Today I ran across a great blog post over at thegiftofgivinglife.com about how motherhood and even childbearing bring us face to face with ourselves as well or better than any globe-trotting journey of self discovery would.
I wrote a comment echoing her sentiments, but it started getting so long that I thought, I need to blog about this too. When I watched the movie ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ a few months ago, there were things I loved about it, but it left me feeling disturbed. Why do we think we have to abandon all responsibility, commitments, and relationships in order to find ourselves? That seems to be a common theme in movies and books about self discovery. While it might be easier to focus on that kind of deep introspective work while free of all attachments, is that really necessary or even ideal? There seems to be a belief that you can’t find yourself if you are connected or committed to anyone else. But this is a lie. We find the deepest part of ourselves inside of our eternal family relationships, and it is there that we can grow and discover more than we ever could have known about ourselves on our own.
There were some good messages to be found in the movie/story. In the first segment, Elizabeth learns to Savor her food, savor life, and find the joy in simple things such as food without berating herself about the calories and her waistline. In the second, she learns how to pray and meditate and the importance of spirituality and peace inside herself. And finally she learns what it means to love both herself and to give and receive love. All three lessons are essential. But we don’t have to go to the ends of the earth to learn them in most cases. In fact, those three things can be learned in the middle of everyday family life like no other place.
In my life, I guess I have been on a similar journey to the woman in ‘Eat, pray, love’, only it has happened in the walls of my home. It has happened both in small but consistent moments (some while praying and meditating in my closet or bathroom), as well as in time carefully carved out for mini-journeys to feed my soul, such as a walk by myself or an hour long dance class. It has also happened in the middle of a room full of children, with all our noise and commotion and real life swirling around me.
Eat – My children teach me to savor life, food, and everything. In order to really be a good mother to them and enjoy them, I naturally have to slow down and savor, too. I have to nourish my body, mind, and spirit if I am going to have energy and strength and something to give. I need to slow down and do things that nourish me and let myself delight in that nourishment rather than feeling guilty for it. This is a lesson of joyful motherhood.
Pray – The magnitude of my job as a mother brings me regularly to my knees. It has taught me to pray like nothing else could. And my own divine worth and identity is being revealed to me day by day as I go back over and over to the feet of the Lord.
Love – I can’t think of anything that teaches us to love better than family life! It has also been in the midst of motherhood that I’ve found how to love and accept myself. Being outside the public eye with little recognition from others means that we get to learn to recognize our own worth. That has been a difficult journey God has led me through, but one I am so glad I’ve taken. If I wasn’t a mother, I probably would still be under the illusion that my worth depends on the opinion of others and their feedback.
It’s the little things we do each day, these small journeys in the midst of life and motherhood, that connect us to who we really are. It is important to find snippets of time to savor life, reach out and connect to spiritual power, and love God, ourselves and others deeply. Motherhood is an invitation to do all those things, in fact we can’t do it very effectively without those things. Motherhood is a powerful journey of self-discovery, and it’s one of the best ways to learn things we wouldn’t otherwise know about who we really are (not even if we spent months in a monastery or traveling the world).
Empowering Action: What ‘small journeys’ do you take on a regular basis as part of your mothering to connect with your true self? What do you do in each area (physical nourishment and savoring life, spiritual connection and power, and sharing your love with others and yourself)? What would you like to do? Make a little time to connect with who you are and what brings you to life each day.