by Natasha Horsley~May is about mothering for me. First of all, embedded in the heart of May is Mother’s Day. Secondly, twenty years ago my mother died on May 2nd. Five months later I had my first child. Every May since then, I mourn the loss of my mother one week, and celebrate all the mothers in my life about a week later.

My mother was a landscape designer, and ironically, on the day she died all the Spring flowers suddenly burst into bloom. Not the daffodils, or the forsythia, obviously those bloomed sooner, but the lilacs, the apple blossom, the dogwood tree and her tree, the Carolina Silver bell. Her name was Caroline.

It was almost as if it were Caroline’s day, as though somehow the universe, or at least my universe, knew that. All subsequent May 2nd’s have been similarly bittersweet: A celebration that she was here and that somehow she lives on, even as the sadness that she is physically gone remains. I miss her.

And yet for much of my life, whether she has been here or not, I have been angry with her.

As a psychotherapist I know that therapy gets a bad rap for blaming the parents, especially the mother. As far as I am concerned it’s a mistake to blame anyone for who we become. What we need instead is to understand our parents better, if only to understand ourselves better.

As we learn that we are both whole and still have holes, hopefully we will learn to love all of who we are, the holes too, in the way we wish our mothers could love/have loved us wholly, and the way we wish they could love or have loved all of themselves too.

When we don’t feel nurtured this way enough, we are angry, and for a long time we refuse to nurture ourselves. Instinctively, it’s easier to indulge in self defeating thoughts and behaviors.

I even find myself reluctant to write about things like “nurturing”, much less “nurturing the self”, for fear of ridicule (admittedly a self-defeating thought of my own). How many of you, I wonder, are thinking things like, “This is a bunch of touchy feely, crunchy granola crap!”?

However, at the end of the day, “nurturing” seems like it’s as important as any trait to develop in ourselves, male or female. Perhaps its a feminist perspective, but it seems like, as a culture, it’s so much easier for us to want to develop more typically masculine traits; “determination”, “success”, “achievement”, for-example.

Wouldn’t it be ideal for us to have both sets of traits? Perhaps we reject the idea of learning to mother ourselves because we are still longing for our mothers to nurture us, even when our intellects tell us this is no longer possible.

Unless our mother’s are actually so abusive and dangerous to us that we need to “break up” with them (rare, but it does happen), perhaps we need to grieve and let go of the hope that they will “get better”, or come back to life and do the hard work of nurturing us, for us. Perhaps we need to stop recoiling at words like “nurture” and instead really figure out how to embrace what our mothers can and do give us and also what we wish they could give, but can’t or won’t. Whatever it is they can’t give we need to learn to give to ourselves, like our life and sanity depend on it!

What would it mean to be kind to ourselves about what ever is bothering us? It may be a little easier when it is an illness, injury, or a serious loss, but harder when what is bothering us is a left over anger from long ago, self recrimination or a deep hurt. We wonder if we are wrong to feel these things. Is it “giving in to negativity?”. Do we instead, need a “good kick in the pants”? You can see it’s easier to figure out how to “mother” or be kind to others, much harder to figure out how to be kind to ourselves.

Still, next time something is bothering you, wonder what you might say or do to be kind to yourself. If you still feel like you need a “good kick in the pants”, at least try and do both. The world could use more motherly love and kindness.

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About Natasha Horsley Weston

Natasha Weston, MS, LPC is the owner of Weston Psychotherapy Services LLC & was a founding partner of the Temenos Center for 17 years. She has been an individual, family and couple’s therapist for twenty-two years. She is a specialist in the treatment of eating disorders and women’s issues, spending eight years as a therapist and supervisor at The Renfrew Center of Philadelphia. She has also received training in addictions counseling, Imago couple’s therapy, Men's issues, LGBTQ issues, DBT, and EMDR (a technique that helps people recover from trauma).

2 thoughts on “Mothering…….

  1. Jasun

    I recoiled inwardly at the first line, because I am, or have become, cynical, even reactive, about the way mothers are glorified in our culture.

    Then this line came along: “As a psychotherapist I know that therapy gets a bad rap for blaming the parents, especially the mother.”

    That’s quite an artful juxtaposition of ideas that turns the debate around several times until it’s not easy to tell where the reader is standing – a bit like the shell game – no longer sure which cup my issue is under.

    Mainstream culture says mother = good. Psychotherapy, distorted and over-simplified by MS culture, says “mother – bad”; so then psychotherapy gets a bad rap because, whatever you do, don’t badmouth momma! The idea of blame is anathema to psychology – at least the kind I practice (the existential kind, I guess), as it is to any mature awareness. Can we address the failings of parents without blaming, and can they receive us without feeling/acting like we are blaming them. The answer is usually no.

    See how many difference ideas are bouncing around there in that one line? I was much more open to the piece after I read it…

    • Natasha

      Thanks Jasun for such a thoughtful response. Perhaps it is a typical human failing that we struggle to address our own and others failings in a way that is healing. My own perception is that we often find a reason to blame or excuse the failing, like the simplicity of that let’s us off the hook somehow. Understanding, being accountable, even forgiving (when that’s possible) seem to make so much more sense to me. It sounds like your existential view is similar! Thanks again – your response means a lot. Natasha


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