The Great Mother

reflecting on life: stories, wisdom, inspiration, aggravation

Thoughts on Feminism & Motherhood June 24, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 12:10 pm

I read this article in The Atlantic recently and recommend it for those who find themselves caught between paradigms (or at least between neat categories of mothering-type).  A friend also suggested this book, written in response to the book Opting Out about Ivy-League gals who plan to take time off to be home with little ones, which I hope to read at some point in the summer.  It seems that motherhood should unite women through all the commonalities of the experience, but women are easily divided by categories and titles of competition.  Why is this?  Who benefits from our divisions?  Why do we allow this to go on?  Why do we participate in the process and antagonize one another?

I am not working a typical job while my child and/or future children are young.  Some women seem to view this as disloyalty to all the hard work that our predecessors have done.  We’ve worked so hard to gain access to positions of authority, and I am abandoning ship.  Every now and then I’ll hear, “So you’re really not doing anything?”  I’m one of the countless women seeking to stay connected to my vocation in meaningful ways but also working to be fully present in the fleeting days of early childhood.  I’m keenly aware of my limited energy and want to use it well and for people who matter greatly to me.

There’s some questioning from the moms who do not spend any time away from their children at all.  I’ve heard things like, “You’re home part-time, right?”  There’s a lot of judgment, and often it is backed by some pretty fierce emotions.  Full-time mom, part-time mom, weekend-mom, stay-at-home mom, day-care mom.  I’m guilty of playing into this categorizing game, too.  But again, I ask, whom does this game benefit?  What does it mean and what does it look like to be fully woman, fully mother, and to reconcile the many parts of us?  

I have never found it easy to juggle multiple responsibilities, and adding motherhood to the mix then helped me prioritize what to drop.  I have often wondered in these 27 months if some of my sisters really believe that being a fully free, strong, feminist woman actually just means to act like a caricature of a man.  Is a new wave of feminism moving beyond the strict, limited, almost fearful drive for work and power and success?  To expand on the previous generation’s work, we are asking questions about what it means to be a woman, what it means to settle fully into our mothering skin, and to figure out vocation from a centered place of identity.  To put this in context for my own reflection, the questions of feminism should not be driven by workplace equality and competition but by looking to a Divine image of who we were created to be and how we have been formed in our inmost being.  Everything else should move from that center.  


Bird Mamas June 10, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 7:06 pm

I have been tracking bird nests all around my house for weeks now.  The red finch family took over one of our hanging ferns, and the plant is now all but dead.  My husband peeked inside last month and saw small blue eggs, and that’s when I quit watering it.  People tell me it’s okay to water, but I’ve been nervous.  I’ll slowly approach the fern with a watering can, but I inevitably chase the mother away.  I snuck a glimpse of the pitiful baby birds one day and became even more hesitant to water the half-dead plant.  

In our crape myrtle in the backyard has been the busy cardinal family.  The mother stole white peony petals to line the nest and lay two white, speckled eggs inside.  I was able to take some nice photographs of her as she kept the eggs warm and waited for new life to emerge.  After a quick but strong storm last week, however, the nest was turned almost 90 degrees.  I found broken shells in the yard and discovered the two babies were perched in what should have been the height of the nest.  The parents could no longer sit in the nest but continued to precariously hover and feed the babies.  I fretted for several days and consulted friends on how to right the nest and save the babies.  I left them alone, and now the whole family is gone.  I searched the ground everywhere, and there is no sign of death.  It is my hope, and friends support this theory, that the family has relocated to a safer spot to raise their little ones.  

Why does it matter?  They’re just birds, right?  Why let the fern die or wake up at night thinking of ways to support a toppled nest?  Why photograph a strong mother cardinal anticipating her hatch date?  I suppose I like to believe that we mothers are all connected by our impulse to create and sustain life.  I want to believe that other women are watching out for me, cheering me on, and thinking of how to best support my little nest here in Virginia.  Perhaps the highly anxious bird is a good metaphor for the way I engage fear.  Or maybe when Jesus said that God cares about sparrows and lilies, I took that to heart and figured God was inviting me to care, too.

I’m preaching on living a Green life in July and plan to use (cited, of course) some great material from Brian McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy.  He sets forth that “Increased concern for the poor and oppressed leads to increased concern for all of creation.”  My desire to care for the bird mamas in my yard is not just about my own mother identity but is a dimension of seeking justice in a broken world–the work of all mothers.

“God sent Jesus into the world with a saving love, and Jesus sends us with a similar saving love–love for the fatherless and widows, the poor and the forgotten to be sure, but also for all God’s little creatures who suffer from the same selfish greed and arrogance that oppress vulnerable humans.  The same forces that hurt widows and orphans, minorities and women, children and the elderly, also hurt the songbirds and trout, the ferns and old-growth forests: greed, impatience, selfishness, arrogance, hurry, anger, competition, irreverence–plus a theology that cares for souls but neglects bodies, that focuses on eternity in heaven but abandons history on earth.

When greed and consumerism are exposed, when arrogance and irreverence are unplugged, when hurry and selfishness are named and repented of, when the sacred-secular rift in our thinking is healed, the world and all it contains (widows, orphans, trees, soil) are revalued and made sacred again.”

Well said.  Amen. 


Mother’s Wisdom June 2, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 6:31 pm

Today began to look like one of those hectic days before 10 a.m.  A friend invited us to go to a local park to see farm animals.  Sounds like fun.  Still in pajamas, my son and I moved upstairs to quickly get dressed. This is when my husband, already at work, remembered we’d switched the car seat to his car.  He called to find out when I needed it, then the boy and I waited in the back yard.  It rained quite a bit last night, so much of the yard was wet.  I managed to soak myself as I moved a plastic table from one spot to another, then my son soaked himself as he went down a wet slide.  So we marched back inside for wardrobe change number two.  I called the friend to say we’d likely not make it to the park, then my husband arrived to see his wet family moving upstairs.

But the day did not stay chaotic.  Today I sensed wisdom telling me to go another route and listen to what I really needed from the day.  A friend (the one who told me to slow down and breathe) says this wisdom is the holy spirit whispering to us.  Or it’s the voice of the Great Mother, and we have to be attentive and still to hear and fully receive that guidance.  

Once we were dressed, dry, and ready to go, we got in the car without a clear destination.  After a few minutes of driving around (now an hour from when we’d originally hoped to leave), we moved toward our favorite spot at the botanical garden.  The day was calling for quiet time to reconnect with my son after a busy couple of weeks.  We moved past a huddle of very pregnant women (C’mon, God.  Seriously?) and found our place at the edge of the pond.  There we sat for at least half an hour as my son and I fed dozens of brim and a mother and baby turtle.  It was the simple morning that we needed–a meditative feeding on the sunny dock by the pond.