Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Crone

      To start this post off, I would like to refer you all to a blog that is listed at the bottom of my posts. This particular writing expresses perfectly one of the stages of womanhood that I am going to describe today in this post -- the stage of motherhood.  Read this post and then read on in mine. http://writingloud.blogspot.com/2011/09/how-to-jump-in-deep-end.html

     The Stages of Womanhood.
This is the symbol of the Roman goddess Venus and is often used to represent the female gender.

     Years ago I read about these stages of womanhood. I am now recalling them and would like to list them for you. I may have modified what I have read and included some of the information that I learned as a physician about child and adolescent behavioral stages. But I think these stages are illustrative for all of us human females. And particularly I would like to dwell on the final stage, The Crone.

     Stage One:  Childhood. This stage can be subdivided into all of the stages of child development. These might include infancy, toddler hood, school days, the so called Latency period, and pre-adolescent years. Certainly all of these stages differ for girls and boys and so they should. A girl who is raised like a girl will have different interests than a boy who is raised like a rough and tumble boy. And yet, I feel that both genders should be allowed to develop their own interests which will affect the adult that they become. Psychologists have written that various influences in the home determine the achievements that the child, young adult and eventually mature adult reach in their lives. It is said from psychological studies that the first born girl child who has no brothers will be guided by her father. The father feels no threat from this oldest girl as he might feel from an oldest son. Therefore he non judgementally invests strong encouragement in this girl to become what she wants to become, perhaps as a career woman for example. I feel strongly that my father did invest such encouragement in me subliminally and was therefore responsible in many ways for my being a tom girl, interested not in dolls but in trucks as toys, in science and later in going to medical school.

     Stage Two: Maidenhood. This is the time in a woman's life when she becomes interested in boys. Whether she can attract a boyfriend and keep him becomes very very important to her. During this time she is learning much about her self, her sexuality and the opposite sex and his desires and dreams. She invests much time and energy into looking nice, being cool, and developing social friendships with other girls and also with boys. Yet during this time, the virgin girl wrestles with what society and her peers allow her to do sexually. She has pressures from her parents and their culture as well as from the boy in whom she is interested. This stage is pictured romantically in books and movies and TV shows. It is often idealized. And yet it is a time of difficult choices for the young female. I personally did not reach this stage until college. All through high school, through no choice of my own at the time, I did not date. This lack of dating, I think, allowed me to pursue my studies and to excel. It allowed me time to have dreams that most girls my age did not have. I dreamt of college and later of being a doctor. But during the college years, I did date and reached one episode where I felt I needed to choose between a young man and going to medical school. I think fortunately the decision was taken out of my hands. The young man who was failing college at the time chose and disappeared from my life. Had he stuck around, I really don't know which way I would have gone. I am certainly not sorry how things turned out, but at the time, it was difficult.

     Stage Three: The Married Woman. This stage can be long or short. I define it as the time between when a woman commits to a partner (significant other or spouse) and when children of the union are born. It is a time when a woman learns about this commitment and what it means and about her spouse and his dreams. The couple adapts to each other and makes decisions that determine how both treat their work, the finances of the union, and even the chores that managing a home require. Ideally, this time will be enough to work through these decisions so that there is a framework for the family in the future. But some marriages or unions do not have much time for this stage because children arrive. Without the luxury of working out some of these issues, they may need to be worked out later in the face of also raising children.

     Stage Four: Motherhood. I think if you read the blog post that I cited above, you will have a feeling of the strength of this stage of womanly development. Motherhood is one of the strongest stages in a woman's life. Whether she works outside the home or not, she is devoted to her children. She almost can not help but have that devotion. It is in her genes and in her protoplasm as a woman. I think that having nurtured the child in her womb, having born that child through childbirth which every woman never forgets,  and then having played a major role in raising that child and participating and guiding its development results in a love that is incomparable to any other form of love. Therefore this stage of womanhood is a major stage. Yet, there are issues as all of us mothers know. Sometimes we feel resentful about this 24/7 job that we have undertaken. It is not an easy task and none of us ever are fully prepared for it. It helps if we had a mother and a father who succeeded in raising us, but still it is difficult. Yet I would not have skipped it for the world. It is a wonderful stage of life. However, it is a stage of life that fades. Our adult children stay in contact and we love them and worry about them and their children, our grandchildren. But once they have left the nest, we are not as involved. This stage fades -- it doesn't end exactly, but it fades.

     Stage Five: Menopause. I put this stage in because it is a time in a woman's life which demands its own consideration. There are definitely physical symptoms that need to be dealt with. Every one of us mature women knows the suffering that goes with hot flashes and sometimes the mood swings of the lack of hormones. We can mitigate these symptoms now with hormone replacement but real concerns about increased risk of breast cancer have led these hormone replacements to only be safe for a very short time. Therefore, there will be some degree of symptomatic menopause for most women. Also at this time various other changes occur in a woman's life. Her children are growing up and leaving the home. She may have been a stay at home Mom and now what will she do to fill her time and to feel productive. She may have to take on a new career or a volunteer life that will replace her sense of fullness and productivity. She also has reached a point of life when no more small children will be possible. In recent times, women have been delaying their families so she may still be raising small children at the menopausal stage of life. This tendency combines the stresses of motherhood with the bodily stresses of the menopause which again can create difficult issues. Still most women are able to move through this time of hormonal change and reach a point of well being.

     Stage Six:  The Crone. Now comes a discussion of my favorite time of life. First we need to deal with the term Crone. Unfortunately, the origin of our English word, crone, is in Old North French and it means frightening, cantankerous, ugly old woman. But the Latin origin is related to the base carn or of the flesh.  In America and in Europe, this term has always had a negative connotation. When we think of a crone, we think of  the negative image of a witch, a term that also has an unearned negative connotation. For both terms, we picture the Halloween witch, or the Wizard of Oz Bad Witch of the West -- a long nose, pinched face, black costume and yes maybe even a pointed hat. And we certainly include the short tempered behavior and even wickedness in this view of the crone. However, other cultures such as the Native American culture, and the far Eastern and Indian cultures have goddesses and elder female archetypes that have positive attributes. In their cultures, the crone archetype represents the wisdom of the elder woman.  Our good friends the  neopagan Wiccans have developed a softer and more moderate view of the crone. In fact the Wiccans are primarily responsible for using this term to name this stage of a woman's life. We need to adopt this positive image for this stage of life because it is truly a wonderful stage of life for us. This more positive view has resulted in a hand full of magazines with the name Crone in their title. The purpose of this more positive image is to allow our elder women who now have many more years of life to live after menopause to serve as wise elders to guide our young women through the stages that we have viewed above.  
      This stage might be my favorite because it is the time that I am in. It is a time when the menopausal symptoms are gone.. Our bodies have adjusted to this lack of estrogen and the menopausal symptoms are gone. We have finished raising our children and hopefully they are successful young adults with children of their own. They might need us as grandparents or they might ask our advice, or for our babysitting services at times, but we are much out of their daily life pictures. We may still be working or we may be retired which is even better. But we definitely have more time for ourselves. Maybe we have become travelers seeing the world for the first time without commitments back home. For the first time we have time to devote to interests and hobbies long neglected. For the first time in our lives we can do what WE want to do. WE can further our own education just for the fun of it. We can take up new interests and hobbies that broaden us and at this stage in life make us more interesting and fulfilled women. We can choose to give back to society but we can also choose to take what society has to give us. There are multiple programs for seniors that are available from multiple sources -- from NGOs, from government agencies, from religious organizations, from college campuses, from medical schools, from all levels of school systems.  Also we now have a strong need for exercise to keep our bodies active and our joints healthy. We may not have had time for sports and exercise programs during our motherhood stages, but now we have time and we must make time in order to stay healthy.
     Therefore, the positive stage of womanhood, the Crone, can do anything for herself. She has passed and succeeded in all the previous stages and now she can relax, love, and enjoy. I think it is one of the best stages of life. What do you think?

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