Ageless Archetypes

“As much as I loathe this aging thing, I'm beginning to recognize that I am now a healthier person in terms of self-worth and knowing who I am and where I fit in the world. That's been a good trade-off for the wrinkles.”

~ Patty Duke


It’s astonishing how strong is our instinct to pick a favorite archetype and ignore the rest. Especially since we associate Lover, Mother, and Sage in particular with specific ages and phases of life. Somehow the Warrior transcends, since most of us know we can fight ferociously for our beliefs at any age. But how can a woman who is only 17 relate to the Mother? How can a woman in her eighties connect with the Lover? How can a woman who just celebrated her 37th birthday call herself a Sage?

Here’s a gentle reminder that all four archetypes are present in ALL of us at all times. One may dominate for a while, but the others are still there, waiting to be called forth. And the key to a fulfilled, rich, rewarding life is to find ways to integrate all four into your core identity.

Lover and Sage: Vitality Versus Wisdom

You’ll see as you make your way through this book that these essential aspects should not always be interpreted literally. Yes, the Lover embodies physical attraction, lust, and sensuality … but that’s not all. She is also boldness, joy, and passion in any form, including artistic, intellectual, and scientific. The Sage represents wisdom, experience, and hard-won knowledge … but that’s not all. She is also intuition, savvy, and intelligence in any form, including emotional, mathematical, and cultural.

Yet these two can war within us. When we are young, we fight the idea that we have an old, wise person within us. And when we are old, we often feel embarrassed when our sensual urges begin to surface, as if the youthful aspects of our true selves have died off.

But the Lover and the Sage are actually perfect partners. Age is relative and flexible. How old we are is more solidly connected to how we’ve lived our lives than it is tethered to how many birthdays we’ve racked up. And when we work to integrate the Lover and the Sage, we embrace this spectrum with open arms.

When we are young and feel directly and naturally connected to the Lover, we can invite the Sage to express herself through us. Acknowledge that we are, in fact, aging and that the process is a natural, valuable, beautiful one. As we grow and learn, we distill and refine our personalities. We become more solid in ourselves, more uniquely individual. Tempting as it is to cling to youth, aging is a gift, an experience that enables us to become more interesting, multi-faceted, whole people. We are not wearing our bodies out, we are learning to stand tall in our true selves.

When we are old and feel directly and naturally connected to the Sage, we can invite the Lover to express herself through us. We can do our best to allow youthful hope, enthusiasm, and excitement into our lives, and resist the urge to default to cynicism or weariness. We can express our sexuality freely and in ways that energize us, shunning the idea that passion has an expiration date. Our bodies may feel old, but our souls are still young. We now have the life experience and wisdom to know when it makes sense to stick to tradition and formality, but we don’t quash urges to rebel or express our views. When those urges rise up, we accept and respect them. When life issues an invitation to be bold and loud and lustful, we accept it gladly. We are not failing to “act our age,” we are honoring the vibrant, vital aspects of our holistic selves.

Think of Queen Cleopatra; She is, undeniably, a venerable Warrior first and foremost. She overthrew all other claimants to the Egyptian throne, and did so in a time when it was quite common for siblings to marry and share power. But she was a legendary Lover as well, and knew how to leverage her innate sensuality to get exactly what she wanted. One of her most famous exploits involves her shrewd courting of Julius Caesar; Apparently, she wrapped herself in a rug and paid servants to smuggle her into Caesar’s sleeping quarters. There, she pled her case to him, convincing him to support her in the raging Egyptian civil war. And while she did this through outright seduction, can you see how the Sage was present, too? Cleopatra was wise enough to know that demanding an audience with Caesar wouldn’t be as effective as insinuating herself into his presence. She had experienced enough of life to understand that asserting herself as his equal would backfire and that, as a woman, she had a better shot at getting what she needed by playing up her feminine wiles. When you add in her Mothering desire to protect her mother country at any cost, Egypt, it’s safe to say that Cleopatra lived out all four archetypes in integrated harmony.

Mother and Sage: Compassion Meets Experience

It’s so easy to take the Mother literally; to consign her to bearing and rearing children and nothing else. And, of course, these activities are some of the most rewarding and fulfilling that we women can experience! But the Mother can use her caretaker energies to show love for friends, students, family members, even strangers. The Mother represents the nurturing, healing, empathetic side of a woman, and that side has many facets and many expressions.

Mother and Sage may seem like a more natural partnership than Lover and Sage, and there are some organic compatibilities there, to be sure. Both Mother and Sage tend to radiate serenity, gentle authority, and sympathy. But while the Mother is often selfless and focused on protecting the weak and vulnerable, the Sage may turn her energies inward. Exploring spirituality and accumulating wisdom—both Sage activities—are often done solo, and involve highly individual soul-searching. There’s also an age-based hang-up here; Mothers are generally younger women, and fertile. Sages are older and beyond their childbearing years. It can be challenging to find a place where those two stages of life overlap.

So how do we integrate these two successfully?

When we feel ourselves retreating into solitary, Sage-like contemplation, we call on the Mother to remind us that nothing great was ever kept secret. We transform studying alone or praying in silence into sharing, questioning, and exploring. And then we use what we’ve learned to help, support, and enlighten others.

When we feel ourselves giving to others in a Mother-like way until we’re overextended and depleted, we call on the Sage to help us create healthy boundaries. We remember that to honor ourselves, we must care for ourselves, and that means knowing when to say no, back off, and guard our energy. And then we recharge in our own time, making a wise, considered plan to avoid overextension in the future.

And when we feel weathered and worn and decidedly infertile, we remember that fertility can manifest in many ways. We may have a fertile imagination, a fertile social life, or a fertile mind as we enter our Sage phase.

And when we feel filled with the vibrant robustness of vital adulthood, we remember that moving toward old age means accumulating experience, insight, and wisdom. And that process is a tremendous blessing.

Biologist and conservationist Rachel Carson was a compassionate Mother, through and through. She was one of the first people to recognize that human activities were injuring and decimating the natural world, and she fought to protect the Earth. Her book Silent Spring is considered to be the spark that ignited the environmentalist movement of the 1960s, and without her fierce desire to nurture and care for our planet, this work might never have been published.

But Carson’s strong secondary archetype is the Sage. She was a trained and dedicated scientist who both valued research and sought to translate hard data into actionable recommendations. She was thoughtful and contemplative, and it was her intuition that led her to investigate the effects that the pesticide DDT was having on American wildlife. The Sage guided her to distill facts into wisdom, and the Mother fueled her instinct to protect our shared environment.

Rachel Carson never married, but tapped the Lover through her passionate dedication to her work and the creativity she employed in her eloquent writings. Silent Spring eventually led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, but when it was released in 1962, Carson was brutally attacked in the press by chemical companies that wanted her work discredited. Calling on her inner Warrior, she fought back against these false claims and prevailed. Another great example of a woman who identifies strongly with two archetypes, but embodies them all!

Why it’s Essential to Meet + Know Our Archetypes


“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly.” 
~ Richard Bach

We are living in a time of great uncertainty. Every news cycle seems to produce a new story about a prominent man sexually harassing women in his orbit. No one knows who will be called out next, but we all know that this string of exposés is far from over.

I’ve found it interesting to hear from women who summoned up the courage to speak out only after hearing other women do so first. And even more interesting to hear that some of them didn’t understand that what they’d experienced actually was harassment until news stories broke about others enduring similar treatment. It’s like a part of our collective unconscious is waking up, and linking women all over the country in unexpected solidarity.

It might seem odd that anyone could lack the self-awareness to know she’d been violated, but it’s really not. We all strive to know and understand ourselves, but few of us achieve that knowledge and understanding beyond the surface level. We fail to identify and face our strengths, weaknesses, and defining traits, which leads us into the same behaviors and frustrations over and over again. Leadership expert Warren Bennis says that true self-awareness is “the most difficult task any of us faces. But until you know yourself, strengths and weaknesses, you cannot succeed in any but the most superficial sense of the word.”

One of our strongest desires as human beings is to have the freedom to be ourselves, and when we do, we access the power to transform our passions into realities. But we may face obstacles, both internal and external, to this knowledge and freedom. We’ve all heard the parables; A fish swims in the ocean, but out of water he struggles. An acorn grows to be a towering oak tree, but only when given the proper nourishment.

To live the life we want we need to know ourselves. But this is easier said than done. 

Self-understanding through archetypes

“Extraordinary individuals stand out in the extent to which they reflect—often explicitly—on the events of their lives, large as well as small.”
~ Howard Gardner

Although we must explore and embrace our uniqueness, sometimes the things that unite us make us stronger. This has definitely been the case with women who are speaking up about sexual harassment; Their shared experiences have created a tidal wave of courage and support. Along these same lines, our individual quests for self-knowledge can be kicked into high-gear if we begin them by examining our relationships with timeless archetypes. By seeing ourselves in these eternal dimensions—Mother, Lover, Warrior, and Sage—we begin to unlock the tools we need to understand ourselves. And the deeper we dive, the more able we are to leverage these tools to grow our power and achieve our goals. These tools can help us live more productive lives, both professionally and personally. 

When we consider the four archetypes, we’re better able to understand ourselves. This self-knowledge is crucial because we can build happy lives only on the foundation of our own natures, our own interests, and our own values. With wisdom, experience, and insight from the four archetypes, we can use our time more productively, generate better ideas, suffer less stress, and get healthier.

Plus contemplation of the four archetypes helps us to better understand and engage with other people. We can live and work more effectively with others when we identify their archetypes. As coworkers and bosses, teachers and coaches, husbands and wives, parents and children, health care providers and patients, we live more harmoniously when we see and acknowledge each other on deeper levels.

Understanding the four archetypes gives us a richer, fuller understanding of the world.

Four faces in flux

When I describe the four archetypes, I sometimes get the impression that people want to identify with only one. But although some of us may resonate with one over the others, they are all part of us. The happiest, healthiest, most productive people are those who have figured out how to harness the strengths of each archetype, counteract the weakness of each archetype, and build their lives accordingly.

It’s also important to note that these faces are fluid. While one may emerge strongly during one phase of life, another may take over as time passes. We are a hybrid of all of them, and our expressions of Mother, Lover, Warrior, and Sage can emerge in isolated or blended ways. In my own life, I have seen my relationships with these four ebb and flow. I’ve sought to find balance among them, and doing so has helped me get in touch with my deepest desires and strive toward my loftiest goals.

Refine without confining

“This above all: to thine own self be true.”
Hamlet, Act I, Scene 3

Bear in mind that the four archetypes framework is meant to help us understand ourselves more deeply, not to limit our sense of identity or possibility. Some people say, “When you define yourself, you confine yourself.” I’d argue that systems of self-definition are very helpful because they serve as starting points for our self-knowledge explorations. This framework isn’t meant to be a box that stunts our growth or a label that captures everything about us. Instead, conceptualize it as a spotlight that illuminates hidden aspects of our nature.

Think of exploring the archetypes as augmenting the best parts of yourself, supercharging traits and strengths that were always there. When your inner Warrior sets goals, she doesn’t just write the book, she gets it published. When your inner Mother gets promoted, she doesn’t just praise her direct-reports, she makes them feel deeply appreciated. When your inner Lover works the lunch shift at the diner, she doesn’t do it on auto-pilot, she speaks kindly to her patrons and gets bigger tips. When your inner Sage goes on her dream vacation, she doesn’t just take photos, she journals and meditates and uses the time to explore her internal landscape. Connecting with each of these aspects within yourself can help you build confidence, achieve more, and have a deeper impact on the world around you.

These archetypes have been a powerful influence on my life, and I’m currently working on a project that will help YOU dig deeper into your own understanding of them. Stay tuned for more posts on this topic, and a few hints about the larger archetype project!

The Women of the Alamo: Steadfast Mothers and Sages

On August 25, I'll be heading to San Antonio to attend and run workshops at two Hearts of Valor retreats! I'm already getting excited about the work I'll do there with retreat attendees. And in honor of that work being done in the great state of Texas, I want to dedicate a few posts to the amazing accomplishments of women who were born in the Lone Star State!

I'm eager to spend some time exploring the Alamo while visiting San Antonio, so today let's meet some of the incredible women who survived the famous siege.

“Life in Texas was an adventure for men and dogs, but hell on women and horses.”
~ Old saying

The Texas Revolution

In 1835, Texas was still a part of Mexico ... but it was also home to an increasingly large number of American settlers. The Mexican government had been clashing with these English-speakers for decades, and in October of 1835 the Texas Revolution erupted. A violent rebellion and battle for freedom, the rebellion raged for six full months, claiming many lives.

The most famous event from this rowdy episode in Texas history is, of course, the battle of the Alamo. A couple of months before this massacre, the Texan army had actually succeeded in driving Mexican troops out of the state! Around 200 troops were garrisoned at the Alamo Mission in San Antonio de Béxar, which would become modern-day San Antonio, waiting to see if the fight was truly over.

It wasn't.

On the morning of February 23, 1836, nearly1,500 Mexican troops commanded by President General Antonio López de Santa Anna arrived in San Antonio de Béxar and launched a brutal siege that would last 13 days. Santa Anna would kill nearly everyone in the garrison before the battle was through.

Women among men

“You will remember this battle! Each minute! Each second! Until the day that you die! But that is for tomorrow, gentlemen. For today, remember the Alamo!”
~ Sam Houston

As you might imagine, most of the people who fought and died at the Alamo were men; soldiers, medics, commanders, and other military personnel. Among them were Colonels William B. Travis and James Bowie, and legendary frontiersman Davy Crockett. Some casualties were women, too.

Nearly all of the handful of survivors were also women.

The most well-known of these is Susanna Dickinson, wife of Alamo defender Almaron Dickinson, who spent almost all of the battle hiding in a small dark room with her infant daughter, Angelina. Legend says she ended up there because she was talking with her husband when he saw Santa Anna arrive, and he scooped up her and the baby and ran them to the mission just before the Mexican army opened fire. After the final assault on the Alamo when nearly everyone—including Susanna's husband—was dead, General Santa Anna interviewed each of the survivors himself. He was so taken with Mrs. Dickinson that he offered to adopt little Angelina and take her back to Mexico City where she'd receive a top-notch education. Stressed and stricken, Susanna refused the offer, unable to bear the thought of parting with her baby. A few days later, Santa Anna released them both, enlisting Susanna to be a messenger to General Sam Houston. Angelina would come to be known as “the babe of the Alamo.”

Nearly as legendary as Susanna is survivor Andrea Castañon Villanueva, also known as Madam Candelaria. She was an innkeeper's wife who ended up living to an impressive 113 years old, and spent much of her post-Alamo life spinning yarns for reporters and tourists about how she nursed Texian defenders, including commander Bowie. Many historians disagree about Madam Candelaria's true role in the Alamo, but most believe she was present for the majority of the battle. However unlike the troops and Susanna Dickinson, she came and went at will, rather than being confined to the compound. Her mystery continues to this day!

The third brave woman who tops most survivor lists is Juana Navarro Alsbury, a cousin by marriage to James Bowie. In fact, Bowie himself brought her to the Alamo Mission so he could keep an eye on her during the battle. Unfortunately Bowie became gravely ill on the second day of the siege. Although Madam Candelaria's claims to have been at his bedside are sketchy, it's almost certain that Alsbury nursed him throughout the remainder of the siege.

Echoes of the battle

“No. You'll settle for blood. I want Texas.”
~ Sam Houston

Several other women survived the 13-day battle, including Juana Navarro Alsbury's sister, Gertrudis Navarro, and Juana Francisca Losoya Melton who was married to Alamo quartermaster Eliel Melton. Ana Salazar Esparza was also among the handful of people who escaped with their lives. She was the mother of Enrique Esparza, who would earn the nickname “the Boy in the Alamo” and tell wild tales of the terrifying combat he witnessed as a child. All told, around seven women walked away from the mission with their lives.

As you can tell from their stories, many of these women were both Mothers to their own children and served as loving caretakers to the American soldiers who fought bravely at the Alamo. They also offered solace and serenity to the injured and dying, stepping into the role of Sage whenever they could. They never took up arms, but their presence during that pivotal battle offered hope during the firefights, and insight once the dust had cleared. May we never forget their presence, their support, and the comfort they brought during this dark hour in Texan history!


Four Agreements Women Can Make With Themselves

Have you read Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements? This book is a total life-changer, so if you haven't encountered it yet, order up a copy as soon as you can! The ideas you'll find in its pages are based on ancient Toltec wisdom, and present a powerful code of conduct we can use to transform our lives for the better. Ruiz himself is a shamanic teacher and healer who is dedicated to helping readers create a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love. His ideas have been healed wounds and sparked growth in people all over the world for more than 20 years. 

The subtitle to The Four Agreements is “A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom,” and that concept has been rolling around in my head for weeks now. So much life advice is vague or hard to apply, but Ruiz's ideas are refreshingly specific and pragmatic! I wanted to create my own version of the four agreements as a way to honor our four dimensions, the archetypes of Mother, Lover, Warrior, and Sage, and to keep that spirit of truly useful, down-to-earth advice in mind in doing so. As women, we are constantly pushed and pulled in many directions, and remaining true to ourselves can seem impossible. But I believe there are some simple ways to honor our essential selves, and learn and grow in the process.


The First Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word 
Archetype: LOVER

Ruiz says, “Everything you feel or believe or say that goes against yourself is a sin. You go against yourself when you judge or blame yourself for anything. Being without sin is exactly the opposite. Being impeccable is not going against yourself. When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself.”

What could be more loving than embracing honesty without judgment? And yet this can be so hard to do, especially for women. We are taught that blaming ourselves is natural and normal, even when the true fault lies with someone else. But speaking with integrity and saying only what you mean are powerful ways to remain authentic to your inner beliefs.

To embrace the first agreement in the guise of The Lover, you can:
•    Take note of your internal dialogue. When you notice it becoming negative, put it lovingly on pause. Then say an affirmation out loud to re-center yourself.
•    Stop apologizing for everything! When you find yourself starting a sentence with “I'm sorry,” consider how else to introduce your ideas. Part of “not going against yourself” is standing tall inside your beliefs.
•    Slow down. We're living in a fast-paced world that encourages speaking without thinking. Breathe before you speak, make sure you know exactly what you want to say and why. 

The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally 
Archetype: MOTHER 

The priceless nugget of truth here is that everyone in the world is self-centered, and their reactions to you are driven by their hopes and fears about themselves. It's so easy to take nasty comments to heart, or be hurt by accusations. But when you become immune to the opinions and actions of other people, you save yourself from needless suffering.
Mothers both know this, and teach it to their children. Understanding the motivations of other people and protecting yourself from their words helps mothers all over the world navigate their own family dynamics and shield their children from emotional pain.

To embrace the second agreement in the guise of The Mother, you can:
•    Practice empathy. If someone says something that stings, put yourself in her shoes. What might be motivating this negativity? Instead of feeling hurt, try to understand root causes.
•    Remember yourself. Opinions and observations can be especially hard to ignore when they've got a grain of truth in them. Be open to that. If someone tells you you're “stuck-up,” step back from the statement and examine its meaning. If what they're really seeing is pride in your accomplishments, that is nothing to feel ashamed of. Remember who you are to re-contextualize criticism. (You do this for your kids, now do it for yourself!)
•    Be patient. Living by this agreement is just plain HARD. Give yourself time to adjust to a new way of understanding people and the things they say. And if you feel wounded by a comment or judgment, go back to the first agreement and remember not to judge or blame yourself.


The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions 
Archetype: SAGE

It is so easy to slip into assumptions. We lead busy, full lives and often don't have time to investigate things as fully as we should, so we just take the tidbits we know and make some mental leaps. But this is disrespectful, to ourselves and to others. To channel the wisdom of The Sage, we must be patient, ask questions, and never assume that we possess knowledge we haven't earned.

To embrace the third agreement in the guise of The Sage, you can:
•    Be curious, not judgmental. This gem of advice comes from poet Walt Whitman! The antidote to judgment is curiosity, so embrace it. Ask questions instead of assuming you know the answers.
•    Check your prejudices. Did you know women can be sexist … against other women? Or that most of us have at least a few racist ideas floating around in our brains? If you find yourself jumping to conclusions about another person, be brutally honest with yourself about why. Again, don't judge or punish yourself, just be wholly honest. Then think about what you can do to be more open-minded about an individual or group in the future. 
•    Listen: Asking questions is an important start, but actually hearing the answers is just as crucial. Don't ask for the sake of asking. Listen actively and intently when someone honors you with a response.


The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best
Archetype: WARRIOR

Of this agreement, Ruiz says, “Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. Everything is alive and changing all the time, so your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good.” 

So gentle and helpful! Of course you want to give your all to everything in your life, but your all will be different when you're sick, exhausted, or overwhelmed. Commit fully to your life, but with the understanding that your real capacity may vary. Just like that of a warrior, who is capable of ferocious battle at full-strength and far less when weary or injured.

To embrace the fourth agreement in the guise of The Warrior, you can:
•    Listen to your body. Our culture values strength and endurance, but sometimes at the expense of actual health! If you are tired, honor that and rest. If you are in pain, get the help you need to heal. And adjust your expectations for yourself when your body tells you you aren't at full capacity.
•    Push yourself. Gently. On the flip side, be aware of when you're phoning it in. (You know when and why it happens!) If you can do better, lean into that. If you need help getting motivated to step up your game, ask for it.
•    Reflect. Doing your best means understanding what “your best” looks like. Journal, talk with friends, or find some other creative way to self-assess your performance at work, in your hobbies, in relationships, and other important arenas of life. This is especially helpful to people who tend to go-go-go without pausing to process.


The strategies and advice found in The Four Agreements can be used by people of any gender, but I loved looking at this body of wisdom from a woman's perspective. As women we face specific and nearly endless challenges, but given the tools we need to remain true to ourselves, we can refashion those challenges into triumphs. I hope that thinking about how Ruiz's ideas relate to the four foundational archetypes will help you make key changes to how you think, feel, and react so you can be more fully present in your own life!

Caring for Our Fellow Women

Join Barbara McNally in partnership with Kate Spade New York

“Caring for Our Fellow Women”

A Morning of Sweets, Prizes & Book Signing!

Sunday, March 19th

11:00 a.m.

Kate Spade New York

Fashion Valley Mall, 7007 Friars Road, San Diego

Active Military & Wives Receive a 15% Discount on Any Purchases
Bring a Purchased Copy of Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife for a Chance to Win a Free “Babe” handbag (retail value $298.00)!

Essential Archetypes: What Does it Mean to Be a Mother?

Writing a memoir can seem like an egocentric act; It takes guts and confidence to insist that your life story is one worth telling. But for me, processing and describing my own experiences crystalized my desire to help and support other women. After publishing Unbridled: A Memoir, I felt compelled to establish a foundation to help women from all walks of life live fully and authentically by expressing each of the four feminine dimensions I had explored on my personal journey: Mother, lover, warrior, and sage. My hope is that by naming my foundation for those four archetypes, I've given it a near- universal resonance. All women may not identify with all four, but nearly all of us feel drawn to at least one.

Over the years, I've traveled around the country and worked with women from a variety of backgrounds and coping with the gamut of challenges. They've taught me that these archetypes are even more complex and multifaceted than I'd realized. So I'd like to explore them one by one with you.

Let's start with the Mother.

The strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws.
— Barbara Kingsolver


Motherhood is an experience that has been shared by billions of women, and yet is entirely unique for each. Every conception, every pregnancy, every birth, and every childhood is different. And I don't just mean that individual mothers have varied experiences, though that is true, too. Mothers who have borne multiple children will tell you that every one of them was utterly singular, different, and memorable.

And being a mother means so much more than merely bearing and caring for your offspring. It means agreeing to walk around in the world with your heart outside your own body, carried in pieces by each of your children. It means delighting in their successes and suffering alongside them. It means biting your tongue when you long to lay down essential wisdom so that your kids can learn for themselves. It means feeling the love in your heart expand exponentially when your children have their own children.

But the Mother archetype is about more than children, too. Motherhood and mothering take many forms. 

Caregiving of any kind is a form of mothering. As I've explored in my upcoming book, Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife, many spouses of injured veterans feel a type of mothering energy when they choose to help their loved ones heal. My own experiences as a physical therapist and conversations I've had with other healthcare workers reinforce this idea. When you tend to the needs of another, selflessly and lovingly, you are channeling the Mother archetype.

Mother is a verb, not a noun.
— Proverb

Nobel Prize-winning author Pearl Buck was committed to another facet of the mother role. From the 1930s until her death in 1973, Buck devoted herself to the global needs of unwanted children. Having grown up in China, she was outraged that the existing adoption services considered Asian and mixed-race children “unadoptable.” So she founded Welcome House, Inc., the first international/interracial adoption agency. Buck herself adopted mixed-race children, and Welcome House has found homes—and mothers—for thousands of children who desperately needed loving families.

And a less literal type of mothering can be found in backyards and gardens everywhere. The earth may not be a child, but it is an entity than needs attention, nourishment, and care. Flowers and plants, pets and wild animals, the natural resources we use, every aspect of Mother Nature can draw mothering energy from women everywhere.

The Mother archetype may seem like it only applies to women with children, but in reality it is an attribute present in us all. Nurturing, selflessness, and caregiving are all traits we access at certain times and under certain circumstances. When we tend to injured loved ones, our blossoming gardens, children in need, our pets, or even ourselves, we are connecting with the universal Mother.

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.
— Washington Irving

Time Poverty: How Women's Unpaid Work Hurts Everyone

When you hear the phrase “women's work,” what comes to your mind? Do you see board rooms and corner offices, empowered women taking their senatorial seats and performing mayoral duties? Or do those two words conjure images of cooking, cleaning, and care-taking?

 All over the world, women spend an average of 4.5 hours a day doing unpaid work, including grocery shopping, child care, food preparation, and laundry. That's more than double the amount of time men spend tending home and hearth, according to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (O.E.C.D.) data. Although women have made tremendous strides in pursuing high-level careers and prominent positions in government, many are still expected to come home and shoulder the majority of the unpaid, family- and home-maintenance work, too.

Sure, honey, you can take that high-pressure, huge-paycheck job! But only if you can keep the kids happy, the house spotless, and everyone fed in your free time ... 

Saying this may sound whiny, like a petulant foot-stomp and accompanying tantrum about unfairness. And I won't lie to you, I DO think this is incredibly, infuriatingly unfair! But there's more to it than mere gender-role imbalance. Consider this: Since women frequently spend 4.5 hours—more than half a work day's worth of time— cooking, cleaning, and care-taking, that's 4.5 hours they cannot spend doing other things. Like studying for higher degrees, applying for better jobs, creating business plans, finding ways to advance their careers and goals. When women accept the majority of unpaid family work, they also accept that their personal time and resources will be extremely limited. The result:  something called “time poverty.” 

A New York Times article on the subject of time poverty states, “When the time women spend on unpaid work shrinks to three hours a day from five hours, their labor force participation increases 20 percent, according to the O.E.C.D. When women are not able to go to school, their children are less healthy and more likely to stay in poverty. Women could do more paid work and get more education if men did more unpaid work.”

Because of my own work with the wives of wounded warriors, my mind goes directly to care-taking. I have met dozens of women whose spouses have returned home from combat severely wounded and who have put their entire lives and careers on hold to care for their injured loved-ones. Many have renovated their homes to accommodate wheelchairs, quit their jobs to help their partners heal and recover, lost friends and become distant from family because their demanding new lives simply overwhelm them. These women almost always accept this unpaid work, stepping up to care for their spouses without a word of complaint or any expectation of outside help or support.

When roles are reversed and a woman veteran returns home injured, male spouses seldom turn their lives upside-down to become full-time care-takers. And you know what? Those relationships often fare better. When a wife sacrifices her work and identity for her wounded husband, she may come to resent those sacrifices. The wounded husband may feel unspeakably grateful for his wife's generosity, but also guilty for putting her in a tough position. But when the uninjured spouse has access to enough help and support to continue working and tending her friendships, she is considerably less likely to burn herself out on care-taking tasks.

When the Gates Foundation outlined its giving priorities for 2016, Melinda Gates chose to focus on time poverty, saying that, given the opportunity, women would “spend more time doing paid work, starting businesses, or otherwise contributing to the economic well-being of societies around the world. The fact that they can’t holds their families and communities back.” And I agree. Time poverty doesn't just hurt the women it affects directly, it hurts us all. Because it keeps generations of women from becoming innovators, leaders, and world-changers. If women worldwide had those unpaid hours back, there's no telling what great works we could undertake.

Dividing up chores and household tasks may seem like a tiny change, but it's a tiny change that could have huge reverberations across the globe.