Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound… I know; it’s the tagline from Superman. Supermom’s tagline would differ somewhat. She’s not faster; she’s smarter; she’s more perceptive, resilient and efficient, and she can leap across the kitchen, over a sleeping dog, and save a batch of brownies from burning all while quizzing her teenager for her history exam. That sounds pretty superhero-worthy to me. And the great thing is, I’m not the only one who thinks so, science can back me up.
For some reason, new moms are stereotyped as almost having lost their marbles. There’s this misconception that her brain turns into mush after having a child. Raising children takes its toll, there’s no doubt about that. When you consider that moms lose up to 700 hours of sleep in the first year of their child’s life, it makes sense that she might put a carton of milk in the oven. But science has actually proven that motherhood makes moms smarter. And yes, I do have an agenda writing this post, having a newborn of my own at home.
In the October 2010’s edition of Behavioral Neuroscience it was asserted that motherhood has the potential to encourage the brain to grow. Lead neuroscientist Pilyoung Kim, PhD surmises that the hormonal variations and changes after childbirth may assist in making a mother’s brain receptive to reshaping in response to her new baby. Neuroscientists Craig Kinsley PhD and Elizabeth Meyer, PhD added that, “the motivation to take care of a baby, and the hallmark traits of motherhood, might be less of an instinctive response and more a result of active brain building.”
Katherine Ellison, author of The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter, asserts that a mother has developed the ability to notice a lot more around her – giving her sharper “visual acuity.” Mothers tend to benefit from a boost in motivation and fearlessness, and they become more adept at multitasking and coping with stressful situations. Moms also have the capacity to improve their memory and learning skills with a little help from the hormone Oxytocin.
There is a lot going on in the brain, and I could give you a dozen studies which prove how and why. But that’s not my agenda. My point is that it’s not simply biological, or physiological, it’s spiritual, too. Motherhood has the ability to help us see life from someone else’s perspective – in particular our child’s. As I mentioned in my post Free Range Parenting, in the last few weeks of my pregnancy my eldest son, David has had some extreme reactions to my pregnancy; he suggested I not come into his room to kiss him goodnight, but rather stand in the doorway, fearing I would go into labor at any minute; preferring I not come to watch his baseball game because he felt embarrassed, and other things. It’s been an interesting time, and I have endeavored to understand his point of view. He is my son, I love him, and more than anything want to help him through this process and his feelings surrounding it.
In most cases, if people disagree with us, we can simply choose to move on or disregard them. But when it comes to our kids, most parents tend to push ourselves beyond our own comfort zones, and our ego. Having children enables us to become more attentive to the needs of someone other than ourselves. In fact, at times it forces us into a different perspective, for the sake of understanding our children. Recently, my family welcomed home our newest member, a baby girl. My oldest daughter had been the “baby” of the family for 10 years. It’s safe to say that we had established certain roles and routines, the 5 of us, over the past 10 years. So baby Abigail, so small and so sweet and so demanding of near-constant attention has created a shockwave for her siblings. It’s not dire and certainly not abnormal for the other children to feel the intensity of the energy and attention that she receives and by comparison feel a little off-balance.
As a parent, the initial response, I believe overwhelmingly, is one of dismissal. When you were an infant you received just as much love and attention, after all! That’s true, but your kids don’t REMEMBER it. They were babies. They have no recollection of the nights you pressed your cheek against their sleeping foreheads, taking in the baby smell of them and listening to the softness of their breath as they slept curled against you. They don’t remember the joy you took in their first words, or their first steps. It only lives in your memory. So, it’s reasonable that seeing their new sibling showered with love and attention would make them feel a lack of love and affection. Recognizing this, my husband and I found baby video footage from the infancies of our 3 oldest children and had an impromptu video session. The older children got to see Michael and me cooing over them in precisely the same manner we dote on Abigail. It was amazing to see the change in the kids, especially in my teenage son. Faced with video evidence of my unconditional love for him, he became more affectionate towards me than he has been in years. He didn’t let go first when we hugged (usually he does).
Being a parent is a daily exercise in unconditional love, which is one of the greatest tools Kabbalists use to fulfill their purpose and destiny. In fact, this transformation begins when we give our bodies to grow a child for 9 months, and continues our entire lives. Only it’s not our body growing, but our hearts, and our ability to empathize and feel beyond what we think is possible.
We can spend our entire lives doing what’s natural and comfortable, and think that we have accomplished great things. But to truly accomplish the purpose for which we came to this world, we need to push against our nature and against our comfort. Being a mother is one of the most natural occurrences in the world, but being a great mother and father takes patience, kindness, empathy and a great deal of awareness. Some of which does not come naturally. For instance, I will always put my newborn’s hunger before my own. Even if I’m sitting down for a meal, starving and she wakes up, I feed her first.
In Kabbalah, we talk about the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone versus the Desire to Receive for the Sake of Sharing. By transforming into beings of Sharing, we liken ourselves to the energy of the Creator, which is endless and abundant. The Desire to Receive for the Self Alone is the very antithesis of the Creator’s nature. When we oppose our own selfish desires, and focus our energy on becoming more sharing-forward. When sharing becomes a way of living, and not merely a sporadic deed, we call it transformative sharing. In order to make the shift from sharing to transformative sharing we don’t need to change anything except the consciousness with which we perform the daily action of our life.
Transformative sharing is continual effort where every thought and every action comes from the Desire to Share. The more challenging the task, the more transformative it will be. This kind of transformation is about going against our habits and instincts, removing our ego, and finally awakening our true nature to become like the Creator, which is what gives us the ability to live a life of joy and fulfillment, and achieve our true purpose.
I believe that one of my true callings in life is to help my children fulfill theirs; to help them reach their purpose and fulfill their dreams. Being a parent is a healthy circuitry of giving and receiving, sharing and caring, true transformation, and getting smarter through the process.
THOUGHT INTO ACTION:
Sometimes we neglect our relationship and ourselves in our pursuit to look after our children. When was the last time you had “you time”, or “date night” with your spouse? This week, set aside time to do both. The healthier and happier we are and feel, the healthier and happier our children will become.