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Leisure time, Motherhood and the Mother Wound

Bethany Webster

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 - 2017 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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