First, let me smile with you. You may be counting down the days until Mother’s Day to be in celebration and joy. You may be looking forward to being celebrated this month, to getting cafecito in bed, to taking your mom to IHOP because that’s where she likes to go, to calling your tias or madrina to thank them for being your other mamis. You may be feeling warmly about your abuelita, whether she’s physically here or otherwise, or excited to toast with your comadres in recognition of the endless labor in the work of mothering and in appreciation of each other. As we feel this rosy and sparkling feeling that these imaginings create, we’re smiling together.
And maybe that smile wasn’t so wide.
Maybe for you, like for me, this holiday and the invitation to sit with motherhood stirs up some complicated emotions. There was a time when I did not want to celebrate Mother’s Day. There was dread, pain, and disappointment. For a long time, I wanted the sun to set on this month as soon as it rose. I wanted to be faced with as few reminders of my grief as possible. In fact, I would feel a knot in my throat and belly when I saw the Facebook posts of my friends, seemingly flaunting the closeness with their mothers directly at me, someone who couldn’t relate.
For those of us whose relationships to our mothers feel tangled with sour memories and unmet needs, we may experience a helplessness that can feel like anger toward our mothers, toward ourselves, toward the circumstances that brought us to this feeling — or, all of the above. The reawakened grief can feel like the activation of loneliness, confusion, rage. And, after working with hundreds of Latina moms, I know this is not exclusive to me.
It also belongs to bereaved mothers who have lost children, physically or otherwise; bereaved daughters who have lost mothers, physically or otherwise. Trauma and mental illness is a taker of our mothers. Systemic oppression, and all its expressions, is a taker of our mothers. So many of us feel the visceral grief of being unable to mother, or being un-mothered or under-mothered.
After becoming a mother myself, I’ve come to observe how my own complicated feelings about my mother can cloud the ways I intend to show up for my daughters. Because of the disconnection between us that was created when my pain was bypassed, I worried that I’d be unconsciously inclined to bypass my children’s pain as it came up. Instead, as the needs of my children consumed me, I found myself growing in compassion for my own mother — an immigrant who came to the U.S. to work with a fake social security number at the age of 14 to help her family in Mexico survive poverty. I found it interesting that the compassion for her circumstance did not eliminate the discomfort and contraction I felt when it came to answering her phone calls, receiving her texts, seeing her in person, being a witness to her own complex and unfolding that would sometimes cause hurt.
Since I couldn’t completely eliminate the desire to be mothered, I began to want to hold all truths, even when they felt painful. This acceptance of what is true helped me to understand that it was OK to embrace all of the complexities and dualities of this, my first ever and forever relationship. That acceptance is something that I root myself into in May, on Mother’s Day, and on all the days I feel myself grasping for the kind of warm mothering I’ve always longed for.
I can celebrate and mourn. I can rejoice in my mothering and I can feel the grief of what was not had, my Madre Wound. There is an invitation to feel into the complexities that exist within our own identity as a mother, as a wounded daughter born of a wounded mother. But we don’t have to stay here.
Facing grief and mourning of not having a “mother” meet our needs the way we may have longed for growing up or maybe still long for creates an opportunity for someone more powerful and wise to step in: our Inner Madre.
Developing a relationship with our Inner Child provides us with the opportunity to re-mother ourselves with the nurturing wisdom of this Inner Madre that we can access whenever we like, whenever we need. This Inner Madre is ever evolving. This Inner Madre is reminding us that we are safe. This Inner Madre is showing us the way forward.
This Inner Madre is alive in us and actively ensures that we are unfolding into a future ancestor, our future Abuelita selves, toward healing our matriarchal lineages. This month, just as we are seeing others celebrate motherhood, so should we celebrate this Inner Madre that cares for our Inner Child daily, in addition to any Outer Children. For those of us who have complicated relationships to our mothers, releasing them from their role in nurturing us when they’ve shown us that it is not in their capacity can serve as the initial step in developing a close relationship between our Inner Child and our Inner Madre.
Besides this initial step, here are four ideas for how to nurture this connection to your Inner Madre on Mother’s Day if you are feeling challenged by this holiday:
1. Write a love letter to your Inner Child from your Inner Madre:
Find a quiet space with a journal or even utilize your Notes app. Center yourself with your breath. Write a love letter to your Inner Child from your Inner Madrecita to help you reconnect with her. This does not have to be a novel. This can simply be a few affirmations, or a few lines on a Post-it. The idea is to keep at the forefront the relationship between your Inner Madre and your Inner Child. You can let your Inner Child know he/she is safe. Speak from your corazón. Allow yourself to cry if the tears come. You do not need to dwell on what you did not receive or what you do not feel you have even now. This is about reminding your Inner Child that anger, rage, sadness, grief — all of that complexity of feelings — is OK to feel.
2. Write a note of appreciation for your Inner Madre from your Inner Child
This, again, does not have to be drawn out. It could be two or three things that you are grateful to yourself for. How often do we stop to look at our mental and emotional labor and think, Wow, I have accomplished amazing things in my day-to-day and in my healing journey? Not often enough. Tell your Inner Madre all of the things you love about her. These are truths: the way she cares for herself, the way she cares for her children, the way she repairs ruptures in ways that weren’t modeled for you as a child. When we begin to doubt our worth, we can come back to this reminder from our Inner Child and know that these are facts that we can use to re-ground ourselves in gratitude and self-appreciation to replenish our Inner Madre, who works so hard to keep us evolving and keep our children safe, nourished, and whole.
3. Nurture Your interests
Spend time today eating your favorite comida (it’s frijoles con chorizo y cotija, I already know), listening and dancing to some favorite songs, wearing something that makes you feel you.
Nurture all of the things that make you feel good and more like yourself. As long as it is not harming anyone, you have permission to do anything that brings you a sense of freedom and full alegria.
For example, whenever I want to remind myself of who I truly am, I braid my hair into two trenzas. I wear my hair like this for a while, and it brings me back to a sense of authenticity. It also makes me feel connected to my grandmothers, Josefina and Tomasita, who wore trenzas in their early years of mothering as well. This brings me to my fourth tip.
4. Reconnect to your ancestors and to yourself as a future ancestor
Reconnecting to our ancestors — either by looking at photographs of them if it is possible, imagining what they may have been like at our age, or creating an altar with items that carry their essence — could give you an access point in reconnecting to your Future Abuelita Self.
Your future Abuelita Self is the fully actualized embodiment of your Inner Madre. She is connected with our first mother: Madre Tierra.
These are just a few activities and tips we can engage with today to celebrate our Inner Madre. I hope they are supportive, but most of all, I hope that we remember how brave we are to be growing, loving, feeling daily. We are brave, not broken and not burdens. We are whole and we are healing our maternal lineages. We are mothers.
Con amor y cariño siempre, tu comadre,
Leslie Priscilla is a first generation non-Black Chicana mother to three bicultural children. A certified Parent Coach with over 13 years of experience, Leslie founded Latinx Parenting in 2018 to share her medicine by offering coaching, workshops, support, and advocacy for Latinx/Chicanx families locally, nationally and internationally — including the Healing the Madre Wound workshop for Latina/Chicana mothers. Learn more about Leslie at www.latinxparenting.org or by following her at @latinxparenting.
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