Out of the Mouths of Babes

Maria Sirois

Mothering and Creativity

It is difficult to state the truth baldly.

I’ve written at least six other openings.

But I suspect that in the deeper parts of my being that reason I had children and the reason I write are connected – connected to a truth hard to state.

I’d like to tell you about how I always wanted to be a mom or how mothering completed my being at a very deep level; that it is/was an act of spiritual commitment as well as bodily desire. It would be so, well, humane, to be able to say that I longed to bring children to this earth as a way to offer the best of myself, or to provide continuity for our species, or some other truly altruistic gesture. Some women, I think, have children because that act is intrinsic to who they are – they embody mothering, caring, nourishing, the wiping of tears at four am and the warming of milk at midnight. And while I do believe I have evolved through the daily practice of actively loving my daughter and my son to embrace much of that kind of generosity and devotion when I am faced with wanting to be forthright here then I must admit that those were not the primary motivators of either act. Putting aside any biological need to replicate, or societal pressure to bear children at a certain age or the assumptions of a family of origin in which women were understood to want to be mothers (no small factors and all of which were active within me) I do believe the following to be true: I chose to have children and I choose to write to a great extent because I do not want to be alone.

Mothering and writing/speaking/teaching are two very deep passions. And they both answer a very deep need. So. The next layer of truth…

The word passion comes from the Medieval Latin “passio” which means suffering, and there is something here that makes sense to me: that our greatest longings and desires are somehow connected to how we suffer, or how we are wounded. Long before my desire to create anything became evident what was clear for me as a young girl was that I was terrified of going through life on my own. As I write this I remember her now, that young girl who went worked so hard to do so many things well, who was afraid of what the priests could see in her soul, who cleaned her brothers’ vomit and who ironed the sheets, and scrubbed the toilets in order to help keep peace in the house and keep her soul clear of sin. I did my best to be perfect so that I could be worthy and my hope hidden in each stroke of the iron or swipe of the cloth is that somehow being good and perfect would ensure me of being loved.

I worried always about being loved. About being good enough to be loved. About making sure that I was likable so that I wouldn’t have to spend every Friday night alone as a teen or every Sunday morning with a long day stretched in front of me wondering if any one would ever call. And by the time I began to have babies (at 34) and the time I began to write (at 36) that pressure had eased and had been reshaped – I no longer was terrified of being unworthy and therefore abandoned – but still, deep within, continued this press to be seen, be heard, be celebrated, be held, be witnessed, be in life with at least one other person in it with me.

Writing enables me to answer that longing by bringing forth not only a group of real-people-other writers, but a larger group of unknown potential readers; anonymous but nevertheless potent companions on a similar path.

Mothering enables me to have a guaranteed pair of journey-mates. For at least 18 years I get to figure this life thing out with a couple of others who not only fill the Friday nights and also offer a very personal notebook upon which to write the stories of my life, and in some way reshape those stories through the eyes and hearts of others.

What am I trying to say here…

When I write I am visible to myself and through the potential reader visible to the world.

As I mother I am definitely here – not invisible – not abandoned – fully present and accounted for – if only to sautee the broccoli or fold the sweater on behalf of two smaller others.

And through both I become definitely larger than who I had been…molded, colored, enlivened by the responses my children and the audience provide.

Not long ago Roger Ebert wrote in his blog, All the Lonely People, “Whether we use our bodies or a keyboard, it all comes down to two minds crying out from their solitude.” This is what is true for me. Both my art and my parenting allow me to cry out from my solitude and hear a cry in return and through that call and response a deep wound is soothed and a potent longing is addressed and I become bigger.

The next layer reveals itself…this notion of bigger.

This urge to create isn’t just about the loneliness being eased…it’s also about the longing to be changed. To be seen and held, yes, but also to be effected in some way, to be responded to such that I know that I matter and am utterly alive and in the vitality of those connections I become more than I would have been as a solitary soul.

I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Nor do I believe that this admission in any way detracts from the profound bounty I receive from both acts, nor the levels of goodness or richness my participation in art and in mothering brings now and then to the world.

Knowing my wound and how it catalyzes my passion is not a bad thing. It is freeing, rather, and inclusive. We all are driven in part by what we most long to heal. And I do also wish to own up to higher-level motivations. I do mother out of care and generosity and dedication. I do write out of a desire to bring something positive to the world, something helpful or compelling enough that one other person might be transformed or at least understood.

And at the same time at a very visceral, vaginal level I know who I am.

I do not wish to do this journey on my own.

Maria Sirois

Maria Sirois


Dr. Maria Sirois is an inspirational speaker, consultant, and licensed clinical psychologist who has worked in the fields of wellness and positive psychology for twenty years.

As a lecturer and motivational speaker, Maria has been invited to keynote at conferences for wellness organizations, businesses, hospitals, hospices, religious and philanthropic institutions around the country. A master storyteller, her lectures and workshops combine powerful and moving anecdotes with research to bring an audience to the place we all most want to be: moved to tears, joy and positive action within the lives we are already living. Addressing topics as diverse as “Sustaining Resilience in the Presence of Suffering,” “Every Day Counts: Flourishing No Matter What,” and “The Heart in Philanthropy,” she has been called both a “true teacher,” and “an orator of great power and beauty.”

Her clinical work brings the bounty of positive psychology and mind/body medicine to families and children facing terminal illness, and to the staff who care for them. Trained at the New England Deaconness Mind/Body Clinic (Boston, Mass.) and at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Boston, Mass.) she currently works as a psychologist and consultant to families, psychology staffs and hospital and hospice organizations. She received her doctorate from the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology in 1993.

An author as well, “Every Day Counts: Lessons in Love, Faith and Resilience From Children Facing Illness is the tale of Maria’s psychology internship at Dana-Farber. Every Day Counts brings to us the wisdom of the children she treated, wisdom that reminds us in essence that there is no time but now to live life with an open heart. Fearless when facing the suffering of our children, and determined to bring forth the gifts they offer, it is a book, as Paul Newman has written, “{of} great courage, something to lean on in tough times.” Compassion abounds in this book, for the children, for those that love them, and for the caregivers of our world.

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