Maternal love has a different meaning to each of us. Some of us romanticize it, others are critical – all depending on how we experienced our own moms. According to Susan, growing up means realizing not every woman is like our own mother.
The late Maya Angelou, famous writer and mentor to Oprah Winfrey, asked mothers one question: do your eyes light up when your child enters the room? If they do, all is fine. She was right. Pure maternal love makes children feel special, regardless of their qualities and achievements. They don’t have to work for it, just walking into the room is enough.
Classic maternal love is a supporting power. The archetypical Mother nurses, nurtures, comforts and cherishes. In all spiritual traditions and mythologies there’s a Mother Earth. The earth carries all the world in her womb, it feeds, supports, lets everything come to full bloom and then generously welcomes it again.
The personal meaning of maternal love, though, is different for every one of us. Depending on your own history it sounds secure, suffocating, soft or cold. For me, maternal love means safety, kindness and warmth. I never felt like I asked too much from my mother. As a little girl I must have bent her ear and I still tell my mom all about my life: what I think about, how I feel, what I’ve been doing. She never seems to get bored. The only reason that I’m a bit reserved sometimes, is that I don’t want to worry her.
Safe in her arms
Now that I’m a mom myself, and I see how she treats my children, I see her role more clearly. I see endless patience, inexhaustible attention, loving acceptation. I also see how she finds it hard to set boundaries, how she tends to efface herself. Every time my mom enters my house, the kids are welcome to fall into her arms and stay there for a while. For her, being a mother is about ‘how can I be there for you?’ and ‘ how can I support you on your journey?’. If you have a mom like her, you think all women are like that. And you think all you have to do to have a healthy relationship to others is to give all you’ve got. It’s quite a disenchantment to find out that reality is different. Even people you unconsciously regarded as mother figures, can leave you baffled.
Not every woman is like your mom
Depending on the experiences of your youth, you will have to a. stop romanticizing motherhood or b. put off the armor. If you do, you see things clearly. That’s what growing up is about, I suppose: realizing not every man is like your father and not every woman is like your mother. It enables you to see people for what they are. If you do, you can see a person enter a room and see how they are special, in their own way. Your eyes will light up for all people, regardless of their achievements and qualities. That’s the beauty of it: you don’t have to be a mother to give maternal love.
Text: Susan Smit - Photo: Leander Cesar Santana