The Wild Mother

I’ve been thinking a lot on the creative life and the life of the mother… how a creative can be a mother and the mother can be a creative but that these two parts of her being need equal nurturing or neither will reach its full potential.

There’s a lot of literature and takes on the necessity of a (wild) woman to embrace her creativity. I think of the quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estès often,

“I've seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write... and you know it's a funny thing about housecleaning... it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectabilty) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she "should" be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”

And there is so much truth there.

But, I keep coming back to the knowing that to be a mother is to be responsible.

My cat recently had a litter of kittens and I’ve watched her habits change and shift. She knows nurturing, feeding, cuddling— caring for her brood, comes before hunting and chasing chickens and frolicking in the grass.

I am a writer. I’ve had a great deal of work published and that makes me proud, but, the younger me absolutely envisioned being more “accomplished” in that area by the time I was 35. I am working when I can on 4 different books, but these are works that will not reach the finish line for (most likely) years to come.

I’ve realized recently, that I’ve made peace with this. At some point, my life of nurturing and responsibility has eclipsed my “creative” life and I’ve never been as happy or as peaceful as I have been these last few years. Something has shifted a great deal inside of me. I keep coming back to the thought of, “What else matters besides the legacy I’m leaving for my family?”

I started researching mothers who put their creative life before motherhood and I couldn’t find a single one who was happy or didn’t struggle with depression or end up committing suicide. I find this interesting. All my life I believed that to be a mother, a woman who put the responsibility of caring for the children and caring for the home before all else, meant to be in some sort of domestic prison. My Wild rejected domesticity.

But, I think our conversation needs to embrace something like, The Wild Domestic.

You are still a creative woman when you are organizing the spaces in your home for you and your family. You are still a creative woman when you are washing the laundry and sweeping the floors. And, you are most certainly a creative woman when you are cooking.

I’ve known women that rejected their responsibility to their children on a quest to find themselves and their “mission” and they are not happy women. They are wandering and lonely, regardless of what outward appearance they attempt to project. They long for what they once rejected and are now lost. Lost to themselves and to the illusions of the world.

And I do think society is to blame.

Of course a mother will reject her responsibilities and struggle with the idea that she hasn’t reached her full-potential if her creative life feels stifled— society rejects the mothers, doesn’t respect the work of the mother and makes it impossible for a woman to be a wild mother!

I’m not trying to go all Serena Joy on you guys. I’m just musing here. But I think so much of the literature on the wild woman focuses on the life of the maiden. A woman with children lives a much different lifestyle than the one without. And it seems like, the life of the mother, is belittled is from all sides.

What is life for, if not for raising the next generation to reach their full potential? Political striving, the economy, everything really, wouldn’t matter because there is no one to inherit it all. The family is central. And the mother is the cornerstone for her family, for her brood.

A child cannot reach its full potential in a dirty home, without meals and clean clothes and the knowing that they are safe. The mothers work provides these things for them. It is crucial. It is the survival of our species. What truly is more wild than that?

I would like to see a shift in the dialogue— less about how the mothers can reach their full potential in societies standards of success (book deals, sought after teacher, world traveler, etc etc) and how women can be give the freedom and community to fully bloom into being the best mother to their children that they can be.

There is the season of maiden, of mother, of crone. And there is so much for the maidens, for the childless women— I don’t want to see the mothers be left behind. Recognition of the need for community, of the mental and physical support that can only come from uplifting those whose bodies bring forth the next generation, and those whose time and energy is spent caring for those who are unable to yet care for themselves— these things must be treated as the creative, honorable, necessary and loving work that it is.

A supported mother is unstoppable in her potential. She is fulfilled and tuned into her surroundings and the people around her. She is a safe-haven, freedom, place of joy. That is the natural mother. Not one of bitterness and exhaustion and unmet spiritual and physical needs— that’s what we’ve done to them. Our society.

We need to change this. We need to do better.


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