The Village: Who else is here while you mother?
Freedom, Community & Mothering as Creative Soul-Seeker
by Morgan Nichols
“What is inherently free is who you are. Who you are does not become free. It is free. In recognizing this, there is the natural ability to respond. Before that, responsibility is a concept of duty or of something to be shouldered. It may be tempered with love and care, but it is also something to be born. Therefore, your child becomes an objectification, a separation between you and that which you really are. This is a deadly joke! You are this very child. Recognize this and you are not searching around for personal freedom. Then nothing can be an intrusion.” – Gangaji*:
As a creative, soulful, multi-passionate single mother only just emerging out of the early years of motherhood, I struggle with this notion of freedom on a daily basis. I sometimes feel tethered by responsibility, longing to escape and spend days dancing under a wild blue sky. I’ve seen my child as the barrier between me and my true freedom. And yet I know this is an illusion that causes us both pain. Yes, I have real, driving needs for space, quiet, creativity. I am a highly sensitive and introverted person who becomes easily overstimulated and needs regular time alone like a fish needs water. But when I do get a break, much as it refreshes me, after a time I realise that I need my son as much as he needs me. Mothering is an anchor in my life. I have been forced by parenting responsibility to root out a lot of my self-absorption and emotional-roller-coaster tendencies, to become more grounded, present and consistent.
When I allow myself to truly see my son, instead of past him to where I want to be; to look deeply into his eyes that change daily from green to blue to grey, and crinkle up at the corners when he laughs, using his whole face; I can see him as a companion on my journey, an ally even, that I’m blessed beyond measure to have. I see that the freedom I long for is right here now. I realise I’m only given as much as I have the strength for. Being a mother has led me to places that I needed to be: for my soul, for my creativity, for my work to be birthed into the world.
Every step of the way I’ve been given the village I’ve needed. It just hasn’t looked the way I imagined it. I thought I’d have a nuclear family, a safe, cozy oasis in the tempestuous world. When my rocky relationship finally ended when my son was 20 months old, this dream dissolved in ash. We were homeless for several months after the split, reliant on friends’ charity. I was provided for in ways I’d never have expected: finding a house-sit with a country walk at the end of the road, where I could nurture myself with my favourite soul-connector: Nature. I learned the generosity and kindness of my fellow humans in a way I’d never have experienced had I stayed in the nuclear family bubble.
I was terrified to live alone with my son. I had always lived with people; I thought I wouldn’t be enough for him, that I’d be isolated and alone. Then I happened to see a flier for a week long summer solstice community camp. I knew at once that I had to go there. We traveled for a long sweaty 5 hours by public transport with all our camping gear, and arrived on a field to find more than I could ever have dreamed. It was, simply, home.
For a week we lived in groups of 20-30 within a larger camp of 90 people, and in those groups grew surprisingly close. In fact, to me it felt like family. We shared chores and everyone did what they were best at – which meant I did far less cooking than usual and much more drifting, daydreaming, and dancing. People shared their skills for the benefit of everyone: chopping wood, making temporary kitchens, massage, teaching yoga. My son, then 2.5, had the opportunity to interact with people he wouldn’t usually: seven year old girls, childless older adults. And of course, we were living right on the land and outdoors most of the time. I unwound myself into the space of blue sky and the simplicity of cooking over a fire, surrounded by caring, open-minded and creative people. I was woken up to a way of living that I recognised in my bones: being in community in openness and mutual respect. It was so overwhelmingly beautiful that one night at the evening meal sharing circle I collapsed into sobs: “I want to live like this.”
My son was free to roam in a much larger space than was possible back home, benefiting from the input of a safe small group of supportive adults and other children. I felt both free and supported, and came home overflowing with love and a new openness to the world. We discovered other community camps and re-found our home each summer for the next 4 years. This ‘village’ inspired me to learn the ukulele and sing in a scratch band for the first time, finally having the confidence to share my life-long love of music with others; I taught yoga under a big oak tree; tried out new ideas for Wild Writing workshops, and was able to let more of my vivid, colourful, wild self out to play because of the support of such a nonjudgmental environment.
I read somewhere that as human beings, we expect, on an evolutionary level, to live in this way: sharing parenting among the members of a tribe of 20-30 people, living in connection with the cycles and seasons of the land. This is the way we lived and thrived for thousands of years. This affirmed for me that there wasn’t something ‘wrong’ with me because I didn’t want to, and couldn’t, fulfil all my son’s needs 24/7. That I wasn’t a bad parent because my needs as a human being weren’t completely fulfilled as a single full-time urban parent. We could be surrounded by other parents and children at the park and I’d still feel totally isolated; and to meet my needs for mental stimulation and adult companionship often required a lot of exhausting organisation and time away from my child. This set my needs against his. At the camps, this conflict was lessened because our needs could be met by different people – we were not woven into an interdependence so tight it hurts.
I wondered if there was any point in surrendering into an experience that, beautiful as it was, wasn’t going to last and couldn’t be translated into my life as an urban single parent. But the village has been evolving in its own way here. I moved to a smaller, country town and made more connections with other mothers, exchanging childcare and text conversations and coffee chats about being a mother creative and soul-seeker. My local Red Tent community nourishes my femininity. I collaborate with other women on creative projects and workshops. I’ve continued to take little steps towards my dreams, and seeing how these little seeds take root and flower, I find my life barely recognisable from 7 years ago, when I first became a mother and felt so isolated, even with a partner. I am hoping that the roots of community and music will slowly spread right underneath the foundations of my life. Who knows where they will come up to light and flower next?
*from Gangaji’s question and answer session printed in ‘You Are That’:
I’ve been a lover of words since before I could actually write, walking up and down the garden telling stories to myself. I was initiated into the Wild Mother path in 2007 when my son Jude was born. He is my live-in spiritual teacher and often my creative inspiration – the reason that my book, Wild Motherhood: Keeping the Creative and Soul Fires Burning, and the support network Wild Motherhood, came to be. I’ve been running supportive writing groups and workshops for mothers since 2008, and am a freelance writer, published poet and short story writer, and copywriter with two novels on the back burner. See here for some of my published work. In-between mothering and working I love to stare out of train windows, read about astrology, and dance the 5 Rhythms, enjoying the freedom of expression and mindfulness discipline rolled-into-one that this embodiment practice provides.