“What’s the point of buying rice, if you can’t cook it properly.” ~ Jiro
I bought the rice, the rice of motherhood, but for a few years, I wasn’t cooking it properly. I was feeding my children uncooked, stale grain. I was starving their spirits to death.
I didn’t understand that I am the sustenance for their hearts. I am the rice and I am responsible for cooking myself properly.
A perfect bowl of rice is a product of its preparation—mindful and complete attention to the process, to the ingredients, to the temperature, to the time and to the consistency. With every batch, a good cook knows when the rice has reached the right consistency.
To be a good mother, I need to know who I am (the cook) and what my purpose is in this life (the cooked rice).
Shortly after the birth of my second daughter, I decided I could no longer starve and neither could my children.
I changed my mothering method completely, and rewrote my definition of motherhood.
I used to think motherhood and martyrdom were synonymous. When a woman birthed a child, she converted to the Religion of Mother—sacrificing herself, her essence dying with the placenta and afterbirth.
I thought a mother was defined as a woman who was a slave to her home, her children and her husband. Ignoring her needs and dreams to support the people she ‘loved the most.’
I thought being a mother meant loving someone more than I loved myself.
I ate this myth—‘the perfect bowl of motherhood,’ and it almost killed me.
I survived because I learned I must love myself more than anyone else before I can love anyone else.
This is the way to unconditional love, to true love. I am only capable of loving another as much as I love myself.
Despite my malnourishment, I knew my children deserved true love. With this realization, I became a good mother.
My two favorite definitions of Mother are:
1. Mother: To give rise to.
2. Mother: One who has true knowledge, a measurer.
I gave rise to them by way of my body. Their well-being is measured by the knowledge I impart to them through their direct witness of my actions and experiences.
If I am not devoted to cultivating myself and stirring it into wisdom, then what do I have to feed them?
Is there anything for them to measure, if I am not growing in my self-awareness and understanding?
I am failing them as their mother, their measurer if I focus solely on them, giving up everything, denying my dreams and ignoring my purpose.
I am a mother. I am a guide. My job as a mother is to teach my children through example.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I gave life to my children to help repair the world.
I gave birth to hope embodied in two people who have something sacred to offer the world—themselves. By being themselves, they will help heal the world.
This appears to be a heavy weight to carry, “My mom had me to help save the world.”
To that, I answer, “That’s why we are all here, some of us just haven’t accepted our mission, yet. We are all here to save the world, by loving ourselves fully and embracing our destiny.”
I recently led a retreat to Bali. One afternoon, we visited a temple by the ocean.
Our guide led us to the shore, where holy spring water from the mountains flowed directly into the sea. Every day the priests of the village visit this sacred pool to collect the holy water for their daily rituals.
As we were standing there, a priest wrapped in all white from head to toe approached the inlet. He knelt down with a smile on his face, and submerged his canister into the fresh, salty liquid.
Our guide whispered in my ear, “Do you know that these men are called by the Gods (in their dreams) to accept their destiny to be a priest? When a person is called by the Gods they must accept. If they don’t and they ignore the call, they will become sick and they will die. This man, kneeling before us, received the call as a teenager and he ignored it. Instead, he chose to become a banker to support his family. He became very ill, he was on his death bed. It was then, he made a decision to become a priest. Here he is now, before us healthy. He is a great leader.”
This is my story too. I was forcing myself into a role that was making me sick. I was denying my call, ignoring it in order to be all for everyone. I ended up being nothing for no one. And then, I answered. I knew if I didn’t listen to my heart and share my gifts, I would die.
I used to feel guilty for not signing up to be room mom in my daughter’s class, or run for a seat on the PTA. I felt ashamed that my girls were not in a couple extra curricular activities a week. I was disappointed in myself, the nights I threw a bag of frozen pasta and broccoli in the microwave and called it dinner.
I thought there was something wrong with me because I was bored and disinterested in the mom’s groups, discussing the latest “Lululemon wunder unders” or complaining about the stretch marks on my hips.
I don’t feel guilty anymore because I don’t have the time.
I am a mother. I have a huge responsibility to live my purpose and remain devoted to my mission in life.
My mission is to learn as much as I can, teach as much as I can, write as much as I can, travel as much as I can and when I pick my girls up from school, I show them love, by doing what I love.
Sometimes dinner is freezer burnt pasta because I immersed in my studies and writing a little later than I planned as my kids run around me playing unicorn and princess. We laugh, we play, we hug, we share in each other’s company. This is a gift, the gift of living fully, doing what we love, individually and together.
To be a good mother is to know who I am, not apologize for it, do it with every beat of my heart and be the standard and model by which my children measure their own path to awareness.
The more I love myself and honor my needs and desires, the more my children will do the same.
I feed myself first—spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically—because if I don’t, I have nothing to give to my children.
I am not a martyr—that’s for the dead.
I hope to live a long life, so I can guide, love and support my children.
There are days the voice of the martyr will boil, “You are failing. You are a self-righteous asshole, leaving your children to go study, to teach, to travel, to write. You chose to be a mother, honor that job. This is the responsibility you were given, do not back down. Your life is on the back-burner. Your kids are all that matter now. You will destroy them if you focus on yourself. Be a real mother, a good mother.”
I don’t drown in that voice anymore, because ‘the measurer, the one with true knowledge’ reminds me to continue teaching the girls to stir their rice mindfully and eat it first, so they may always have the strength to love themselves completely.
One day, if they choose to have children of their own, I hope they pass down a little advice from their mother.
“When I love myself first, I will always cook the rice properly, and then I can feed the whole world.”