She went crazy because staying home is no longer a valid or valued contribution and support for it in our society disappeared, so she had to “contribute” by going out to “work.”
In other cultures less fractured than ours, I have observed that the self worth clearly demonstrated by women comes from their role as holders of space in the family and community. Women are the constant center from which the children and men leave and come back. Women are the hub, the core. In the villages, the women work hard at the daily chores but there is not the sense of perpetual inconsequence that comes of not being valued. The women are confident in their sense of themselves, they support one another and often make light of the work by doing it together. I have enjoyed watching them laugh and joke together as they do the laundry in the river that runs through the village or sitting for hours twice a week on market day selling the few vegetables they had harvested from the parched soil. Here is where the support of the community lightens the weight of frustration and isolation felt by women in their own nuclear family structure.
As a result, I have come to grieve for our culture. In ceasing to value mothering and the energy it takes, we have disempowered the women, who kept the hearth fire burning in the home, and sent them out to work instead. We have created generations of latchkey children and men fed on fast food and television, not to mention burned out women doing two jobs.
It may seem politically incorrect to talk about the need for women to be at home, but let me make it clear that I am not talking about all women here. There are many expressions of the feminine that women need to honor and express at different times in their lives, and some women are not made for mothering at all. Even today, however, with all the hard won freedom of choice that women have, many women choose to have children because the role of “supermom/working-woman” is the only path sanctioned and supported by a social structure where the archetypal roles of “priestess,” or “sacred virgin/prostitute,” or “single woman/healer/creative artist-complete-unto-herself” are not honored.
But there is an enormous personal cost to choosing that “supermom/working-woman” role, because it condemns a woman to years of exhaustion, with terrible cumulative impacts later on in life. Chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, both immune deficiency syndromes, may well be examples of our bodies trying to tell us we have been living a depleting, inauthentic life. Our challenge then becomes how to create the support we need through our community as we make more authentic life choices for ourselves. In meeting that challenge, we will continue to evolve the culture, which is all to the good but no easy task.
Meanwhile, what of the children? I am exquisitely aware now that unless someone—and a man can express this aspect of the feminine as well—holds space for us when we are children, then as adults, finding out who we truly are and coming fully into our creative power is a painful process of unlearning and healing. The fear-based survival skills we develop as children, which become habitual and unconscious as we grow, keep us out of life as adults as strongly as they preserved it when we were younger and had no control.
How can the wheel of life turn if it has a rim and spokes but no hub? How can we feel safe to go out there and explore our world if there is no one to come back home to? How can we feel safe to delve deeply into our selves, our wounds, our shame in order to heal them if there is no constant one to hold us, support and soothe us when we come back with our pain? How can we grow and create and be all that we can be without the security of a container?
‘Holding space’ is a way of characterizing this container, this vessel. In ancient cultures the vessel was a symbol of the feminine. The revolution in cultural creativity that is currently in progress is defined by a broad intuitive impulse to create balance between the male and female. For too long our culture has been enamored of and dominated by patriarchal values and practices. We know that this imbalance has directly led to the way we mistreat our planet, exploiting and destroying valuable and non-renewable resources and species because we feel separate from them. Lack of respect for the feminine translates to lack of respect for the earth, the Great Mother, who supports and holds space for us. In our bodies, our vessels, being out of touch with the deep feminine translates to closing down our lower chakras. We rarely come into ourselves and slow down vibrationally enough to be fully present in the moment to notice life’s little treasures on the way.