Mother tongue – a positive vocabulary of mothering

We live in an articulate society, continually questioning ourselves and each other. It is not fair to leave a new mother with a horrific collection of words to condemn her – and almost nothing in the way of praise for when she is doing something well. A whole vocabulary is missing.” 
What Mothers Do (especially when it looks like nothing) Naomi Stadlen

So here are some of the words I have added to my mothering vocabulary:

A mama – I am most definitely a mama: any female through the act of giving birth or adoption becomes a mother. Mummy is my mother, and it has the connotations for me of poshness and childishness. I am not a mom (american) or mam (Irish),  or mum (standard English) All of them are short, curt sounding and conventional. There is no roundness, warmness to those words.

No, I am a mama – soft to cuddle, with big snuggly milk giving boobs and rounded baby carrying hips, honed to soft perfection by our nearly daily family cookie baking and eating. I am a hippy mama, with floaty skirts, to skim over those big hips. I am a sling wearing, sore-knee kissing, jumping on the trampoline together, Arnica prescribing, walking in the woods, roast chicken serving, lullaby singing, candle lighting, playgroup starting, nature table tending, crafty crafty mama. 

Mama can be a verb too. Come round my house, any day or night and you will find me mama-ing my little brood. Sometimes with joy and laughter and songs, making playdough and dancing to folk music in the sitting room. And sometimes shouting and screaming and crying and despairing over toddler tantrums, maternal exhaustion from a night waking baby and my need to run away to the other side of the world, now!

An inherent part of mama-ing is Snuggle-time– a warm, cuddly, lovely time to sink your nose into your child’s hair, and give them your warmest most golden sustaining mama-energy, and suck up their sweetness and wish you could bottle it. “Mama snuggle me up” pleads my two year old when she is feeling sad or tired. Snuggle time with all my children started with the warm reciprocated joy of liquid love: breastfeeding. As they have got older and weaned, it continues to be a golden time for us.
Breathing is another key mama skill. I find breathing gets me out of a lot of hairy situations. Sometimes breathing is all I can do to stop my mama head from spinning off in sheer frustration. And sometimes I think sod breathing I need to shout! And then I feel very, very guilty.

So peace-making is another key mama skill. Making peace with myself for failing myself and my children. Making peace with my children for being a horrible shouty, cranky mama. Making peace between my children when they are tormenting each other. This mama skill is why I think there should be more mamas in “big” power, out in the world.

Soothing is a variation on snuggle time, but is needed for scared, hurt, shocked children. I picture my Madonna’s cloak, and imagine it wrapped around my little one and I as I rock, cradle and stroke them wherever we may be: shopping centre, birthday party, bus or home.
Strewing is another key skill for wanna-be home educators, and hands on parents. It is the act of scattering carefully thought out ideas, objects, games, books in your child’s path, and then jumping out of the way to let them pick it up and take an interest in it, to ask questions in their own time, rather than foisting a “learning experience” on them.
Day Surfing is the act of filling a day with no money, and no plans, seeing where you wash up: head into town, start at the library, then onto the pet shop, watch the road construction team working, a run in the park, listening to a busker. day surfing is a much larger challenge at home, where it can often be white knuckle survival.
I am sure I will add to this. But what are your words for positive acts of mothering? Add to our communal vocabulary, and honour the often challenging, sometimes rewarding, but crucially important act of mothering. I invite you to share you contributions in the comments box below.

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  1. laangel

    love it Lucy!

  2. Stacy (Mama-Om)
    Stacy (Mama-Om)11-17-2010

    Wow, I love this!!

    Some words that come to mind…

    attuning — reflecting back to our children an accurate picture of his or her inner world (from Daniel Siegel)… Being in tune with your child, knowing when they’re tired, hungry, energized, sad, proud. Giving our children the gift of being seen for who they are at any given moment.

    equanimity — the ability to be touched by another’s experience w/o being overwhelmed. To provide a clear and wise, and kind, presence so that our children can have their own experiences.

    meeting the moment — knowing what’s needed and going for it. Is it time to jump on the bed with the kids? Grab a book and blanket and snuggle up? Learning to let go of an agenda and really seeing what’s needed…

  3. Lucy Pearce
    Lucy Pearce11-17-2010

    Thanks Stacy – I’m honoured to have Mama-Om on my blog!

    Another couple I’ve come up with since I posted:
    Telescoping: to be able to stretch little activities to fill time, or shorten longer activities, so that time and needs miraculously correspond.

    Also, from my teaching days: Scaffolding: creating a supportive platform on which your child can learn and exceed their own innate abilities so that they can achieve what they couldn’t alone.

  4. sp8cemunky

    niiice. its a good counterpoint to June Cleaver imagery that seems to wallow in perfection.

    I like this a lot.


  5. Lucy Pearce
    Lucy Pearce12-02-2010

    Thank you mamas all for your appreciation, both here, on Facebook and by email.

  6. Karien

    Mama is the dutch word for mum, so I am a natural!

  7. Flea Bites On Dogs
    Flea Bites On Dogs07-16-2014

    I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?
    Plz respond as I’m looking to construct my own blog and would like to find
    out where u got this from. kudos

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