May 11, 2020

To My Fellow Mothers in Quarantine with Schuyler Grant

None of us imagined motherhood under these conditions. Some of us are essential workers navigating front-line jobs, but most of us are now stay-at-home moms, our careers vying with our kids for breathing room. Schuyler Grant hosts today's Mother's Day episode where she, along with other mothers, reflect on what it means to be a mom in this moment.


Schuyler: Welcome to the Commune podcast, a global wellness community and online course platform featuring some of the world's greatest teachers, usually hosted by the intrepid Jeff Krasno. But occasionally I push him out of the studio and offer up something a little different. This is Schuyler Grant, and today's podcast goes out to my fellow mothers in quarantine. We who so badly need not cold coffee and scrambled eggs in bed, not flowers delivered by a masked stranger, but an uninterrupted week of reveling with our dearest friends. No children, no partners, no kitchens, no newsfeed, no Clorox wipes.

Schuyler: But ladies, here we are settling once again for disembodied connection. All in this together, but so fucking far apart. Perhaps you like me, vacillate between gratitude and misery for these days, weeks, months of unrelenting motherhood. Our tiny ones with their crushing needs, so sweet but so boring. Our teenage children reverting to mewling infants, squalling about the tragedy of a spring time with nowhere to prance in a crop top. Our babies returned home from college so wonderful at first, but then didn't they learn to clean their own kitchens out there in the world? And we are their mothers, so we will always be responsible for life's vicissitudes, each of us the chef of that bat soup.

Schuyler: But though they're making us pay in ways big and small, would we really ask for a refund, this strange time stolen from their friends and teachers? I wouldn't. This attenuated moment of quarantine reminds me a bit of the bleary and blissful days of early post-partum. Cloistered indoors, the alchemy of a new self being born along with the creature we just grew. The mind numbing sameness, the sweet newness. The anxiety, the fragility, the closeness, the frustration, the love. Days and days that stretched on forever. But then where did they go? Then too, we had to reimagine our relationships with our best friends as well as our partners and ourselves. So who are we now? The same, but forever changed.

Schuyler: Some of us are on the front lines, navigating jobs at hospitals or grocery stores and then returning to an unrecognizable home life. But most of us are now stay-at-home moms, our careers vying with our kids and partners for breathing room. We're zooming half clad sandpaper ride from screen time, a little grateful for the short commute from bed to sofa. We're scrambling to save a business or chasing the potential to reimagine an old business online, or mourning the death of a business crushed by quarantine. We're pretending to homeschool, or maybe a few of you are living saints and you're actually slogging through elementary school worksheets or learning to teach higher math. I myself have had to own up to my total hypocrisy forever touting the wonders of homeschooling. Our legs, so hairy. Our houses are like white collar prisons, so messy. Or so very, very, very neatly organized. Our kids, so smothered, but so neglected. My God, none of us chose motherhood under these conditions. It takes a village. Remember?

Schuyler: To be honest, I'm not particularly fond of Mother's Day, but this year I'm feeling uncharacteristically sentimental, desperate to connect with my friends who feel so far, far away. And those of you I don't know who feel strangely closer in quarantine. I think all of us, despite the text thread and the memes, and the zooming, and the recipe chains are thirsting for our chosen sisterhood, craving some skin on skin bonding to nurse on shared experience. So I reached out to my fellow breeders and I asked them to send me a short reflection on motherhood. Most complied, with a little arm twisting. Please forgive in advance the sound quality of these missives from around the country. They were surely recorded in compromised circumstances. But I hope they speak to your heart as well as mine.

Natalie: My name is Natalie Galazka. I'm a producer and a new mama. I took my first surfing lesson a few years ago, and I'm by no means a professional surfer, but I love it. There's an obvious exhilarating thrill of being forcefully carried towards the shore while standing on top of a surfboard, which I enjoy immensely.

Natalie: The other aspect I love is a little less obvious, and that is the waiting. After you've paddled out, you wait for your wave to come. You watch far out into the distance. You look for patterns and for nuances. Sometimes there are lulls where nothing happens at all and you just wait and watch and listen. And as time passes, you begin to understand even just a little the language of the ocean. You give the ocean all of your attention. And if you're lucky, she gives you back a wave, a present for your presence.

Natalie: Our son turned seven months old last week. I've learned so much from him in this short time. He teaches me about presence in the same way that the ocean does while waiting for a wave to come. The more present we are with him, the more we come to know his vocabulary. The more we learn what he needs, what he's trying to tell us, and what his world looks like. Our attention offers answers to the myriad of questions that arise like how will we know if he's hungry or tired, or ready to try something new? Witnessing what brings him joy, what makes him frustrated or impatient, or what it is for him to achieve something on his own and to discover the world around him is so special to watch. His shrieks of excitement as he moves from his hands and knees to plank pose or inches down the hallway for the first time. The sound of his breath in my ear, the curls emerging on the back of his head. The conversations we have while I'm getting him dressed for the day. And the way his smile erupts at the various first hint of the song I sing for him each morning. It means slowing down, letting go of distractions and assumptions, and giving him our full attention. And what he gives us back is truly precious, a present for our presence.

Laura: We were quarantined at home on my son's 11th birthday, and I happened upon a rather spotty baby book. Things like, it began with his first words and steps. And I read it out loud to him. Here's an excerpt. "Harlan my love, tomorrow is Mother's Day and you've just turned four yesterday. You asked me why people wanted to go to outer space. You also informed me that you would prefer to stay in our bed forever and probably as an adult and on weekends. Your favorite color is red, and you never forget that mine is blue. You are probably the nicest child I've ever met. Very thoughtful, and considerate, and concerned. It baffles me that you come from such a she-beast as I, but there you are, and you are mine, and I love you deeply and endlessly."

Alex: Hi, it's Alex [Odair 00:08:21] recording from Philadelphia. Mother's Day. It's complicated. It's even complicated finding a quiet room to record this. And I have a difficult relationship with my mother and I find that mothering a young woman who's entering her later teen years reveals the truly bittersweet nature of being a parent. And sweet is putting it gently. As the teenager reveals her narrative of her childhood, it's wildly different from mine. And I'm sure her early years, which she has no memory of live in her body somatically, or at least I pray they do. All those years and years and years for me of nursing, I hope live somewhere in there. But the narrative of her life is not my narrative and I find that I have to contend with that, and one must contend with that in order to cut the final umbilical cord, that's the psychological umbilical cord. And we send our children out into the world as new entities different from us, and the attachment we have to them, what we desire them to be has to be dissolved. And it's a hard process. I hope, a fruitful process, but I'm not sure. Happy Mother's Day. 

Brooke: Hi, my name is Brooke. I live in Brooklyn with my husband and two sons that are eight and 10. I went into labor at 28 weeks with my first son, landed in the hospital and luckily managed to keep him inside for another two and a half weeks. He was born at 31 weeks. And a couple of days before I gave birth, the doctors and nurses came in to warn me that he could be born with a whole host of issues. Blindness, developmental disabilities, organ issues and failures. He was born on July 4th, and I got to hold him maybe a few hours later. They put him on my chest. And this tiny little baby that was three pounds 15 ounces was so tired. He could look up at me and we had this gaze that in that instant, I knew this boy is strong. He's intelligent. He's not going to get sick. He's going to be totally fine. And that's ended up being the case. 

Brooke: So we were in the hospital for nine weeks. Or he was, I visited him every day. And he's a healthy, normal child. I tell this story because I got to experience the power and the wisdom of the masses instinct literally the moment I became a mom. Which was this powerful force that just put me at ease in the most incredibly stressful environment. I knew I just had to do my time. My son had to do his time in the hospital in the NICU, but we would get out and everything would be fine. So I think that's what I would say on this Mother's Day, listen to the maternal instinct. Use it to your advantage, and be grateful for that gift that comes with motherhood.

Leda: Hey everybody. My name's Laida. Happy Mother's Day. I wanted to share a little bit about what it's been like being stuck at home with just me and my son these past few months. It's been really hard, but it's also been transformative. In an attempt to not pass on my core wounds, I've been making it a practice to really listen and mirror back. I want him to know that he matters, that he's enough. I want them to feel seen, feel heard, feel understood and valued. I want him to know that his ideas, his thoughts and feelings are important. And in an attempt to counteract the toxic power over society that we all live in, I'm trying to establish a power with dynamic by giving him plenty of opportunity to weigh in on decisions. I see my purpose as a mom as no different than my purpose in general, which I'm only now recently starting to express.

Leda: So I'm teaching him to honor and give space for of and take care of all of the parts of himself, even the parts he doesn't like, that he's scared of. The parts he doesn't even want to admit exist. I want to raise him to be a man who can regulate his emotions and choose to act from a place of love and kindness. I want him to be self-actualized and to find his purpose early and to fulfill it. Unlike me who's only now slowly starting to emerge into who I always was but never shared. I want to raise him to be a man who can do all the things that women can do, like find things, and cook, and clean, and nurture. I want him to inherently understand that power causes brain damage, and to see his own power and privilege. And to use it to uplift people who have less than him. I want him to be someone who makes the world a better place.

Leda: I have no idea if I'm succeeding at any of this or if my expectations of him and myself are just too high. I mean, we fight all day about screen time and chores. We've gotten to the point that he's totally annoyed by the way I chew my food. I struggle to have enough patience to watch his magic tricks and play yet another board game. I'm not sure if I'm modeling the behavior of self love I want to teach. As I struggle to stay true to myself through my healing work, I go in and out of anxiety feeling like I'm not enough. Like I'm a failure, like I don't matter. So I don't know if I'm doing a good job. If we'll continue to have a loving relationship through the teenage years and beyond. I don't know how close we'll be. I can only take this job of parenting moment by moment, and try to focus on the ones that feel like a joyful connection has been shared. So those are my musings on being stuck at home, just the two of us. I hope you're all going easy on yourself.

Megan D.: Happy Mother's Day. This is [Megan 00:15:17]. [Bells 00:15:17] grew up in London. And when she was a toddler, our park was Battersea Park. Just a quick walk from home. When you have tiny people to take care of, you take them to the park in all sorts of weather because it helps to just break up your day. So midwinter we bundled up and walked down the path to the long pond where they raced many little sailboats in the summertime. And I noticed our neighbors were there too, this German couple with their two small kids. And Bells was near the edge of the pond. And then suddenly she wasn't. She had fallen right in. Three layers of clothes, freezing water, neighbors aghast. I scooped her out as quick as I could. This look of absolute shock on her face. And for some reason, I just started to laugh, and was horrified at my own reaction. And I tried to stop. I mean the dripping clothes and the shivering kid in my arms, and I just couldn't. Not when I looked at the German family, not as I ran with my soaking baby all the way home. I laughed my ass off. 

Megan D.: And I know it wasn't the appropriate reaction, and I'm sure my neighbors thought I was a total nut job. Now when I think about it, maybe the instant shock of the moment pulled me out for just a second of the monotony of motherhood. The kind which is so acute when your kids are small. Whatever it was, the lesson is forgive yourself. There is absolutely no way you are going to get it all perfect. Give it your best shot, and then let the rest go. Love them like crazy. You will ache one day for their little tiny selves. 

Rachel: Hi, my name is Rachel. I'm an artist. When I was thinking about having children, people would tell me that women artists can't have children because they can't have it. All their art is their children. And once you have a real child, you lose the ability to be a great artist. I decided not to listen to them, because I always thought I could have it all.

Rachel: I had three children and I have three children. And they're now teenagers. And even becoming close to leaving the house. And I was giving a lecture last year and someone in the audience said that Marina Abramović told to everyone last year when she was giving the same lecture that you can't have children and be an artist. And how are my thoughts and what are my thoughts about this now? And I said, "Now, I've realized you can't have it all at the same time." You could be a good artist maybe possibly, hopefully a great artist. But it comes at the detriment of your children when you are making great art. And you could possibly hopefully be a great mother. And it comes to the detriment of making your art. But you can do at one time for a couple months or a year, or possibly a couple years, while the other one waits, and vice versa. And that's hopefully how I can have both, but not at the same time.

Anastasia: I have been thinking about all of this extra time I have had with my teenagers lately. So many movies, so many cups of Earl Grey tea. So many conversations about life, and future, and presence. And all of this feels stolen, like time I was not supposed to have, but that was just gifted to me. I know that during these teenage years, friends are often preferred over parents and balancing part-time jobs and activities and school often leave us with just logistical conversations while dropping them off or picking them up. And I feel almost coy in the fact that it is me that they are passing their ideas and thoughts through. Partly because there is no one else, and I am just so grateful.

Anastasia: And then I had this thought the other morning that it's not just me stealing time with them, but them stealing time with me. And I caught my breath. This idea that they would get more of my wisdom, more of my love, more of my grace. It made me get really intentional about how I wanted to show up. As mothers we need to stand in that acknowledgement. Spending time with us, it's their gift. It's not just ours. And how would this thinking change us? And how would this thinking change them? I love that motherhood is always shifting and pivoting as your children grow, and I love that life continues to give us these moments even when they're difficult and messy and imperfect, where we kind of just get to figure it all out a little bit more. This is Anastasia on motherhood.

BREAK

Lauren: Hi, I'm Lauren and I'm an actress here in LA. I'm also 21 weeks pregnant with my first baby. Although being in quarantine and in the midst of a worldwide pandemic is obviously not an ideal situation, I've been really doing my best to look on the bright side of this. As an actress, I always worried about when I would find the time to start a family. And I worried about being pregnant and missing out on auditions or not being right for a role because I was pregnant at the time. Or when I would be able to take time off of work. And now, I find myself with nothing but time. And I've actually been enjoying it.

Lauren: I get to spend a lot of time with my partner and the father of my baby, and we're really kind of getting to experience this together, which has been really wonderful. I'm well into my second trimester. And every single milestone, every up and down we've been able to go through together. And I don't know that if things were normal, for lack of a better word, we would have been able to experience the pregnancy in this way. Now on the flip side, although I am enjoying all this downtime, it is scary to think about bringing a child into a world where we don't know what's going to happen or what the future holds. But for now, I'm just trying to really stay present and enjoy this time that I've been given.

Megan F.: Hello, this is Megan from Brooklyn, and I'm a school teacher. Becoming a mother is probably the most selfish thing you can do, but mothering the most selfless. So motherhood becomes a dance between the two, the selfish and the selfless. It's a contradiction that goes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Just like becoming a mother makes you feel whole, it really splits you in two or more. As little sense as this makes, we were actually designed for this and that's why it feels natural. So I suppose becoming a mother unleashes your superpowers as you dance your way through the good, the bad, and that which I don't wish to mention here. Happy Mother's Day.

Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz: Hey, this is Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, and I just wanted to wish you a happy Mother's Day. One of the biggest challenges that I went through as a mom to be and then as a young mom, and even as an OB over the last 20 years. And especially in the last seven weeks with all this pandemic stuff, is just the fear and anxiety associated with uncertainty. But I'm doing the same thing now and I'm suggesting that you all do the same thing that I've done in all of those moments. And that is to have patience with myself and others. Surrender and try to be still in the present moment. It's really the only thing that ever works. So I just want to wish you all a happy, beautiful Mother's Day. To those of you who are mothers, to those of you who are becoming mothers, to those of you who have acted like mothers. We deserve that surrender, patience and some peace. Happy Mother's Day. 

Monica: Hey mamas, my name is Monica. And I find myself asking two questions multiple times throughout the day as a mother. And the first question is what is the teachable moment here? And this question applies to when my child is behaving or acting in a way that I might not want him to. And it requires me to step up as a leader and as a teacher, and as somebody who has more guidance and knowledge than him, to steer his behavior and his actions in a way that I think will be more productive, and that he will learn from, and that he will benefit from.

Monica: And the second question I find myself asking is, is this worth losing my Zen over? There's many moments throughout the day where you can pick and choose your battles. And oftentimes, there are moments where you might not agree with how your child's acting. But it might just be a battle of egos, and it might not just be worth losing your Zen or your cool over.

Monica: And I think with these two questions, one is requiring you to step up as a teacher and as a leader. And the second one is asking you to be taught and asking how your child can be a teacher to you.

Elizabeth: Hello, my name is Elizabeth Bachner. I am a licensed midwife in Los Angeles, California, where I own a birth center, and I'm also an author and teacher at graceful.com. So today I want to encourage you to take a moment to show others how much you love yourself and respect others by sharing a personal boundary with kindness. 

Elizabeth: So what I have observed is that when one grows up identifying as female, we tend to be socialized into thinking that showing love to another is done through sacrificing of one's needs. And I don't believe that's actually true. I think that healthy boundaries are not conditional, nor will they cause someone to leave you or love you less. So boundaries are a way of communicating to yourself and others how much you love yourself. So my prayer for you today and every day is may you know the value of your worth and see that reflected back to you in another who can respect your boundaries. Enjoy. 

Christina: My name is Christina Aires, and I'm the mom of a recently turned one year old boy. My wish for every mother right now is that you put on your proverbial face mask. First. Mothers are the eternal caretaker, and the ones to whom we turn when life is its most challenging. But the caretaker needs to be taken care of too. This week, do the thing that gives you the most pleasure. Call the person who fills your bucket. Spend an extra 10 minutes in the shower or the bath. Enjoy a glass of wine and watch the sun go down from your window. Read a great book. Whether you're the mother of a 30 year old who call you on Mother's Day to thank you or to a newborn who wake you up that morning at 6:00 AM, give yourself the grace to carve a little time out for yourself. Happy Mother's Day.

Mimi: Hi I'm Mimi Brainard. My mother-in-law gave me a notebook with recipes written down a long time ago. She pasted a poem she wrote on the inside cover. I have two daughters. They went away to boarding school and then to college, and I missed them during their adult years. We were all together now for the quarantine, and this is truly a gift to me. Every day we figure out what to have for dinner, and at night we were all in the kitchen together, cooking and preparing the meal. Sometimes it's a recipe from my mother-in-law's little notebook, but always it boils down to the last line of her poem. 

Mimi: A La Carte by Suzanne Miller Levine. How can I make a poem for you when all I can think about are recipes? I crush a cup of slivered almonds, heat the olive oil and add two silver cloves, chopped elliptical cloves that bring you to your knees with their urgency. Heading out from the rush of gourmandize, I add the almonds, bread crumbs, curls of parsley stirred with a wooden spoon. Blending the sweet meats. You hold the mushroom cap on the swelling of your palm and gently stuff the filling into the crevices, crown into the floodings, and press until full. We sprinkle the Parmesan and spritz them with a pale wine, then bake until bronzed. It helps to have a concentration of the right ingredients. Take for instance a nice Jewish boy and a half Jewish girl with a mother-in-law who swears that food is love. Happy Mother's Day, everyone.

Kira: Hi, my name is Kira. I'm a writer. Motherhood is sheer bliss, is like being on the best drug in the universe. And nursing, and kissing, and hugging, and even changing diapers and fitting clothes on tiny little feet. And it's discovering that your kid loves your favorite movie. And it is being completely and epically crushed when your kid doesn't love you for a minute, or hates you, or blames you, or needs to be apart from you. And it's in that space where you just learn true humility, I guess. You learn to just let it be, and to savor and cherish the love. To look for the openings in the hardest years for those moments, and to hold space around anger and around fear. And to try not to take it personally, and to be there when they want to come and sit on your lap again. As big, long teenagers and put their arms around you. And then be okay when they have to jump up and go again. That's motherhood. 

Carly Jo: Hi, I'm Carly Jo Carson from Topanga Canyon. Happy Mother's Day. I'm a mother of four. I have a blended family with four kids here. And motherhood and being a stepmom has been the most beautiful and deepest journey of my life thus far, and also the most challenging. And I think the tool that I am working with most these days is finding forgiveness for myself. There's so many times where I'm trying to do everything perfect and be this endless source of wisdom, and fun, and love, and just feel like I'm messing up so many times throughout the day. And if I get stuck in that feeling of I'm messing up, it just gets worse and snowballs. So I'm trying to just forgive myself and remove myself a little and just laugh, just laugh a little like, "You're doing that again." But it's easier said than done.

Carly Jo: But I teach breath work and shamanic practices involving healing, family of origin, and karmic trauma. And I came to that work because of my own relationship with my mother and how that was very complicated. And I'm still peeling, peeling the layers. But in this moment, I am of forgiveness for myself. I realize that it doesn't work unless you can truly forgive your own mother for the ways that they might not have been perfect, and just love them for who they are. And I'm finding so much love for my mom through being a mother. And with the work that I do and just for my own personal practice, I always end up trying to find a song and make harmony around whatever the feeling is that I want to embody, and sing harmonies with it. So here's one that I'm working on this week. And it's simple, and sing along if you feel like it.

Carly Jo: (singing)

Carly Jo: Sing that for your mother if you feel called, and sing it to yourself. Say happy Mother's Day.

Schuyler: It's been incredibly sweet for me to hear from the mothers in my extended tribe. I hope you too find some comfort and strength in their humble wisdom during this strange moment, this protracted inflection point of quarantine. All of our relationships with our kids, our partners, our parents, our country, and ourselves are going to be forever altered by this time we've spent together apart. What's on the other side of this of course, remains to be revealed to us. But it's my fervent hope that it's us women who will have the creativity and the urgency to come together, and to rise like a fleet of Phoenixes, ashes trailing behind us. And for this Sunday, don't just call your mother. Call 10 mothers, and remind them that all of our tiny tributaries come together to make up a river of women, fed by our mothers and our grandmothers flowing downstream to our children. Happy Mother's Day. 

Christina: Mommy. Mommy, mummy, mum, mumsy, mother, my mother, my mom, mom, my mama, mama mia, mami, mammita, mamasita, mama, [Spanish 00:35:21] [foreign language 00:35:30].

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