Maiden-Mother-Crone; the Challenges of Transition
As I move into the phase of the Crone...
I am 49 and will be 50 shortly. I can't tell you how agonizing that is for me. Why? Well, I believe that I miss the Maiden. When I was a young Mother, I carried many of my Maiden attributes well into my 30's. Beauty mattered. Weight mattered. I always looked for ways to improve my looks and if I was a bit over the weight I desired, I would go on a diet and lose it. It was really simple for me. I know I was lucky but at the time I didn't think of it that way. I wanted the attention of men and that was what gave me value in my world at that time.
When I turned 38, I began to gain weight and I found it more and more difficult to lose. In fact, I didn't understand why I was gaining it in the first place. I can't say I eat little or nothing and I was still putting on weight but I surpassed my largest weight and I began to feel less valued. My husband and I began to have problems in our marriage partly due to my insecurity and partly due to his feeling that I should be thinner. I tried every diet imaginable, Jenny Craig®, HCG, and a few others. They seemed to work...briefly. I became so frustrated and my self esteem plummeted.
I wasn't and am not obese but I am not the young filly I once was and I have to be honest...I am having a hard time of it. I am separated from my husband currently and I find myself thinking somewhat like a single woman. The difference is...there aren't as many men interested as there were in the past and I am older than most of the men I come in contact with.
In my work with various women, I have found one recurring issue...we have difficulty transitioning into different phases of our lives. This is mostly due to our sense of value in who we are and how we are valued by others. There are times when my age brings me to tears. I look in the mirror every day and I don't see nearly as many wrinkles in my skin as I do in photographs. I used to love having my picture taken, now I can't stand to see them. Its true and I know I am not alone.
I know I have options with plastic surgery but that in and of itself violates my moral code. I don't believe that liposuction or botox® are safe and I, like many women my age, cannot afford a face lift. And really, it isn't about looks anyway. The most beautiful women in the world are not beautiful by society's standards. Their beauty comes from a deep inner knowing and acceptance of themselves. I am in awe of them and I aspire to be one of them...
Our ancestors used single words to label the stages of a woman’s life. It wasn’t young, middle aged, and elderly as is our terms for the stages today. Our ancestors honored the stages of life as a magical part of living. They did not see these phases from a primarily medical or age-related standpoint and they honored a woman as she moved from one stage to another. When a young girl started her menstruation, there was a celebration to honor the beginning of a new phase of her life. They celebrated the marriage and pregnancy of women which we still do today in the form of bridal and baby showers. A celebration referred to as a ‘Croning’ was performed when a woman ceased having a monthly menstruation and entered into the final and most honored time of her life.
These celebrations were not just an act to observe ‘time’ in a woman’s life but also to bless her new mindset and allow her to feel comfortable in these changes. These were not just ‘medical’ or ‘age related’ changes to them but true moments of evolution that awed them. Ancient people saw a woman as the representative of the Goddess and by celebrating a new phase of a woman’s life they were honoring the phases of the Goddess as well.
The Maiden represents the time before we are mothers, when our bodies are young and strong exuding sexual vitality. It is the springtime of a woman’s life, a time to explore the adventures of womanhood and the art of mating. The Maiden phase in the life of a woman usually begins at the time of menstruation and the woman can feel the hormonal changes in her body as she moves to being more interested in boys than in toys. She begins to be more aware of her appearance and its importance to her.
A Maiden's sexuality is much sought after as it is like the budding of a new flower, it's color is vibrant and the scent is intoxicating. This is most likely why society places so much emphasis on this stage of woman's life through advertising, movies and modeling. We are attracted to this vibrance in youth. It may also explain why women are so driven to hold on to this phase in their life. Plastic surgery is evidence that women begin to feel less valued as they move into the Mother phase in their life and for some the importance of staying in this phase becomes an obsession. We have not been encouraged to find a Mother sexy and desirable.
The phase of the Mother is about nurturing, caring and responsibility. As a woman moves into this phase of her life not only does she begin to experience changes physiologically but psychologically as well. What was important to her as a Maiden may not be as important as it was as now she has more awareness of the world around her in relation to her offspring. Values become centered around the quality of life for her children and society as a whole.
A Mother also becomes concerned with fulfilling the happiness of her mate. This is a normal, natural instinct in a woman and unfortunately she isn't empowered to understand this. The feeling that if her mate is not satisfied with her can bring her to a state of despondency. It is difficult for a woman in the Mother phase of her life to separate how she values herself in comparison to how her mate values her. It is a deep-seated need for a woman to feel valued when she is fulfilling her role as a Mother in all aspects of her life. Women often fight this part of their selves because again, Society has convinced her that she has given away her power in order to be a good mother and wife or partner. But what is her power? Being a Mother is her power, a Mother has the power to move mountains for her family, to inspire change in her community for the greater good. It is indeed unfortunate that when her mate no longer finds her sexy or desirable, it can send her the message that she has failed. The Mother phase can be the most powerful time in a woman's life and if we celebrate this, women can be free to be the Mothers they truly are rather than having them chase after the Maiden aspect of themselves in order to be valued.
Women who choose not to have children or cannot carry a pregnancy are no less a Mother in the aspect of what a mother is. Some of the most powerful women have been in the Mother phase of their lives when they achieve their successes. Amelia Earhart was in the Mother phase of her life when she disappeared during a flight around the world. Dian Fossey was a woman who was a Mother to the Apes in Africa and her Mother attributes brought more awareness to the plight of the Apes. Both of these women were powerful Mothers who were childless.
When menstruation stops, the Mother has grown beyond the ability to conceive and give birth. Most of the time, her children have moved out on their own and the Crone is free to create a life of beauty and become more interested in the mysteries of life. She has lived a full life, honored her responsibilities and now it is her time. Her community is a place of belonging and she is willing to be a valuable tool for assistance but no longer feels the need to build. The Crone begins to examine her spirituality, engaging in groups that have similar interests as her own. Perhaps she will create a business that requires little of her energy, write a book or become a writer of essays as a means to express her creativity.
As grandmothers, the Crone loves and nurtures the Mother and the Maiden through thick and thin. Grandmothers, if active in a child's life, are an invaluable source of calm energy and teaching. Time spent with Grandma is a fond memory for many and something a Mother can aspire to.
This is perhaps the most powerful time in a woman's life. She is filled with life experience that has taught her what true power is and where it lies. When a woman embraces this time, she can affect change in her world like no other. Her power lies in her ability to accept that life can be filled with pain and knows that with this pain comes growth. When a woman accepts this phase of her life she can age gracefully and her quiet strength can trump the Maiden's beauty and the Mother's passion. Indira Gandhi and Mother Teresa are two women who knew where their power lay and they used it to move nations.