Growing up in the Caribbean:
I can’t think about Mother’s Day without thinking of all the powerful women in my family and the community in which I was raised. I grew up in Jamaica surrounded by my Great-Grandmother and a circle of powerful, spiritual women. The example they (and pretty much all of the women I came across) set for me was that women were strong – not only for their family but for those who were less fortunate. When one was unable to feed or care for their kids, the other mothers fed & cared for them as if they were their own. They say it takes a village to raise a child and I can attest to this fact. This includes discipline too, by the way, so I got whooped by the neighbors for some mischief or another & then I went home & got whooped again by my parents. I learned that there wasn’t really a set “role” for a Mother. Mothers did what they had to do to keep the home afloat. They worked in the fields alongside men doing hard labor; they worked in whatever job they could; they worked at home, they went off to work, & they came back home to work. What was drilled into us was that as a Mother, you did whatever it took to take care of your family. Mothers pushed for education & having a career so that you could have a better life than they did. That was over 50 years ago and it is still the value they continue to instill in us. The types of jobs may have changed over the years, but every Mother wants to see the next generation prosper, be healthy & happy. They also called on their spiritual background to help them through rough times, and so religion & spirituality became the foundation of every family. This is pretty much a common theme throughout the Caribbean. The advent of television, cell phones, internet, social media, and the tourism industry caused a shift away from the traditional values so now we see the same social ills & challenges as other parts of the world.
Trends Affecting Motherhood:
We are seeing a growing trend towards women postponing motherhood until later in years. This creates its own set of health challenges & psycho-emotional conflict. As an acupuncturist, I’ve been privileged to work with women who come to me for help from Chinese Medicine to address fertility issues. 100% of the time, these women are successful in their professional lives; they’re executives, top in the field of sales & industry, they drive the best cars, live in gorgeous homes with landscaped yards; they are Cross-Fit Queens and Digital Divas, and by exterior appearances they are successful & the envy of their friends. Yet these women will break your heart when you talk to them because they see themselves as complete failure because they cannot get pregnant. Why is this? Because for whatever reason, motherhood STILL remains a necessity, is STILL desirable and a marker by which many women define themselves. In my travels, it is a mindset that still permeates many cultures – that of how to be a good wife & mother, whatever that definition is for each.
Women make up more than half the labor industry, and fulltime work is a financial necessity for many. Yet we still have the challenges of equal pay for equal work, adequate childcare, and we’re even missing out on the respect and bonding that’s seen in male-dominated careers that’s so important to our survival in the workforce. Many kids are either home alone as Mothers work long hours, or left with inadequate and uncompassionate caregivers often resulting in very sad endings. This has also created another trend – We’re seeing in the 21st century, women with graduate and professional degrees who are now choosing to stay home to be full-time moms, and many have also created home-based businesses or are home-schooling their kids. Really, the traditional role of women as Mothers hasn’t really disappeared, but instead it’s been reinvented to fit the needs of today’s modern families.
So what does this mean for us moving forward through the 21st Century?
Mothers of the 21st century have to be not only EVOLUTIONARY but REVOLUTIONARY. What does this mean?
* Evolutionary: It means as Mothers, we can’t stay stuck in the old ways of how we grew up, what ceiling or box we perceived held us back from our fullest potential. We have to evolve with the changing times. This is a generation of advanced technology and for our children to grow up and have kids of their own, they will need to have survival skills, education and preparation as well as the social skills necessary to live in our rapidly changing world.
* Revolutionary: We now have role models for Mothers women like Michelle Obama & Hilary Clinton. These are women who raise their children, have political careers, and advocate for social justice and health care reform. We have role model for moms women like Jennifer Lopez, Angelina Jolie & Beyoncé who (love ‘em or hate ‘em) make motherhood look easy & fun & glamorous and doesn’t leave a mark on their physical bodies. We see women being objectified through the media and in the music industry, and more and more it’s affecting our younger girls.
As 21st century mothers, we have to bring forth the next generation, and not stop there – we must then take it 1 step further: prepare that generation, and the next, for the rapid phase of continued growth through and beyond the 21st century. We have to nurture them, protect them, and instill in them the basic values of care for our fellow man, because Maslow’s hierarchy of needs says that we are more alike than we are different. We have to prepare our children to be in this world but not of it. We have to find a balance between the head and the heart – competent to survive in this ever changing world, yet compassionate enough to see the Divine in all. More importantly, our work has to be done on a global level.
It has been said that “The two most important things we can offer our children are roots to grow and wings to fly” (author unknown). This is the toughest task for a mother, but it can be done. I think of my very own daughter, Jessica - my biggest accomplishment and the one that I am most proud of. I am grateful she chose me to be her Mother; I have learnt so much from her and she has made me a better person by her unconditional love, her big heart and generous spirit, and for holding me accountable to the principles I harped on when I was raising her. I am Mother to my daughter, but I am also the daughter of my Mum. For both, I am eternally grateful. I leave you with the beautiful melody of Boyz2Men - in tribute to Mothers everywhere:
Love, Light and Radiant blessings;
Audrey Steele, L.Ac.