmap to get you to the other side. I look forward to connecting with you!  ~Bethany

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24 thoughts on “Leisure time, Motherhood and the Mother Wound

  1. WOW – I want to post this – can’t find the link… you are a brilliant writer!!! This is so strong, so feminine, so now! This is the kind of Feminism I can stand for! I recently healed my mother wound, yet these articles are popping by :))) I do stand for other women. I, evidently was designed for this :))) I have raised a magnificent son. Who can only be with an unapologetic woman. Cool to stop the cycle & set him free.

    A client came in today and apologized for something inane, I told her to cut it out she is a grown women. Get exactly what she wants. It just popped out of my mouth AND felt amazing You are a force!!!!!!!!! Cheers, Erin

    Like

  2. WOW – I want to post this – can’t find the link… you are a brilliant writer!!! This is so strong, so feminine, so now! This is the kind of Feminism I can stand for! I recently healed my mother wound, yet these articles are popping by :))) I do stand for other women. I, evidently was designed for this :))) I have raised a magnificent son. Who can only be with an unapologetic woman. Cool to stop the cycle & set him free.

    A client came in today and apologized for something inane, I told her to cut it out she is a grown women. Get exactly what she wants. It just popped out of my mouth AND felt amazing You are a force!!!!!!!!! Cheers, Erin

    On Sat, Jul 18, 2015 at 3:34 PM, Erin MacGeraghty wrote:

    > WOW – I want to post this – can’t find the link… > you are a brilliant writer!!! This is so strong, so feminine, so now! This > is the kind of Feminism I can stand for! > I recently healed my mother wound, yet these articles are popping by :))) > I do stand for other women. I, evidently was designed for this :))) I have > raised a magnificent son. Who can only be with an unapologetic woman. Cool > to stop the cycle & set him free. > > A client came in today and apologized for something inane, I told her to > cut it out she is a grown women. Get exactly what she wants. It just popped > out of my mouth AND felt amazing > You are a force!!!!!!!!! > Cheers, Erin > > On Sat, Jul 18, 2015 at 2:01 PM, Womb Of Light <

    Like

  3. I love your work. This resonated with me:
    “Motherhood that is chosen and desired, inherently brings a degree of loss; loss of free time, a shift in identity, etc. The loss is even more devastating for women who perhaps didn’t really want to be mothers, or used motherhood to fill a void, or who did it because that was what society/family wanted of them. And since there’s no place in our culture for women to safely express rage, it usually gets taken out on the next generation.”
    I am a mother that unconsciously chose motherhood to fill a void, and I was quite young. I see the rage I cannot safely express being taken out on my children, which forms this vicious cycle of guilt. How can we overcome this, to be better mothers and be happier women?

    Like

  4. Thank you, Bethany. For all of you younger and not irretrievably stuck, heed my story:

    I am now 59 years old. I have been the default babysitter/caretaker since I was 13 years old and my youngest baby brother (of three) was born. I have taken care of three children utterly without the support (except financial, which is his ENTIRE idea of support) of my now ex-husband. The day my youngest turned 18 (last summer) and there was the faintest glimmer of hope that it would now be time for me, my mother moved in to die – with me as caretaker.
    There are no other assumptions. My brothers see it as “inevitable,” and are pissed off when I suggest to them that Mom might like a call or visit. One brother spent 45 minutes on the phone with me, mad as hell that his wife is the one who her brothers assume will take care of grandpa, grandma, sis…and then saying “my situation is different” when I point out the obvious.
    I love my brothers, my children and my mother.
    But the truth is plain: I AM THE FAMILY SLAVE.
    Oh, did I mention? I’m a minister, writer (4 books), spiritual experiencer, teacher…but do I get to be me?
    NO FUCKING WAY.
    And there’s no other way to say it.

    Like

    • Im so sorry to hear about all of this. I hope that in the next few decades you can claim your life. You do not have to be anyone’s slave ever again. Love to you

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  5. Thank you for sharing your perspective. Your insights are fresh and unique and uncover ideas and beliefs that have existed below most people’s consciousness.

    I believe that there is another element of this wound experienced by women, particularly those who were raised in religions and cultures that lauded a woman’s true and only viable role as being mothers and child-bearers. For those of us who purposely chose to walk away from the tribal demands of childbirth and care-taking family, a gnawing sense of guilt exists over rejecting the cultural ideas surrounding a woman’s “real” worth. I have carried that learned sense of lack or rejection of the tribe’s values in my body as a self-loathing and sense of shame over the belief that I did not use my reproductive capacities as the cultural “god” intended.

    For me, this sense of conflict has persisted. Even though logically I can tell myself that bearing children is not the “true measure of my existence” as I was taught, a cultural shaming persists that I chose not to honor the home tribe and dared to honor self above the group demands. The idea that the only real value that women have is centered on allowing the uterus to produce a child, or many of them, and then being tied to family and the culture for the rest of life can be hard to release, as the neuronal pathways run very deep in my brain. The sense of letting the culture and “god” down continues to raise its head like a huge condemning parent shaking its finger at me in the clouds.

    In these environments, purposely walking away from the norm is seen as an affront to the values and well-being of the group. No longer being enslaved to the tribe’s ideas can cause people to question their own values. All too often dissenting lives are framed as evil and worthless because they do not support the tribe’s values and sense of control over the group or as you mentioned, over women’s bodies and minds. From my experience, the women who hate their lot in life the most, are the most abusive and forceful in trying to keep other women enmeshed in the culture.

    Those girls who were sexually abused as tribal objects also face a different type of wound. In the manipulation behind filling a man’s perverted needs and in being consumes via rape, the child is often groomed as being special to god and to him, but then her own life is often threatened if she should dare to talk admit that it happened. The communication is such that her body is what gives her access to a special status in the culture, yet she is treated with such violence, ruthless abandon, and rejection that she often disassociates the experience from her conscious memory. Depending on the frequency and intensity of the abuse, her body will continue to act from a place of being abused, ever alert for potential abuse, even though she has blocked out the memory. That is when the recurring night terrors revisit the realities of her life.

    I often wonder, where I have been researching childhood trauma and the effects on the brain, how being raised in religions and cultures that devalue women impacts healthy brain development. Research has shown that ongoing abuse, particularly at a young age impacts 5 areas of the brain that are crucial for developing a healthy sense of concept.

    I’ve noticed that when I allow myself to get sucked back into family values and expectations of only the tribe’s worldview as right, my brain fires from a place of PTSD. The brain moves into a place of anger and powerlessness that recreates the same types of helpless feelings and sensations I experienced as an abused child. It takes a while to turn it back off.

    Even as child, I understood that the religion and its reputation was given more worth and protection than the life and well-being of one of its female members. How does a child deal with the realization that at an early age and where she lacks the physical size to protect herself that she has little value now and will likely have little value in the future?

    Where the abuse was directly related to having female body parts that attracted male abusers, the abuse made me fear and hate my own female anatomy. I saw it as making my world unsafe and I learned to see being female as inherently dangerous and a threat to my own well-being.

    At least now I am aware of how the brain works and how it makes my body feel when it slips back into the traumatic neuronal firing, where it sees everything in life as a threat. This realization also has helped me to identify a pattern, where for all of my youth, I reacted from a place of PTSD-induced cognitive trauma, seeing the desires of my authentic self as a battle against maternal and cultural norms. The PTSD focused the energy on the futility of trying to please a mother who I could never please and who saw my every move to be independent of her as an affront to her own self-worth. Today, after being on my own for 3 decade, I am asking myself once again why I still allow myself to go there.

    An awareness is emerging now and is beginning to give me some answers as to why when I have a simple disagreement with my mother over her worldview and what feels like another manipulation, that I so easily move back into the space that I hated so much–one that reminds me that I was powerless to live life as I wanted. I know the latter is untrue.

    My mother frequently laments over the fact that we are not close and how she wishes things were different. As much as would love to heal the wound between my mother and I, as many times as I have tried, and as much as I want to believe that she has changed, it is better for my own well-being to keep my distance. She embraces a different paradigm that celebrates being wounded as loving, honoring, and serving god and family. I believe that she will never be able to converse from a place of her own true feelings, instead of regurgitating what the religion has taught her to believe is her own values. That is a big down-side of patriarchal-based religions, unfortunately one that often creates irreparable family rifts.

    I so appreciate your work.

    Like

  6. Your articles are so incredibly well-written and profound. I resonated so deeply with what you wrote here. I felt all of these little tingles of inspiration and excitement as I read it. Its like you are inside of my head and reading my mind! I speak a lot about the importance of rest and down time to my patients and friends. We live in a culture that rewards burning the candle at both ends. We live in a culture that is only intreated in what you are doing and what you have accomplished vs who you are. I notice how many accolades people get for running a marathon or doing a 40 day yoga challenge. But no one applauds me for organizing my life so that I can take a nap or making certain that I am getting enough sleep and Thai massages to function as a mother, wife and healer. I could talk at length about this.

    I thought it was interesting how you mention having children as a distraction. This seems to be a big issue in our society. Having children to fill a void or because it prevents you from having to face yourself. or perhaps because it gives you validation.

    I was one of the women who always wondered if I was meant to have children. I feared the commitment and the work. I was terrified that I would never be able to handle the sacrifice and that exhaustion would overwhelm me cause me to resent my child and hate my life. Some of those things have been true but ultimately the choice to become a mother has been one of the most profound and healing experiences of my life. I still worry that I will inflict damage on my son due to my inadequacies and trauma. But I do believe that the love I have for him, and my willingness to face my own trauma will enable a better a different relationship with him than what I had with my mother. I know my son feels loved and safe, and this means the world to me. i am very grateful for his angel energy and I hope he can forgive my flaws and that when he is older, he can appreciate that I did my best to raise him to love and respect the feminine.

    I 100% agree that it takes a village!! boy would it be nice if we could support each other more. My sister is watching my son for me tomorrow which feel like a huge gift. I watched her daughter for her a lot before I had my son. Mothers who get alone time for rest and rejuvenation are better mothers to their children. I know that so many mothers get no support and I do not know how they do it.

    Like

  7. You are nailing why majority of men can feel the resentment piled up in their female partners. Waking up to that pile is an incredible gift and not needing to condemn for coming awake to it has been key for me to be able to work through them. My partner did not personally create the role I have played in stoking his ego and this truth…seeing how very impersonal all this is…creates all the room for me to fully view all the repercussions of playing my roles of detouring pain from his life for so long. This panoramic seeing of how the role has affected me and our relationship is like the understanding a child gets after laying it’s hand on a hot stove. You don’t have to try to talk them out of discontinuing the behavior!

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  8. This bit resonated so much with me “…the desire to have a child dropped away the more I had some time to get to know myself and what it is I really wanted…there dawned upon me other possibilities for my inner resources besides being a mother. It felt like a new world opening to me, one I didn’t even know was possible.” Thank you as always for a beautiful post. x

    Like

  9. Simply wonderful. Love every word and your chosen graphics. May I offer you a phrase I prefer and use – I am not childless. I am child-free. It was a deliberate and prayerful choice for me. I am proud to be child-free.

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  10. Thank You for showing this world from a new perspective.
    I have not children. I am from Poland.
    I understand, what You wrote about.

    It is “funny”, that in this world are more women than men. And perhaps for this reason some of women “should” to give birth for babys – “have children” and some of them “should” to dream consciously ‘the dream of a new world’. 🙂 A new world for women who choose not to have children and for women who choose to have children… and decide abot that consciously also for conscious men…
    The dream of world in harmony…

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  12. I do have children, adults now. But having children was a choice for me. I wanted them. And I gave birth to both of them while I was on active duty in the US military. i think I’ve been telling the patriarchy to fuck off in my own way. And now as a young 51 year old woman, I have a lot of free time on my hands. I love BEing. And DOing. I never felt my children were a distraction. Somehow when I was younger, I found the time to make time for me and there were other women in my tribe of military spouses and active duty members and we supported each other.

    I do not, for one second, think you are selfish for being child free. Not for a second. ❤

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  13. As a woman who is childless by choice, this comment most accurately describes how I feel “Motherhood must be consciously chosen if we are to be truly powerful.”
    I AGONIZED over the decision because of societal and family pressures, but deep down inside, in my heart, it was not for me. I have no regrets but there are some that think I should!
    Thank you for this deeply profound article…

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  15. Bethany, Fantastic article. Thank you my “Sister”. I’m presenting “Clearing the Womb Room” August 30 Sunday @ Infiniteus Rocks n Juice….. Perhaps you can join. Love to share and get to know your work too!! Golden thoughts ,Susan Curry

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  16. Your post gives me strength to say this clearly: I decided never to have children so as not to pass on the terrible parenting I received. It was a hard decision, but I am proud of it. So, thank you for writing this. Motherless women do not have to apologize, nothing is missing, we are complete human beings.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I remember as a young child in Colombia listening to my mother say, I wish I never had children, I wanted to dance and go to Hollywood…
    I don’t think that she was even angry when she said it, I did not even feel that she did not love me but I did feel I was in the way… it woke up something inside of me that told me, if you have children your time has been taken…
    I have never married and I don’t have children, Do I regret it? sometimes I look at my best friends, having their families and all that they do for them. Some of them love it, others can’t wait for the empty nest…
    On Mother’s day people ask me, are you a Mother? I say, yes!!! only my children don’t have eyes and noses!! Well some are fury and scalie… lol
    I am and Artist and entrepreneur and work with adults with learning differences that keep me feeling my nourishing bone is being used. I love them and grow with them, yet I own my time and see to it that I remain full in my capacity to self nourish and create.
    It is all about balance, Self love and the ability to keep passion and creation fed on a regular basis. Being in contribution has more to do with being happy and raising the level of energy and empowerment in others than birthing children if that is not really what will give joy to your soul!
    Thank you for your support for single and women who nurture the world through being enough for themselves…
    Much Love,
    Marlene

    Liked by 1 person

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