The Mother In Me: What can we gain from activating the mothering relationship with our own inner child?

Mother’s Day has been and gone, and I took the opportunity to re-focus on the joy and privilege of being a Mother; to hold a position of such importance to someone else is no small thing. It’s easy to forget, amidst the noise of schooling and feeding, toilet-training and discipline, that as a Mum you are, at least for some years, the very centre of another person’s existence. And even when those early years are past and your little ones are not so little, when they are claiming their independence and acting out the much-warranted stance of going it on their own, you, as Mother, exist within them as a foundation of love and support, as a basis from which they will attune to the world around them. It is a privilege, certainly, and a massive undertaking. Even when we get it “wrong”, the impact of what we do will cause a chain reaction within our offspring, either of rebellion or of errors, all of which is learning for them and for us on where to go next.

So it is easy to forget this great honour when we aren’t living mindfullly in the Mothering space, when we are taken up with the responsibility of the role without always seeing the pared-back reality of holding the space of “Mother” in someone’s heart. The word itself conjures up so many positives but the meaning of the word can often get lost in the concept of a mother merely being a woman who gives birth and /or is the primary female caregiver to a child. Mothering is so much more than that. Every human being has had a mother to bring them into this world, but every human being also has the capacity for Mothering within themselves. Granted, it encapsulates feminine traits but we do not have to be a female to incorporate the feminine way-of-being.

There are so many types of Mothers: mothers-in-waiting, hoping to some day carry life within them; expectant mothers, both those who are pregnant and those awaiting the arrival of a child not biologically their own; bereft mothers, the pain of which experience no-one outside of it can truly know. But there are also those who have never given birth to a child and do not hold that longing within them, and these women (and men) can also have within them a mothering figure, a soul who can connect with and care for another soul in the most selfless ways. It is this Mother-within I would like to celebrate today.

When a client sits in the therapy room, seeking connection with another human being and looking for a space that can be completely theirs, a form of Mothering can often take place. The therapist usually does some form of “holding” for their clients. It is a symbolic holding, the holding of the space, not unlike the cradling of a baby at 3am when the rest of the world (and house) sleeps but Mum is content to simply wait and hold, confident that when baby is ready to sleep she will. This type of holding, this patient love which puts another human being’s needs at the fore, sometimes comes naturally into our everyday relationships, often borne out of an appreciation of that person, but can also be created and tended, like a muscle that is built up over time. Whichever one it is, it works best when the “Mother” figure is able to look after themselves first.

So what if each of us, as adults, were able to apply that same dynamic to the relationship we have with ourselves? Because just as there is the capacity to mother within each of us, there is, without exception, a child within each of us. Some of these children have had their needs well attended to in every imaginable way, others have not. But all of them still have needs. There is no magical formala for parenting which dictates the point at which the job is done. There is no parent on Earth who has managed to attend to every aspect of their child’s needs to the highest degree; the very idea of that is an oxymoron as the human condition is one which is ever-changing and ever-adapting. The “perfect” mother does not exist; Winnicott’s idea of the “good enough” mother is, instead, one we can all aim for.

So, somewhere along the journey from childhood to adulthood, we have been mothered and we have been left with a version within ourselves of what a mother is, or should be. Imagine what we could gain, as individuals, if we could turn that Mother-within towards our own inner child and tend to them with the patience and unconditional love that each of us deserves. Imagine what we could gain, collectively, if each of us listened to the “Mother-in-Me”.

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