I’ve been a part of many wholes in my life. Some have been more important than others, yet none of those groups or demographics I’ve been party to or part of have been as defining as the one which embraced me as a mother.
Motherhood is not the sole definition of my life. It is not my sole aspiration, nor my sole reason for being. At the same time, it is a single book end, a beginning, but no end. Once you are a mother, you are always a mother. Whether your children are cooing infants, raging toddlers, or adults with children of their own. Motherhood, once realized, is a constant, a tattoo inked upon your soul.
The collective name for a group of mothers should be tribe. Fierce and protective, tight as any clan, recognizing the bond which holds you together as one.
The tribe of motherhood does not demand a certain type of birth or a certain type of child. Whether you welcomed your child through adoption or fostering, c-section, home water birth or surrogacy. Whether you lost your child in the womb or to disease or accident, whether your child has already left home. The tribe welcomes you. Whether your child is white or black or autistic or gifted, brown-eyed, blue or blind. It doesn’t matter if you child conforms to norms or redefines them. In the tribe, we are one in the same. We are mothers.
The tribe does not care whether you work or spend days making your own play dough, run the PTA or sit out. Whether you shop organic or with food stamps. Whether you home-school or boarding school, believe in God or shun religion entirely. The tribe does not decree whether you wear your baby or swear by your stroller, breast feed or bottle feed, make your own puree or buy it in a jar. You are part of the tribe regardless.
We are mothers.
The tribe will swallow you at times, it will engulf all you thought you had been. But when you come back up for air you will realize you are stronger, can dive longer. Your skin is thicker. The tribe did that.
The tribe will test you, make you doubt yourself, but in the end you will know your heart better. You will learn to trust your own instincts. The tribe will teach you that motherhood is multi-faceted.
The tribe will force you to endure rites of passage, not because it wants to break you, but because it will teach you just how much you can bear. The tribe will teach you the art of bending with the wind rather than breaking under it.
The tribe are the ones who watch over your children while you are not there, whether it is on the playground, in their swimming pools, when you are ill, or just running late. The tribe will comfort a child who is hurt or lost or in need of help, even though that child is not their own. The tribe will cry collective tears over children who are hurt, who are dying, who are in need of the most basic of things: love, family, food, shelter. At those times the tribe’s heart beats as one living mass.
And though I belong to the larger tribe on the whole, I have formed lasting bonds with the smaller groups within: the neighborhood mothers I grew up with, the mother-figures I met along the way. The mothers I met when as a initiate, the ones who eased the loneliness, the ones to whom I could complain, the ones who were honest about not only the elation, but the struggles too. Some of those mothers helped me thought specific times, some have been there for the duration. My tribe includes my fellow expat mothers, who have been through the unique challenges of raising kids far from the familiar, who understand the bittersweet distance from home and family, who understand how important fluid and strong certain bonds are.
The are all part of my tribe. And I theirs. Together we make up the whole.
A tribe of mothers.
Happy early Mother’s Day to my tribe.