How can we use our mothering energy?

In a comment on a previous post, Elena said she wished she knew how to use her “mothering energy.” I wanted to flip out an easy answer about getting involved with kids at her church, a local school, or some kind of social program. But then I realized I would not feel comfortable doing any of these things. I have minimal experience being around children. I am utterly unprepared to teach or take care of them. I could learn, but the idea makes me nervous. I know, they’re just kids and I was one once, but I feel less qualified to work with children than I feel about the accounting job someone just suggested I apply for. At least I have been balancing checkbooks (sort of) for decades.

Mothers and others might find it difficult to believe that a woman could go through life spending almost no time with children, but it happens. It happened to me, and maybe it happened to you.

These days I lead singing with the children at our church on Wednesday nights. It’s fun, but another woman does all the talking and interacting with the kids. I just sing and play my guitar.

Some childless people have lots of kids around them. Maybe they come from big families where they took care of their siblings or they have nieces and nephews they adore. Some are teachers or work with kids in daycare or medicine or some other field. They’re using their mothering energy all the time. We could volunteer at church, school, or the children’s shelter to be around children, but if you don’t feel comfortable with that, I understand.

Let’s look at it another way. What is mothering? Beyond actually giving birth, it’s taking care of someone else. God knows we all need that, no matter how old we are. We can provide food for the poor, company for the lonely, help for anyone who needs it. And it doesn’t have to be human. We can take care of dogs. We can grow flowers or tomatoes.

And we can make things, using our creativity in so many ways, whether we write books, bake bread, make sculptures or program computers.

I know it’s not the same as having children, but moping about what we don’t have doesn’t help for long. Grieve for a while, admit that it sucks, then find some other way to use your motherly powers.

What are your thoughts on mothering energy?

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3 thoughts on “How can we use our mothering energy?

  1. Hi there, just found your blog. I am a 43 year old childless wife. Circumstances made it so that I was unable to have children naturally and lifestyle choices determined that we are OK without children. The problem you speak about in this post is what I think I suffer from. I am glad about our choice to not attempt IVF, etc., but the instincts won't go away. I must channel that energy into other areas of my life; creating, gardening, … Thank you for your blog. Best, Lisa

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  2. I never really got along with children, even when I was one, but I always figured I'd learn to get along with them through being forced to deal with my own, day in, day out. And then it didn't happen. And I don't think that was an inevitable and desirable outcome–my own parents don't particularly like children, but they were perfectly fine parents (and happy to let us grow up, which I think is rather a plus).

    On the other hand, now that I am pushing 48 and clearly destined to remain childless, I am starting to find it liberating that I can quit pretending to like children, and quit desperately trying to maintain one-sided relationships with people whose entire identity has been swallowed up by being “moms”.

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  3. oh wow, thanks for picking up my post…
    Fact is i work FOR children everyday since i am employed by a big NGO in the youth field. But i don't work WITH children.
    This work is really interesting and enables me to really contribute to make a change, in some small steps, for children and youth in the country. The other side is that it is very abstract, complex, and for change to happen it takes a looooong time. In my opinion, this kind of work very often happens in a very “male culture”. It comes down to “male” criteria dominating the way work is done, even if it's in the interest of society and her children. So what i am thinking about for me personally is: do i need to “channel” my mothering energy into this? It would mean transform it to a great extent. Or what would it mean if i “channel” it into, for example, baking bread, spending more time with friends, or looking after a pet. Would that really be another quality of “mothering energy” i could use there – or is it a substitute to use this energy in comparatively “unimportant” fields. Maybe this question – where to put our “mothering energy” or if it's even possible – doesn't really have a definite answer and it is one of the ongoing challenges of being childless?

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