“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.” (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh)
Randi Buckley has a compassionate, feminine spirit. As a leadership, relationship and team coach, conflict resolution and collaboration reign in her world. It’s no surprise, then, that when hints of the desire to be a mother entered her consciousness, she embarked on a path of soul-searching to uncover the truth. That journey found her giving birth to a baby boy two days before her thirty-eighth birthday.
She acknowledges that motherhood is a heavy question to carry unanswered in one’s mind and heart. Randi was an intriguing interview subject on the topic of motherhood, given that she’s found herself on different sides of the fence at various points in her life. Ultimately, she believes that women should give themselves permission to change their minds on the topic. After all, isn’t that what every woman desires for herself?
At one point in the interview, Randi charmingly confessed that she wasn’t sure if her answers were clear. “Norwegians have a word for this: ‘ammetåke,’ which literally means nursing fog,” she shared. It is this charming humility and gentle sensibility that she brings to her perspective on modern motherhood.
Why are so many women in this era ambivalent about having children?
I think there is a desire to be and feel independent. Work is very important, not just in a career-building way. Women are very passionate about what they do and they may think that kids could infringe on that.
Some other common fears that I’ve heard are financial or the feeling of not wanting to screw the child up. Also, a big one is having a partner that didn’t want kids, so women wouldn’t dare admit that they did because they thought they’d risk losing true love.
One thing I’ve heard before is that many women are scared of losing their identity. Does that sound familiar from what you’ve been hearing from folks?
Big time. And I think that’s because we’ve seen, or interpreted so many women as having done just that.
Any advice on maintaining one’s identity, or more appropriately, being comfortable with moving into a new one as a mother?
What I’m experiencing as a mother is expanding one’s identity – not losing, but changing on your own terms.
One of the things I’m doing in the Maybe Baby coaching program is asking participants what they would need to know in order to be comfortable saying “Yes” to the whisper of “maybe motherhood” in their hearts. Sometimes identifying what you would need to know is a huge start.
I also ask folks to find mother role models, even if they are composite ones. In other words, who is rocking motherhood in a way that you relate to? In a way that honors them, that demonstrates you can still be you and be all that you want to be and need to be in being a mama.
That is actually rather big.
Those examples of motherhood on one’s own terms are out there. If driving a minivan is your fear, that’s what you’re going to perceive as part of motherhood. However, if you observe women being mothers in a way that helps them be more of who they already are or authentically want to be, that shifts what might be possible for yourself as a mother.
The other thing I think is really, really important is to find a place where you can talk about your feelings on motherhood without feeling judged.
So it’s all about shifting perception, in a way.
Yes, shifting perception of ourselves, ultimately, to more of who we want to be. It is really about being born into who we want to be.
Part of it for many modern women could have been seeing their mothers go through the process of motherhood and wanting something very different, if at all.
Yes, wanting something different from their mothers for sure. But also not relating to or not having what seems to be baby-lust early on, which I think makes us feel a little alienated or that we just don’t fit that mold, and we’re kind of relieved by that.
What are some of the most common misconceptions about motherhood that you’ve come across?
From what I’ve experienced or from what people talk about in the Maybe Baby program, a common misconception is that you’ll lose who you are and your sense of self. It is that you’ll suddenly have to start hanging out with people whom you’d never hang out with otherwise. This is rooted, again, in the fear of becoming someone you’re not. For me, I’m still me; I just get to experience myself in a new role. I haven’t morphed into someone I’d feared becoming. Neither have a lot of mothers I know.
Another one that I know is a big one on many women’s minds, one that many folks are afraid to talk, is the body. My post-pregnancy body is in better shape than my pre-pregnancy body. I didn’t know if I could expect that as everyone has a different experience, but being proactive and healthy during pregnancy made a huge difference for me.
What does motherhood mean to you?
For me, it’s been about creating a world where my little guy can thrive. My vehicle for that has been love. I focus on creating safety for him to try new things and explore who he is and how he wants to be in the world.
My baby is almost four months old and truly, everything has been enshrouded in love: the lack of sleep (which is so intense I could’ve never imagined); the struggles with nursing; and the prospect of not being able to rest for two more minutes because he needs me. You have to pull from a reservoir deep inside and it’s ultimately calling on love to get you through some tough moments.
Sometimes motherhood feels like an exclusive club. Could you speak to the (seeming) tension between mothers and non-mothers?
More often than not I’m finding women to be rather supportive of each other. Perhaps those are the circles I run in, as I really only want to be with people who are supportive of each other, empathetic and non-toxic. However when I do see or feel this tension, I think it stem from both wanting to matter and from a fear of being discounted. The potential for feeling discounted extends both directions, to non-mothers and to mothers.
I think non-mothers can feel the great value that is often put on motherhood and with that, risk feeling undervalued as women and humans. I think mothers long for an empathetic (and validating) ear and often believe there’s a greater likelihood of finding it among other moms. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but it does create space and distance.
We all want to feel valued and the cheapest way to an inflated sense of value is to put someone else down or distance ourselves from people who are different. But the cost to all women is staggering. I really feel the roles all women embody, with or without children, are important and necessary.
Complete this sentence: “I never thought that being a mother…”
Two things. One, that being a mother would be this much fun. I think in our concerns around motherhood we focus on what we’ll give up (at least temporarily). For me it’s been a shift, rather than giving anything up.
Two, that it would be as easy as it is (not that it is easy). Let me explain. For 37 years, I heard from all directions how hard and challenging parenting is. I was rather daunted by that. When I was pregnant, I came to trust that my instincts would kick in. They did. Not that I don’t wonder if there are better ways of doing things, but I’m finding that following my instincts are pretty right for my boy. I also accepted that I could learn as I go.
When you know what your bottom line is for yourself and your kid, whether it is what you most value, your greatest hopes or how you want to feel, that becomes your guiding star. I just keep moving in the direction of that guiding star.
Ana Ottman is unsure about motherhood but accidentally checked “Yes” on a doctor’s form recently that asked whether she was trying to get pregnant.