I live (and work) with a herd of animals – horses, dogs, chickens and more. I spend long hours with them, learning their way of life, their state of being, and their patterns in relationships – including motherhood.
In June, we welcomed a beautiful litter of six healthy Border Collie pups. (That brings our total Border Collie pack to 9!) Our mammal cultures are made up of the same ingredients regardless of where we exist on the food chain. Studying a litter of puppies is a great way to deepen understanding of herd life and all mammal groups.
Mom Georgie has done a wonderful job adjusting to motherhood. What a joy to watch her care for her new babies and learn a new part of herself. What’s also been interesting is that dad Cap, and our old dog, Glen, have been heavily involved in caring for the pups.
They’ve become resources for Georgie. I have as well. It’s left me thinking that in the human world we don’t give moms, especially new moms, the resources they need in those critical first months when moms should have the freedom to focus exclusively on feeding and survival care. That’s it!
Moms shouldn’t have to worry about holding so many roles. Because they’re literally in survival mode. Their primary role is to keep their babies alive. Biologically they’re in full blown emergency and vigilance mode. I know when my daughter was first born, I did not want to nurse her when I was by myself.
Yet, I think sometimes we as moms don’t realize just how important our role is – the seriousness of keeping another mammal alive. Motherhood is truly a life-or-death awareness commitment. We need to acknowledge that we have a lot of needs, especially in baby’s early months.
When a mom knows a partner, relative, or another mom shares that awareness commitment, she can rest and take care of herself when needed. Consider in some cultures, moms and babies move in with their families that first year!
Humans are herd animals and we have always relied on community to be more resilient. For thousands of years, we shared resources and leaned on each other. But for generations now, we’ve suppressed our needs and worn self-sufficiency like a badge of honor. Asking for help and self-care has been shunned.
We need our herds! We need to re-learn how to need each other and how to take care of ourselves. The bottom line is that mammals live in groups to survive, perpetuate the species, pass down social and life skills, and share resources like space, safety, awareness, nurturance, and connection. The more humans can understand and relearn some of these basics, the better we will do at self-care, parenting, relationships and living in ease.