Mother’s Day: How parents can step up and be celebrated on a Hero’s Journey
Mother’s Day is Sunday. We honor mothers on that day, and we should.
However, I want to talk about men and maternity. Men, if they are honest and courageous, have maternal feelings.
Maternal means in ‘ways related to pregnancy’. Men have feelings about pregnancy too. They may not have the same biological hormonal spikes and valleys that women experience, but they certainly do have feelings of love, protection, devotion, sentimentality, bonding, and more as driven by their own hormones including oxytocin and testosterone.
I would argue that the very best potential fathers have all of these feelings in surging and copious quantity. The idea that men should only express an emotion if it is related to anger or outrage is antiquated and ridiculous.
To quest for an outrageous fortune
My husband and I have made many a perilous journey, but none is so full of “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” as pregnancy.
That is because, as human beings, life and death is by far the biggest drama of all, and a pregnancy puts everything on the line, especially before the backdrop of an uncertain global crisis that may last a very long time.
Men, these days are allowed the freedom to be who they are. They can take off the obscuring mask of toxic masculinity and put on the fresh face of magnificent masculinity.
When a man and a woman have a child together there is every feeling in the world to experience. Not all pregnancies, it should be remembered conclude with a bundle of joy.
There are miscarriages, fears, even tough decisions that must be left up to the woman if the man has a sense of justice for autonomy and freedom.
It takes a man that is as strong as a woman to see though the termination of a pregnancy with supportive fortitude and calm, especially if one or the other partner has strong feelings about wanting to give birth. Let’s face it, the word “choice” is just more accurate than the word “abortion”, because the first word is about full human personhood, and the second word is tainted by politics and worse.
Every child deserves to be a wanted child. Let’s go back to the whole cute, and bubbly, bundle of joy metaphor that so enchants and delights those human beings lucky enough to have the means, ability, timing, and courage to enter the scary new world of parenthood.
Women have to ride an emotional roller coaster when they are about to give birth, and it’s not just a tidal wave of hormones. There are real, and practical considerations. Logistics. Supplies. Attention to shift work. It can be overwhelming, and it usually is.
This is the time, just after birth, when a man and woman fall in love more with one another, and definitely with the new family member.
Eye to eye contact is mesmerizing, and mindful. Strength and persistence to be available twenty-four hours a day displays that we can all have super powers — in the short term anyway.
Being more than a side-kick on the quest
Having support and relief time is crucial at this stage. It is an experiential learning process; meaning that unless you experience those first few days after delivery it is not possible to understand what it feels like.
Men who step up this time are just as heroic as mothers so long as they recognize that her body has done the heavy lifting, and that he, in order to be manly must take on nurturing both her and the baby with extreme stamina, and hopefully joyful enthusiasm.
During my journey to pregnancy, my husband’s patience showed his quiet strength and devotion. A real man can attain what I call “tender ferocity.”
There are still men in the world, who if taught to believe that nurturing is “woman’s work” or that child care is the duty and role of womanhood, will not so easily fall into hero mode. An attitude like this will cause conflict, resentment, frustration, and even confusion and rejection.
There are many reasons to see men and women as equals, but one of the best is just to avoid suffering, and ultimate sorrow: lost love.
It is very hard to be empathic to a man, even when he is reasonably in grief about less attention and fuss over him. And, being a new mother, (or even an older one) exposes all kinds of feelings, some conflicting, some irrational, and some just plain exhausted and impatient.
It is normal, in fact, for fathers to be envious of a baby, but it is in recognition of how your entire life is changed forever, that acknowledging such human feelings creates acceptance, bonding, strength and endurance.
Fathers should have their own day too, one month after “Lady’s first”
Women often put men first. But a man that puts a woman first is a real treasure. We need both to put in 100% for the best results.
These are all qualities that pay huge dividends. One of the best things that new parents can do is talk about these feelings openly and with a sense of humor.
Being a parent means you have taken on an enormous burden. You will have your heart no longer in your chest, but set free into the world. Not only that, but you will slowly find that your heart and your mini-clone is growing further away from you in dependency, and farther away from you in actual distance.
This requires more of the aforementioned strength and courage, but also a kind of wisdom and patience that will be tested time and again.
Parenthood is not at all for the faint of heart, and definitely not for people who think in terms of rigid roles, or outdated ideas.
Physicians, psychologists and sociologists now recognize that trying to adhere to assumed traits about gender usually just creates expectations that will lead to disappointment, and sometimes even conflict and loss.
Being a manly man, or a womanly woman, is not so much about masculinity or femininity as it is about being adult. That requires being responsible, compassionate, and displaying love that is not conditional upon any expectations.
Happy Mother’s Day
This Mother’s Day I invite all parents to see their family as perfect, no matter how untraditional. I invite men to celebrate their manliness with courage, strength, devotion, nurturing, confidence, and all the same qualities that some of our societal ‘norms’ seem to assign to only mothers.
Parenthood is a long, perilous journey. I think, in fact, it is a hero’s journey in the traditional sense of a rite of passage, an impossible hero’s task, a leaving behind of a former life, a quest that is fulfilled with many trials, and finally, an unexpected, yet perfectly ordained, ending.
As it dawns on a person that they are no longer as needed, a strange freedom, pride, and even more fortitude emerges.
Yes, you have accomplished your task, and no, you don’t get to rest on your laurels — at least not until the next feeding is complete.