I had just dropped my daughter off at preschool one morning when I heard a radio segment about a very common species of spider. One, listeners were assured, that we likely had at least a hundred of in our own backyards. Non-descript, brown, somewhat small – what we think of when we think spider. Apparently, this spider is also the most selfless (though questionably sane) of all mothers on the planet. Said spider, after giving birth to its hundreds of babies, invites them to feed on the egg sac from which they’ve recently emerged. This sustains them for a few days. During that time they hang out, doing baby spider things, wandering further away from mom on the web, as children are wont to do. Then, they get hungry again. The web, full of hundreds of baby spiders and one lone mama, begins to vibrate a little as the mom spider uses this vibration as a signal to call her babies back to her.
So. That. They. Can. Eat. Her.
Yep. This mother is willingly devoured alive. Not only that, but she issues a blatant invitation to her children to do so. I’m prone to anthropomorphizing, but I imagine that there must be a moment of hesitation before mom gives that final web shake. “Wait, why did I do this again?” “I love them, but this seems a little extreme.”
Really, though, wow. As I listened to that story, I was horrified. And I related completely. As human moms, we may not be asked to sacrifice ourselves so that our children can cannibalize us. Still, we’d probably do it. Sedation would be mandatory. But we’d do it. That is a strong argument for biology. And love. And the almost insane combination of them that is motherhood.
We love these creatures so much, most of whom, at this point, we’ve spent the great majority of our lives without, to such an extent that we will sacrifice everything for their well being. But there are days and weeks when the endless needs and the minutiae of parenting, work, and life, gives little space to feel anything but exhaustion. Irritation. If we love these little people so much that we’d give anything to help them flourish, why does the idea of a few hours of unstructured alone time hold such strong appeal? I love you SO much. Now leave me alone. Perhaps because that love and that need to protect is so absolutely all consuming that, on occasion, it does feel just a little bit like being eaten alive.
I’m currently enrolled in a 300 hour yoga teacher training in Asheville, NC – an almost 4 hour drive from my home. My home studio, Carolina Yoga Company, offers a similar training, with excellent teachers. It would be cheaper, I could sleep in my own bed, and I could walk if I wanted. For almost all of those same reasons, I chose to embark on the training in Asheville. It’s far away, with different teachers, and I can sleep somewhere where the siren call of laundry leaves me be.
I never knew the power of a 4 hour drive without children before I had children. Noone does. What’s the saying? “I was a really good parent before I had children.” Yes. Children shed light on a lot of things – our capacity for love, for frustration, for anger, for joy. They are mirrors. Not the kind that hang in Anthropologie – tilted the right way, the lighting perfect. Children are mirrors in fluorescently lit dressing rooms in Target (where else?). That reflection is intense and unrelenting. Sometimes, the lessons it offers need time and space to be fully felt and absorbed. It is often challenging to find that time and space in everyday life.
Over the course of my drive this past Friday, I began somewhat tightly wound, as I tend to spend much of my days. Ready to jump up and pour milk, clean milk that’s spilled, get new milk because the old milk isn’t right, hope that no one inhales or somehow chokes on milk. In short, sacrifice myself for my children in very small, subtle, generally thankless ways. No radio episodes would be dedicated to my selfless acts of motherhood, as my children are merely drinking milk, not gnawing on my arm. Attending to needs that aren’t our own; well, it’s what we do. Alone in my car, the constant parental vigilance faded. It may have been the fact that my A/C was broken on a 95 degree day but as the miles and hours passed, parts of me began to melt. My shoulders dropped away from my ears, my thoughts slowed from the constant thrum of to do lists and worries to a more contemplative state. My breath got slower and my music got louder. I unabashedly sang along to the Counting Crows. And I felt lucky. Lucky to live the life I do, have the children and partner I have, and, oh, all of my friends. Lucky to be afforded the space to appreciate my luck.
We, as mothers, need things that are ours. Though we’d sacrifice ourselves in an instant for our children, we need the time and space to remember that we also have needs and that those needs are important. As moms, we are often told that we need to take care of ourselves because we can’t pour from an empty cup. That sentiment, though lovely, still deemphasizes our singular humanity. Sometimes we need space for the sake of space. Sometimes we need to take care of ourselves and it’s okay if the only reason we need to do that is because we matter too.
This September, Alexandra and I are offering a space for that space; a mom's retreat at the lovely and magical Rock Quarry Farm. I got married there 9 years ago, so I am particularly attached, but there's a kind of calm and spaciousness afforded me there that usually takes a few hundred miles and a large body of water to attain. You can find out more information about the retreat and register here. Fill your cup - you don't have to be that spider to be an incredible mom.