Mothering Our Dreams
Allomothering is an organization inspired by the practice of elephants. When a calf is born female elephants surround it to take care of the calf while mom forages for more resources like food or better shelter for her family. These elephants are called Allomothers meaning other, different mother. In Allomothering the organization, we offer an alternative to self-sacrificial mothering, a different kind of mothering of self and others. We support mothering women (with and without children) to be true to themselves by defining what they trust in with a circle of women doing the same. The 6 areas of quality of life we address are: Social, Emotional, Financial, Physical, Spiritual, and Intellectual. We aim to crush foundations that no longer work for womanhood with the strength and grace of elephants.
I have been an Allomother since I was 7 years old. My mother would take hot baths in the afternoons after waking from working nights as a Press Operator making newspapers. When she asked for a glass of cold water, I'd come into the bathroom with it and find her in tears mixed with sweat. She would be praying to God through the steam to take away her pain, and I'd stay in the steam with her. I stood back in the corner listening and then interrupted her prayers every now and then, "Mommy, I love you. I'm here for you." She thanked me for caring and demanded that I never let anyone steal my joy. I heard her but what I felt more was the space these moments opened up in me to hold space for others. Holding space is having a vision of someone's worth and potential in the midst of challenge. It is staying in the room with them even when it gets hot.
I became known as the counselor to my friends throughout my youth. My mother told me one day when I was on the phone advising someone, "Make sure you get what you're giving." It never balanced out. I always gave more than I got in return and was frustrated in my relationships. But I realize this is how it was meant to be. My mom realized the same. She told me just before I had my child, "Instead of looking for other people to satisfy you, you satisfy them and in return you will be satisfied." It's true. It was the perfect message before becoming a mother, that in giving I gain. This is Allomothering, giving as a means of gaining. I have been Alloing since I was my mother's little girl up until now such that one conversation with a friend in 2017 led to this organization.
I left for Puerto Rico for a vacation that was really an escape from my life as a mom--as if 3 days could restore the way I was mothering from self-sacrifice for 3 years. When I am gone, I remember my mother often threatened to run away. In my hotel bed, watching HGTV and eating leftover mofongo after journaling beside a jacuzzi pool, I wonder will this getaway open a door of nurturing myself that leads to an inclination to be alone for good. I stand in the middle of the ocean and each time I worry about my child or feel guilty being here, the waves slap me in the face. Each time I think, Be here. Settle into yourself, the waves calm. I end up telling myself, “I am enough." l decide self-love versus self-sacrifice in mothering is the answer. When I get back to New York, I tell my friend GenIsis, mother of 5, about this kind of mothering and ask her how she is doing. She answers by telling me how each of her children are doing, one by one. "I think you are using your children's needs to distract from addressing your own," I tell her. She grins and waits for more than my opinion but I have nothing else to offer. I go home and search Google for "how animal moms thrive in nature" because my friend values the processes in nature as a point of reference for humanity. I found Allomothering in elephants.
Elephants have always appealed to me because their enormous bodies seem to move with such grace. I now have a bias on why. With all their weight, they gently crush foundations not meant to stand on, a foundation that is too weak to hold them. In Allomothering, the foundation we are crushing is one built on doing mothering of self alone. Instead we break open ground for community that is intimate, interdependent and cooperative to the women behind all our nurturing roles. We make a foundation that allows this woman to thrive, making us that much more impactful in our mothering of others.
Pamela Sharonda Jackson
Founder, Executive Director, Allomother, Mother