In truth, it was going to be difficult anyway. I've been absent for a long time from both social media and publishing blog posts. But right now, as I feel compelled to speak again, the situation in Ukraine is unfolding in front of our eyes via world media.
So, what to say? What can I say?
I have this push-pull reaction, which may be familiar to you.
I’m drawn into a ‘what must it be like?’ hideous imagining prompted by the human stories. I'm appalled by the impact on mothers and children, made totemic by the bombing of a maternity hospital.
Then I recoil from what can feel like the voyeurism of watching a car crash.
Then I try to get my head around the history and geopolitics of it all. What it might mean for my own family, not to mention the future of our entire world.
Then I pan out to the backdrop: an ongoing pandemic, climate crisis, resurgent nationalism, endemic racism... all the many existential forces that we face.
Yet part of me thinks it has always been this way. People have fled from war and conflict and poverty and natural disasters. Different groups have been oppressed. The modern world has long been out of balance with nature.
Through it all, we have to find ways to keep sustaining ourselves and our families. To keep sustaining our vital work as mothers of the next generation.
When you feel like you should be doing more, or it seems like what you do is trivial, remember this - your mothering is your activism.
Mothers in marginalised communities have always known this.
Every time you really stop and listen to your child.
Every time you subvert the view that you are 'just a mum'.
Every time you reassure a friend that they are 'good enough' even though their child is
that is, any time their child is not performing the societally acceptable role of 'good enough' child…
Every time you extend the same sense of empathy and compassion to yourself.
Every time you refuse to be part of a narrative that seeks to divide us.
Your mothering is your activism. Often invisible, but activism nonetheless.
Putting one foot in front of the other with a kind and gentle intention.
You will make mistakes. You will be unkind. You will not be gentle. Your good intentions will waver. You will sometimes end up raging.
But you don't have to solve everything. You are not responsible for world peace or the saving of the planet. You are not even solely responsible for what happens to your child, or their way of being.
All you can do, all we've ever been able to do, is accept that life is inherently uncertain. The only certainty is that there will be joy and suffering, health and illness, life and death.
Allowing things (both big and small) to be uncertain, can be liberating.
Put one foot in front of the other. Don’t seek to solve the unsolvable.
I felt unable to speak for almost six months, because I was beginning to wonder what the speaking was for.
My fear speaks where I can't. My fear voices doubts. "How can I contribute anything meaningful when there is such suffering in the world?" and "Who am I to dare to speak?"
It puts me into a freeze response, a response where I'm unable to even articulate that underlying fear.
The crushing size of world events can render us all mute in various ways. The weight of what is going on makes anything we want to do or say seem trivial.
After two years of Covid, and now seeing fresh - but all too familiar - images of conflict, we are in a collective freeze response. Unable to move forward, feeling fatigued and powerless and exhausted by it all.
But mothers are still mothering. Even in war, they are trying to hold it together for their little ones.
We are all trying to hold it together for our little ones.
There is no more important conversation to have.
Mothers are still mothering.
We are still doing that minute by minute, unseen caring work, which is vital to any future world.
This quote has been shared a lot recently:
"I am sure that if the mothers of various nations could meet, there would be no more wars"
I don't have rose-tinted spectacles about this. I know that mothers are part of systems and societies. Systems and societies that support war, incite division, promote patriarchy and nationalism. But there's also truth in the shared sense that no mother ever wants their child to suffer.
The things that divide us can coexist with the things that unite us.
We have to find some way to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Putting one foot in front of the other with a kind and gentle intention.
We can challenge the dominant narrative of separation, individualization, disharmony, and discord. By mothering.
Mothering together. Mothering as both individual evolution and collective activism.
This is what I am called to speak about.
© 2022 Ali Pember - Good Enough Mama