Mother’s Day with Archetypes

I’d say Mother’s Day is my least favorite holiday, but even that implies that there is some sort of favor. So more accurately, it’s my most loathed holiday.

For years Mother’s Day came with an endless supply of pain with a special heaping helping of guilt and obligation. I warred with myself as I strove to remain true to my own wounds while dutifully participating in the ritual of thanking my mom…for all the things she didn’t actually do for me very well.

Anyone who has experience with a neglectful, abusive, or difficult mother probably recognizes the impasse inherent in that war, and I often found the best solution to be drunk texting my mother a vague message that I would only vaguely remember sending later.

Well, I’ve managed to do away with the guilt and obligation. Going no contact with my family makes it a lot easier to abstain from the collective lies…but I still feel the pangs of grief that accompany this holiday every year.

The grief over what I did experience, and the grief over what I never had.

And perhaps to an extent, I will always feel that…but I’ve also learned to begin building a relationship with MOTHER-as-archetype in the various forms that it appears to me. Yes, my mom may have sucked at nurturing me, but I still know what “mothering” feels like. I still have a concept of what I long for when I long for a mom (though never my mom).

And it’s that Mother that I seek to connect with increasingly on this day. So this weekend, I compiled a list of my favorite mothers. I would love to hear about yours in the comments.

Lorelei Gilmore
I love Lorelei for the simple reason that she is a great mom who didn’t have a great mom. She’s not a perfect mom by any stretch of the imagination, but she has a strong relationship with Rory and genuinely strives to be the best mom she can be. She knows how to be gentle and when to give a push. When she pushes too far, she knows how to make amends. She embodies mother-as-friend, mother-as-cheerleader, mother-as-comfort, and mother-as-confidant. She also, in my opinion, is a beautiful example of the good-enough-mother.

Molly Weasley
Can there be a more fierce example of mother-love beyond Mrs. Weasley? She is protectress through and through. A little overbearing at times, but a woman whose children never have to doubt that she cares for them with her life. She and her family have struggles (financial and political) and one can see that life isn’t easy, but she never puts her own burdens on her children. She strives to protect them without filling them with a fantasy that the world is safer than it is or encouraging them to ignore the injustices so long as injustice doesn’t touch them. She embodies mother-as-activist and mother-as-protectress.

Queen of Cups
Okay, moving away from movies, the Queen of Cups is probably the only Tarot card that I think of as truly mothering, even though all the queens can be seen as a mother of their particular suit. The Queen of Cups, though, is all about nurturance and emotions. She’s the kind of mother that knows that she can’t save you from the depth of your feelings and won’t stand in the way of you going deep into your pain. In fact, she’ll often encourage you to dive deeply into it…but not alone. She’ll go with you and provide her empathy and love to sustain you on your journey. She is the kind of mother who knows that nurturing and comfort, like spirituality, were never meant to help you bypass the difficult things in life but to give you the strength you need to be able to face them. She embodies mother-as-guide and mother-as-wisdom.

Mother Nature
I don’t think I can talk about archetypal mothers without touching on nature and her myriad of examples of nurturing. She is the great life-sustainer herself but she is also filled with images and symbols of mothering. Whenever I need to feel re-energized and sustained, my surest bet is to connect with nature in some way. Last year, around this time, I witnessed a mama duck trying to cross a raging river with her little ducklings. Even though she could have gotten to the other side quickly on her own, she kept circling back to help her struggling young ones at the rough patches, finally getting to the other shore far down the river from where she probably intended to end up, but having managed to keep every single one of her ducklings safe during the process. For whatever role I need to see, in nature there is an example somewhere. Nature embodies the Great Mother in all her forms.

This is also the time of year when I get to feel my own mothering energy flowing most strongly as I plant my garden and begin tending my green babies towards bloom and fruit. That’s an important connection with the MOTHER-as-archetype because it reminds me that mothering is not just something I seek outside of myself. All of my external symbols ultimately serve to remind me to look within for the mothering energy that I myself possess.

Like Lorelei, I might not have had the best example to draw from, but I have the capacity to re-mother myself, offering to my own inner child that which my biological mother was unable to offer at the time. So as usual, I grieve this Mother’s Day for the mother I didn’t have and the mother I no longer have, but I temper that grief with the comfort, nurturance, protectiveness, and companionship of the MOTHER.



To the Rest of Us on Mother’s Day

I was walking through the grocery store the other day, passing through the produce section which also happens to be the flower section, when I got this overwhelming urge to buy a bouquet of carnations.

I don’t normally even like carnations that much, but I was practically giddy at picking out a bouquet of purple carnations.

And then I remembered, oh yeah, it’s Mother’s Day.

My church used to hand out a carnation to every mother on Mother’s Day, and one of my longest standing though really-not-that-serious wounds was wanting one of those flowers soooooooooo badly as a little girl but not being allowed to have one because I wasn’t a mother.

I’ve tried my best to forget Mother’s Day in the past several years. As so many of us know, it can be the most bitterly painful holiday–whether it’s because we wanted children and couldn’t have them, lost a child of our own, lost a mom too young, never knew our moms, or had moms that we probably would have been better off not knowing. It’s a pain that can’t be expressed in words, and we’re assaulted with our pain for weeks leading up to this day.

This isn’t one of those “It hurts, I know. Let’s sit around and cry together” kind of posts. I’ve read my fair share of those and drunkenly sobbed my way through The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (which is just unrealistic enough to make it all the more appealing when it comes to mother-daughter relationships).

But I’m really not feeling that today.

I don’t think the pain is inconsequential, but I also don’t feel like it’s fair that the whole world gets so focused on this overly idealized archetype of a perfect mother while all the rest of us have to sit in dark rooms trying to avoid reminders of how our lives failed to bring us that ideal in various ways.

So, I’m declaring a new holiday to cover Mother’s Day, and I’m calling it Radical Self-Indulgence Day.

Man or woman, parent or not…

Go out and buy that fucking bouquet of carnations.

Make yourself a card or a nice dinner.

Take a luxurious bubble bath and declare a strike on chores for the weekend.

Go out and take a hike—celebrate Mother Nature.

Have a Harry Potter marathon. He probably hates Mother’s Day too, fyi.

But get away from the fucking hype and do something awesome for yourself—with yourself.

It won’t fix whatever it is that makes Mother’s Day suck, but we all need a little extra love this weekend…if only because of that. So find some way this Sunday to let yourself know that you are loved and worthy of good things.