In the fall, as a child, I would pick apples from our trees and spend an entire day making apple sauce, apple pie, apple muffins and baked apples. In the winter, holed up inside, I sewed stuffed animals and made skirts and dresses; in the spring, nature walks, and in the long days of summer, I’d pick dandelions and weave them into flower crowns. Through my seasons of childhood, I learned how to cook, sew, appreciate nature, and repurpose weeds into beautiful headdresses—from Missy. In the days leading up to Mother’s Day I’ve been thinking about Missy, the woman who watched over me and helped to raise me. She possessed a kind of love for me that was, well, motherly. And yet she was not my mother—she was not even related to me. But still she projected a specific kind of love that has stuck with me and shaped me.
I started to think about the different types and expressions of love and how motherly love plays into this complex equation of giving, feeling, and accepting love. As adults, many of us struggle with this equation, but perhaps, if we can define the love we feel and the love we give, it may help us discover the love we need. So my journey this week was really a meditation—on love.
My exploration of love started with a simple Google search. I was fascinated to find that the Ancient Greeks defined seven types/expressions of love:
Eros: Sexual, erotic love.
Ludus: Flirtatious, child-like, playful love.
Storge: Parental, unconditional love.
Philia: Sincere, affectionate, platonic love.
Pragma: Longstanding and enduring love.
Agape: Selfless, divine, humanitarian love.
Both the Ancient Greeks and even psychologists today refer to these types of loves as individually valuable and altogether necessary in order to experience a full life. At the same time, each type is complex in its own right, full of layers of emotions and feelings. In truth, we both consciously and subconsciously strive for each, in our own way and in our own time, throughout our lives.
I stopped to ask myself which of these loves I feel in my life today and which I still strive for, in an attempt to answer what type of love I need in my life. But I kept coming back to this idea of motherly love. In my mind’s eye it stands on its own, not fitting cleanly into any one of these types. Yes, it’s unconditional; it’s selfless; it’s playful and enduring. Surprisingly I couldn’t find much written on motherly love, so I went to the dictionary. Motherly is defined as resembling a mother in warmth and protectiveness. I then turned to my mentors, colleagues, clients, and friends for more insight. I asked, “What does motherly love mean to you?” The descriptive words that kept coming up were nurturing, compassionate, comforting, enveloping, thoughtful, validating, enduring, and the like. It became clear that most everyone I talked to has given this type of love, not only to children, but to friends, relatives, colleagues, and pets. Motherly love is not set aside for those with children but rather is an expression of love.
And as selfless as motherly love is, I realized motherly love has a very important connection to self-love. It sounds cliché but I’ll say it regardless, we can only love others if we love ourselves. It’s important to love ourselves, or mother ourselves—to nurture, comfort and validate ourselves and show ourselves compassion—both for our own well-being as well as to be better at loving those around us!
So for this Mother’s Day, whether you’re a mother in the traditional sense or not, ask yourself how you can mother yourself today and in the days, weeks, and months to come. And for those of you mothers with children at home, who struggle with the day and are looking for some survival tips, check out our Mother’s Day Tutorial.
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