I was honored to have been asked to speak at Whole Life Center for Spiritual Living about the subject of Conscious Motherhood on Mother’s Day, 2013. Rev. Cheri very flatteringly introduced me as the most powerful conscious mother she knows. *blush* & *bow* Below is a synopsis of my talk. (Please insert laughter where appropriate.)
5 Rules of Conscious Motherhood
I currently hold the title “The Best Mother in the World,” and “The Meanest Mother in the World,” this is determined by whether I’m asking one of my children to clean up dog poop. I am equally proud of both titles.
It takes 10,000 hours of practice to get good at anything. This is why babies bounce.
I was lucky to have been raised by a professional Mother, who was raised by a professional Mother. Their Mothering has informed my Mothering. I was privileged to have grown up in a religion and culture which observes that the Godhead is both feminine and masculine. In other words, God has a wife, Heavenly Mother. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, at its best, reveres Motherhood as the highest and holiest calling of the human experience. Motherhood, the nurturing, raising and teaching of children, is sacred and the most like-God activity that humans can participate in. I have carried this identity into my own Motherhood. It has been core to my own experience of Mothering. It is a role that I take seriously and I have always tried to Mother as consciously as possible.
A Mother is the most Powerful, Authentically Powerful, Being in the Whole Universe, next to God. I can grow an entire human in an organ the size of my fist in only nine months. We create humans—just as God does. Men, what can you do?
The 5 Rules of Conscious Mothering
Be Authentic: You, specifically, were chosen to Mother your children, because they need YOU. It was not random. It is not a mistake. It is not by coincidence. YOU were chosen by them and by God. Out of all the women in the world who live and have lived you, and only you, are able to provide the experience, the example, the lessons, the exact right Mothering to these specific children. These children did not come to you to be raised by some crazy cultural idea of the “Perfect Mother.” They were not born to be reared by SuperMom. They needed—and wanted—who you really are. Be your Authentic Self when mothering because you are the Perfect Mother for your children.
Have Fun! If you’re not having any fun, you’re doing it wrong. When there is an opportunity to jump in a dirty lake—jump! If you’re asked to have a dance off in front of the picture window—Dance! Motherhood is supposed to be an experience of joy. Children bring with them a sense of play that many of us lose in adulthood. Mothering is experiencing the world anew, through new eyes. Have Fun!
Clean Up Your “Stuff”: negative generational cycles end when you clean up your own stuff. Clean up your resentments, angers and hurts. Clean up the cycles of crap that have been polluting your family tree so you don’t pass it down to your children. You know what experiences you don’t want your children to experience. Seek healing, visit healers, invest in Coaching, do whatever you have to do to break the cycles and let your stuff go. What is cleaned up inside you does not get passed down to your children. Live the kind of life you want them to live and they will follow you.
Teach Choice & Hold Them Accountable: Your job is not to prevent all bad things from happening to your children. Your job is not to protect them from life. Your job is to help them learn how to navigate life—the good and the bad, the easy and the hard. Your job is to teach them how to live, how to be alive. The Universe operates on choices. We choose what we believe and we manifest that through choices we make. Allow your children the crucial activity of making choices while you’re still there to direct them. Don’t bail them out. Hold them accountable, because the Universe will. Allow them to make choices that you know aren’t the best choices. If your son is about to jump out of a treehouse, let him. If he breaks an arm it’s not the end of the world, but a good lesson in Natural Law. Making good choices takes practice. Let them practice.
Teach Them Who They Are: Teach your children who they are, not what to do. Children are holy, sacred and powerful beings made up of God-Stuff. They are great and powerful Souls having a human experience. Having this knowing about who they are will carry them through whatever they face in life.
Keep Calm & Mother On!
Tracee Sioux is a Law of Attraction Coach and the Creator of Authentic Power Living & The Girl Revolution. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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Surrounded by 91 laughing, mingling people I leaned into my grandmother, Viola Barksdale, at her 90th birthday party.
Look at all the people you made!” I quipped.
She beamed. I love getting to see everyone, but I most enjoy seeing how delighted everyone is to see each other.
Viola’s parents Sarah and Will Chevalier
In 1923 my grandmother, Viola Barksdale, was born smack in the middle of 13 children. She was born in an itty bitty Mormon colony, Kelsey, hidden away in East Texas, the middle of the Bible Belt, they were religious radicals. The town had a school house, a gymnasium where they held high school and the church that drew newly-converted Mormon families from all over the South. Her mother, Sarah Chevalier, had wanted to move there from South Texas to be among like-minded believers and somehow she convinced her husband, William, to do it. They had 13 children, 11 lived to adulthood. William died early and Sarah and the children had a hard life. They picked cotton in the Texas heat and humidity until their fingers bled. They milked cows in the middle of the night for a local dairy. They gardened. They scraped by. Sarah made rolls so delicious that their taste lingers in my mouth 30 years later.
They went to church dances to fellowship and court.
I hope you dance, she told the 91 people who came to celebrate her at the party, I missed some opportunities to dance and I wish I hadn’t.
Viola’s nickname growing up was Hoppy, because she loved the baby bouncer. My children have resurrected the endearment, calling her Hoppy rather than great-grandma.
My grandmother was the first person in her family to graduate high school. She almost had to stop going to school to help the family survive. As a teenager she was responsible for washing the clothes of 12 people—by hand.
Sweethearts Arley and Viola Barksdale
She married a 27-year-old faithful man, Arley Barksdale, who owned a dump truck business, when she was 19 years old. It was a love match. They married, and were later sealed for “Time and All Eternity” in the Mormon Temple.
He waited for me, she says grinning like she has a little secret. She did. The secret was love and a commitment to shared Mormon values. They would work hard, raise a family and hold to their faith.
Mothering, A Career Path
They built a Rock House, where my uncle Greg later raised a family and now entertains his grandchildren, rocking on the front porch, in the petered out town that is his paradise.
They moved to a nearby town and he took a job at Kodak-Eastman in the maintenance department, where he was passed over for promotions by men with college educations. This made an impression on them.
While he was at work, my grandmother raised the children and she was profoundly grateful that she didn’t have to keep an outside job while she did that.
They had six children together, four girls and two boys. They lived in a home he built himself, on some acreage in the woods with a creek running behind the house. The girls shared a room, each had one drawer. They dug a well which produced mineral heavy water with a sulfurous aftertaste, but which made the saltiest ice, oddly satisfying to children who would run in from the Texas humidity to suck the salt off. While the house was being built they lived in a shack. The couple they bought it from had arranged the furniture in a skiwampus fashion, Viola remembers. She found out why during the first storm when every Texas raindrop soaked through. Later they milked their cows and put a horse named Candy in the shack that became The Barn.
Grandchildren spent splendid summer vacations investigating the history stored away in that barn and roaming the wild places around the property. Excusions were made to The Candy Store, which upon adulthood turned out to be an ordinary gas station.
Hanging from one of the massive trees, a tire swing, the grass beneath worn away. Generations of children and grandchildren have found exhilarating thrills on this swing. So much play has it gotten that it has had to be replaced a number of times.
Higher! Higher! Under! Around and Around! Faster! Faster! children have squealed.
My grandma lives there today, by herself, keeping the yard tidy, keeping her home neat and welcoming. She still makes the best Southern food in the world. Home grown squash is like a creamy dessert. Every meal is a banquet. As one meal ends, she prepares to make the next one. Her secret ingredients? Sugar and butter.
You eat to keep from getting hungry, is her motto.
One of the most monumental things my grandparents did for our family was to send their six children to college. They sacrificed other things in order to send them to Brigham Young University or Rick’s College in Idaho (now also BYU), private Mormon schools.
You’ve heard the jokes about sending girls to college for their Mrs. Degree. It minimizes the impact of sending girls to college to find husbands. However, statistically this was life changing for future generations. When one parent graduates from college their children are 50% more likely to get a college degree. When two parents graduate from college, the odds increase to 75%.
My grandparents sent their girls to college to give them the best chance at a better life. It would have been scandalous for their girls to join the Women’s Revolution or participate in Free Love and war protests—which were sparked as their girls went out into the world—but, they were given the opportunity to be educated women. They were also expected to marry educated, righteous men who could provide for their families.
I am an educated woman in 2013, think of all the choices I have! The root of which is in my conservative grandparents’ decision to send my mother to college.
A favorite photo of Hoppy
I have asked my grandmother what her greatest achievement has been.
Our Legacy, is her simple answer.
Creating a family has been her life’s work.
Some might say anyone can have some babies, who grow up and have more babies. Many people do that, and that would be one definition of a family.
But, my grandmother’s pride doesn’t rest in the mere existence of these people. Is rests in who they are. She really loves us, individually and collectively.She grew a family that loves each other.
Viola and four children: Laree, Sharon, Susie and Nelson
Her work didn’t stop when her children grew up and started families. When possible she attended births, staying during early infancy to help with the other children or allowing the new mother to get some sleep.
My grandparents made regular treks to Utah, the home of the Mormon Saints, where many of her children made their permanent homes after college. My grandfather died on one of these treks, after attending three grandchildren’s weddings that summer. They had enjoyed 56 years of marriage.
Even after her husband died, she continues to visit regularly. Even for her own 90th birthday party. Despite the fact that driving for 24 hours straight or navigating large, confusing airports has became more difficult, her pilgrimages continue.
She has attended baptisms, weddings and graduations of her many grandchildren when she could and still does as much as she can. She attended her family when they were sick. She cooked, cleaned and managed entire households for months at a time when her children needed her help.
She hand-stitched a baby quilt for every grandchild, great-grandchild and even great-great-grandchild. These are cherished beyond words.
Four Generations on Epic Tire Swing
Her Life’s Work
She is proud, and delighted, that 91 people would drop their lives, change their busy schedules, drive many miles, arrive with delicious food and greet each other with genuine affection and love.
The room fills with laughter. How are you doing? What are you doing? isn’t just chit chat between strangers. We look into each other’s eyes and want to know how are you really doing? What’s really going on in your life?
Shared experience can’t be underestimated in creating life-long bonds. Neither can a sense of humor. Through my grandparents annual visits we gathered. Her children continued her efforts, gathering for Thanksgiving, eating and laughing. For many years there was an annual New Year’s Eve slumber party with still more eating and laughing. When family comes in from Texas, there are more gatherings. To be together is the celebration.
The highway between Texas and Utah is a road much traveled. Her children are dutiful, committed to continuing a bond with their parents, continuing a bond between generations.
My brother Klint’s family surprised us from Seattle! Best Surprise Eva!
Rare and Effortful
When I was young, I thought all families had this. By now I’ve met people with some crazy stories about lunatic relatives who do terrible things to each other. Even more shocking to me are the stories people have told me about their parents not even bothering to meet their grandchildren. Or families that let squabbles turn into decades-long falling outs.
Now, I’m painting a pretty picture of my family. I’m not going to lie and tell you it’s all roses and smooth sailing. It’s not. Many people in my family have gone through really hard things. Many of us have made embarrassing mistakes, and somehow these feel all the more embarrassing in front of this group of family than they do in other social situations. I’m not going to pretend there are never any squabbles, never an ideological disagreement and never someone who makes a complete jerk out of themselves or that no one ever holds a grudge.
This is a family after all.
But, this family is my grandmother’s life’s work. This is her purpose. This is the driving force of her life. Within this family are over 100 people who consider her, and her late husband, their personal heroes.
89-year-old Grandma Barksdale posing on a Harley, just for kicks. A sense of humor runs in the family.
What I know for sure
There is no a single person in this family who has not felt the power of her unconditional love. I, personally, have found myself in some pretty dicey situations in my life and she has always been a soft place for me to land. Her home, nestled in the East Texas woods with its open door, a safe place for me to hide and regroup. I have never had a moment in my life where I did not feel her love stretch across the vast Universe, enveloping me.
Family lore has it that my grandmother and my aunt Laree came to help my mother give birth to me in June of 1973 when I was expected. They waited. They waited. They waited. Finally I was born in August. Two months late. My grandma says we had plenty of time to get to know each other as she waited for me.
You always did march to your own drum, even before you were born, she once wrote to me in a card. She is mystified by half of the things I’ve done in my life, and I know I’ve kept her awake more than one night, worrying about me trekking across the globe, often by myself. Still, I know she enjoys the rhythm of my drum.
Grandma, me, and my daughter Ainsley
My grandmother takes great pride in the fact that the majority of her lineage are faithful Mormons who have gone on missions and marry for “Time and All Eternity” in the Mormon Temple. I, myself have taken a different spiritual path. First this was out of shame and rebellion. Now it’s that I’m on a different spiritual path to which I am fully committed.
There is truth in all religions, my grandmother says.
Still, she has asked me to return to the religion of my origin. One day, while in her kitchen, she was expressing her heart-felt desire that I return.
Grandma, I said, I’m not the only one who has left the Church, why are you being so hard on me?
Tracee, you’re special.
This never leaves me.
Oprah has a column in O Magazine and she often asks her guests the question, What do you know for sure?
That my grandmother loves me.
There have been low points in my life where this was all I had.
Everyone please mark the date for a screening of “Things We Don’t Talk About: Women’s Stories from the Red Tent,” on July 21, 2013 at Whole Life Center for Spiritual Living, 2020 South College, Fort Collins, CO.
Feminists are invested in creating a new feminine experience for themselves, their daughters, their mothers and their sisters.
Creating is the key word.
The movement is sometimes painful, sometimes ugly and sometimes bitchy. So is birth. So are most acts of creating something new. Feminism is by its very essence, stepping into the unknown.
The movement is contentious and discontented precisely because it is born of discontent. While we glamorize the past, and there were some pleasurable things about previous gender roles (even if many are fictitious and romanticized), it only worked for some people. It didn’t work for everyone. Obviously, there was and is a huge faction of the population which wasn’t being served by the status quo—or they wouldn’t have wanted to change it.
This is the United States of America, in which we are self-governed. Which means the very essence of us is about creating our own experiences, our own lives and our own value system. The United States itself was born of discontent. Had we been content with our role as colonies, we would still be colonies today. But, we’re an independent sort of people who believe in radical ideas like the right to pursue happiness and the right to equality and the right of free speech and the right to self-govern. We have chosen this. We collectively share this vision and that’s what makes it so powerful.
Discussion on Feminism and Blogging put on by Feminism & Co. Heather Janssen, creator of get born magazine (in orange) was a brilliant display of smart, witty feminism.
Abraham Maslow, a father of psychology, studied self-actualization. During his research he discovered that the happiest people are those who paid attention to their own discontent. But, it wasn’t simply noticing that they didn’t like the way things were, it was the fact that this set of people did something about it. If they hated their marriage, they divorced. If they hated their jobs, they quit. If they didn’t like what city they lived in, they moved.
The happiest people were not the ones with a perfect set of circumstances. They were the ones who exerted power over their circumstances. In other words, they changed. They sought something better. Even if it was scary, imperfect and hard. Happy people place a high value on their right to pursue happiness.
That is what feminism is. It is a movement of people who have noticed that part of the way culture, politics, speech, media, economics, social hierarchies, religion, families and sexuality simply isn’t working for them as it currently is.
Feminists are people who are exerting power over their circumstances. When we set out to invent something new and unheard of—a self-governing democracy—no one expected that it would be easy or perfect. The way was unpaved. The pitfalls were as yet undiscovered.
Yet we somehow held to a vision. A cohesive vision of what it should be like, what it could be like.
As with America herself, the Feminist movement is divided on many issues. So is the Democratic party. So is the Republican party. This discourse, this discontented back and forth is what makes our self-government a safe and healthy process. In fact, it is how we designed it on purpose. So it is with Feminism.
Feminism is not the end result. Feminism is the art of discontent. Feminism is the power of taking action to create something better. Feminism is the exploration. Feminism is the journey.