In the last week or two both Robb and Maithri have mentioned the strength of women. They have talked about the way that women hold families and communities together, often in the face of immense personal pain.
I have sometimes noticed that women are the leaders, the glue, the backbone and I have sometimes wondered why.
Women are recognised as more spiritually aware or interested than men and I think that a sense of connection to something greater than themselves is one way that women draw strength. I know churches are concerned about becoming more attractive to men and that can only be a good thing but I wondered: is it something about churches that makes women go there or is it something about women that makes them seek places of spiritual significance?
( I talk of churches because I know them but I think that women worldwide and of all religions are often the keepers of the faith)
It's not a new idea but I think the answers might lie in biology.
A baby girl is born with all the eggs she will ever have and depending on where life places her she might never consciously know about her reproductive limits but she will probably feel the tick of the clock, she will probably have an innate understanding that her chances at having and nurturing children are to be savoured.
Girls sometimes feel that breasts arrive unexpectedly overnight and menstruation is a predictable unpredictability with variations in timing and symptoms as well as the sense at times of being held hostage by hormones.
I wonder if all of this has the effect of teaching girls that they are subject to forces over which she has no control? I wonder if it is part of a girl's biological destiny that she must learn fairly early that life will go on regardless of whether she feels in control or not?
And does all of this prepare a girl for her most overwhelming destiny, motherhood?
Before conception even, a woman makes an comparitively large investment of energy in the production of the ovum, she will then surrender the normality of her body to a growing person, she will experience changes to her hormones (again) to her sense of balance, to her weight , to her breasts. She may experience heartburn, backache and nausea and she will live with the responsibility, the intimacy and the beauty of nurturing a new life.
Conception, pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding are all costly to mothers and at every stage of motherhood we live with the knowledge that we could lose this child.
I wonder, are women designed to be strong so that we can withstand the rigours of bearing and raising children? Are we designed to have strength for the times when our massive investment of time, of energy, of self and love is thwarted by circumstance?
Does the spiritual awareness of women spring from an awareness of our immense vulnerability ?
Does a woman's biology prepare her for a life full of change?
Does her vulnerability in being a mother inspire her to seek support and develop strength?
I think that on some level every woman will prepare herself for motherhood, on some level she will recognise the risk inherent in her gender role, on some level she will face that risk and have a strategy to minimise that risk and I think that is why women provide the emotional foundations of families and societies. Not only do we want the best for our children, our families and communities but our deep and personal connection with our children, which leaves us incomprehensibly vulnerable and exposed, inspires us to develop every coping mechanism we can, it inspires us to become all we can be and ultimately everybody benefits.