On Motherhood and Leadership

The maternity ward at the old hospital was full, so they put me in the corridor, not quite sure what to do with me. The corridor was dark and silent, and I was left alone, caught in a web of emotions. “Miscarriage in 1st trimester”, was the dry, clinical diagnosis. “Don’t worry, it happens to one in every 7 women”, said the well intentioned nurse, “everything will be just fine”.

Morning came, and they brought the newborn babies to their mothers, to suckle. I lay in my hospital bed and was just very, very sad. The tears came pouring down when  I saw my mother’s tall and graceful figure coming towards me in the long corridor She held me and shed a tear with me. I was so very very sad and her embrace made room for my sadness.

Motherhood is about making room for sadness until it goes away by itself. And sometimes it is simply about making room.

25 years after that grim morning in the corridor, I read in a book “Fairytales of the Reversible Death” by Simona Matzliah-Hanoch (available in Hebrew), the story of her miscarriage; my story, and that of so many women. I had goose bumps all over. I can’t even find the words to describe the feeling of reading my own story told by another woman I never met.

Motherhood is about breaking the silence for others.

“Mom, am I assertive?”, Na’ama, my almost 8 year old asks me, as we’re strolling down the street. And while my mind races in a maze of feminism and language, wondering if I like this word, mostly used to describe women, comes the next question: “What is assertive, anyway?”

“It means holding your ground, standing up for what you believe in”.

“And is that a good thing”?

“Of course. And yes, you’re assertive”.

Motherhood is about saying the right thing. Telling your daughter what she needs to hear.

And motherhood is also about holding them to the highest standards, even if it makes you feel like Cinderella’s wicked stepmother. And it’s about inspiring them to harbor high expectations, but at the same time, to remember that they should pursue their own dreams, not yours.

Motherhood is about letting go when you need to, and enfold them back into your embrace when they need you to.

It is about enabling separation and autonomy without conflict.

And motherhood is knowing that we all screw this up sometimes, but we usually get a chance to make it right.

Motherhood is not a physical or biological action; nor is it gender specific. It is a position, a way of being in the world; a commitment to the growth and well being of those around us and those who will come after us.

Yes, it is a commitment to the growth of others.

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And now, to Dana’s poem.

Sometimes, the way to foster a leader is to enable one to see oneself in that image. Dana Myrtenbaum, a cause lawyer and a dear friend, says t so beautifully in her poem

Leadership

It's a big word, riddled with cliché

But it encases within

Myself – and other women and girls

Of all, it empowers

The strength within me

The voices inside me

The ones that leap and shatter,

Like in a dance

How do we "construct leadership"?

A wise woman once told me

"We say to you, time and again

You are bright and amazing, with a gospel of your own –

And a leader you are".

We tell you, time and again

That a leader you are

And already you are bright and amazing, with a gospel of your own.

More than anything,

In the voyages of life I see

That both our hands

Must grasp others,

Seeing eyes,

In endless circles entwined,

For there is no singular leadership

There are many

And me?

The places from which I've fled,

That beckon my return

Yearning to create,

Reeling fantasies in reprise

The strumming of leadership

On the strings of life

And simply put,

The man I loved and realized I could not change

Children I have birthed and guided

Women that were swept away with me

From words to cries into deafening silence

Towards action, and words, many more words

Friends that uplifted me

And another project born out of the first breath of the day

After the dream

And the elders that mentored me, now I care for  them

The endearing pauses,

The gift that I cherished,

Heeding the reading,

Comfort in another task, half a breath

My tempestuous laughter,

A gaze of love,

A dawn's embrace – in the warmth of the bed

Poem translated to English by Daniel Gouri de Lima

אודות Hamutal Gouri

יועצת ומנחה לשינוי חברתי. מנהלת קרן דפנה - נשים מחוללות יחד שינוי - מספרת סיפורים המאמינה ששינוי מתחיל במקום בו השתיקה נשברת. Consultant, trainer and storyteller for Social Change; Executive Director of the Dafna Fund - Women Collaborating for Change. Believes that change begins when silence is broken
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