“You can’t be a woman, you’re a mum!”
The words confidently stated by a 3 year old towards her mother in a busy grocery store.
“I’m actually both, honey. A woman AND a mum”, her mum replied with a laugh as she rolled her eyes at me across the bananas knowingly, both of us attempting a mid-week grocery top up with two kids in tow. Her daughter seemed to ponder her answer for a moment as if it could not possibly be true.
I left the store also pondering. How do we differentiate the murky waters between womanhood and motherhood? Besides the kind of obvious parts, what makes us one or the other? Or both? And can one be completely eaten up by the other, like a merciless identity-eating monster that preys on womanly mothers and motherly women?
Jokes aside, I think this little girl had a valid query.
“I feel like I’ve lost myself”.
“I just want to feel like myself again”.
Such sentiments, so common and so… accepted? As if it’s a given that once motherhood announces itself, either the woman throws herself wholeheartedly into her new role, flicking on the martyr switch with so much gusto that she forgets to foster the essence of her that makes her, her; or she is so bamboozled at how this new career change can possibly fulfil her desires and align with her determination for success, that she goes into deep mourning for her former life. Or a combination of both, which let’s face it, is a hell of a place to be.
Of course, I’m wildly exaggerating and stereotyping here, but in my experience identity loss and grief reactions within the transitional years of “mum-hood” is a real occurrence, whichever end of the spectrum you sit.
We have all heard of the illusive “balance” we must chase and conquer in order to ensure that whatever ratio of “motherhood vs womanhood” we fall into provides us with a sense of gain, rather than loss. That self-care is the answer, or perhaps it is going back to work, or hang on – could it be that I just really hate my husband and he is the cause of all my misery?
In seriousness, all of these things are plausible and inevitably impact on the experience of a woman and a mother. But often, we miss the point. We are so consumed with who we thought we were, who we are now and who we want to be, that we have lost our centre.
The centre of who we are as a human being, regardless of whether we are cleaning up another pile of baby vomit or applying our favourite red lippie before a hot date.
I believe once we have tapped into that which is at our core, commit to practice whatever it is that helps us to maintain our truth and connect to our higher selves; just like a baby foal learning to walk the woman and mother can merge, with confidence and integrity.
I believe we must be intentional when we connect to our womanhood. In a world constructed and enforced by the patriarchy, womanhood has been cut off from the aspects of feeling, embodying, and celebrating all that is woman. She has been divorced from her innate powers and taught to feel ashamed by her very magic.
Many of us believe we are connected to our womanhood, just by being a woman. Until perhaps we get to a point in our lives, particularly as mothers, when we feel something is lacking. A part of us has been lost. We don’t recognise ourselves away from our children.
Can you think of the last time you felt alive in your womanhood?
When I dance I feel alive. You know, the “dance like no-one’s watching” variety. Where your body leads and your mind surrenders to the music without worrying about how you look. I am free when my senses are ignited in sound and movement. My body responds to what feels right – sacred, wild and untamed. It is alive in womanhood.
Existing in true, authentic relationship with my sisterhood connects me to my womanhood. The freedom to be sensitive, deeply intuitive, gentle, fiercely angry, thoroughly depleted. All while being enveloped in pure love. That is womanhood to me.
Being bold in vulnerability, asking for what I want and pursuing pleasure as my birthright, because I understand that when I am in my radiance, I can serve others better. That is living womanhood on my terms.
Birthing my children, peacefully in one breath and with a roar of primal ferocity in the next. Feeling another tiny body move inside mine until the ultimate divine collusion as my child is welcomed earthside with every sweaty, pulsing cell of my body. Nourishing them, comforting them, giving them boundaries, instilling values, fucking them up and working to repair the damage with love. Oh, how gloriously messy womanhood can be.
Or is that motherhood? Or both? Can it be that the two can integrate so seamlessly, yet completely imperfectly so that one supports the other in a chaotic, albeit strangely harmonious dance?
Of course, any attempt to define womanhood in general is not conducive to the uniqueness that is the divine feminine power, but embracing our own sacred qualities and lived experiences as a woman is at the core of building an identity we are aligned with.
Once we can truly relish in our messiness, face the depths of our anger both individually and collectively, rid ourselves of external and internal barriers to joy and embrace our fullest potential, then the opportunity for a womanhood ablaze with colour, light, energy, and passion is available to us.
This not only includes motherhood, but is vigorously enhanced by all that motherhood entails.
Once we dive deeply into being rather than doing, one is the other. They are inherently one. Achieving this state is where the challenge lies. It is a conscious path, calling for the courageous woman seeking to fulfil her absolute potential. Is that you, mama?
My soul’s work is journeying the road to fulfilment with such women. My 5-week one-on-one course, ‘Mama Rising’ is designed for mums who feel the call to explore, process and integrate both their roles as woman and mother, to allow them to feel a sense of freedom and joy they yearn for. To break down internal and external barriers, get to the core of wounds that continue to be reopened and gain the knowledge, tools and resources to create a life blazing with radiance.
If this sounds like the opportunity you have been waiting for, I invite you to connect. To celebrate the launch of www.kateleiper.com I am offering a FREE 30 minute introductory session with me, to help you decide if our work together could be the next step towards self-fulfilment for YOU. Please visit here for more details and to book your free session.