A friend of mine lost her mother this week. Her passing left a gigantic hole in the family. My friend is facing the prospect of becoming the family matriarch with a lot of intimidation. I get it.
Most families have a “Big Mama.” She’s the glue that holds the family together when things feel like they could fall apart. Thanksgiving is at her house. She’s the one people gather around. Her arms are like protective, loving wings that enfold everyone.
It’s not her size that makes her Big Mama. She may be only 4 foot 9 and weigh only a hundred pounds, but she casts a huge shadow.
Big Mama may be the eldest female, or she may be the youngest. It’s not her age that makes her Big Mama. Maybe she became Big Mama young because her own mother was dead, sick, had a drug problem, or was mentally ill. It’s just something within her that has to express itself. She’s not only your Big Mama, she may have adopted co-workers, neighbors, friends, and in-laws, too.
It’s easy to take her for granted when you don’t need her, but when you do, no one else can take her place. Maybe her love takes the form of food and emotional warmth. Maybe she’s a wise cracker who makes you laugh. It could be that she’s hard as nails and has tough love. However she loves, it goes all the way to the bones.
If you are lucky enough to have a Big Mama in your family, you know what big shoes she has to fill. Not everyone can do this job. Fortunately, a family only needs just one. However, when she dies, if there isn’t someone strong enough to fill her spot, the family suffers. So it’s important to nurture the qualities of Big Mama in the younger women. What are they?
Big Mama is the keeper of secrets. She is the one everyone comes to with their problems. If she’s not a great communicator, this can’t happen. Big Mama listens. When she speaks, she speaks with wisdom. People respect what she has to say even when she’s “old school” and they don’t agree.
Big Mama often has huge shoulders that support the world. She knows how to care for others, even when her family members have very different needs. It may seem like she’s not doing a whole lot, but somehow you feel better anyway.
Big Mama is emotionally available. She is expressive, warm, and real. You get the feeling that she is here, and that’s the only place she wants to be. When she’s upset, she’s upset. When she’s happy, you see it in her whole face. She teaches you how to be real and gives you the space to do that.
Big Mama is understanding. She doesn’t expect you to be perfect, always on time, right, or have all the answers. She loves you just the way you are – even if she’s telling you that what you are doing isn’t in your best interest. You never feel judged – always supported. It’s as if all you have to do is show up and you’re appreciated for you.
Even though Mama is sweet, she’s also tough. She will set you straight and say the hard things when you need to hear them. She won’t let you go off a cliff with a blindfold on. You may not like it, but you appreciate her all the more for it.
Big Mama is an important, nature role in an animist family or tribe. Groups need leadership. Modern society fails miserably in this area. We have too many people who are adrift without roots and without a safe place to call home. Too much authority is given through titles or rank rather than natural leadership. If you have this calling without you, offer your nurturing Mother energy to those who need you. Show others the way to embody this so we grow into people with connections.