God could not be everywhere, and therefore He made mothers.
It’s time for another Hallmark moment, Mother’s Day. Although I have much to be grateful for, it still remains for me a day rife with bittersweet memories and raw emotion.
It was thirty years ago when I realized that “mother” may never be my alter ego. I began to experience Mother’s Days in church, looking enviously at all the moms around me, praying that a miracle would happen and making solemn vows as to what I would do if my prayers were granted.
As I experienced, month by month, the diminishing hope of my dream family, a song kept running a loop through my mind: “As I walk this land of broken dreams, I have visions of many things. Happiness is just an illusion, filled with sadness and confusion…” However as my biological clock continued ticking, not only did I grow older but also fortunately became a bit wiser.
I now look with admiration to those women who give up their desire to parent and remain child free, channeling their mothering skills through other pursuits. To women who don’t give up their dream because there is not a “father” in sight and challenge societal norms to build their family. To single moms who lose their co-parent and struggle every day to love and support their children. To women who take on the challenge of step-mothering. To birth mothers who make the loving choice to give their child a better life through adoption. To women who choose to redefine their concept of family and give another woman’s child the family he/she deserves. To grandmothers, aunts, older sisters, teachers, health care providers, nannies and mentors who step up every day to fill a void when mom is not available.
And to my own mother. At ninety-seven years old, she is my hero. Immigrating from Italy when she was twelve, working in garment industry sweatshops; being a yet-to- be labeled feminist among the first women hired to construct submarines at the naval base; putting three children through college while working full-time and being a dedicated caregiver for my dad. She instilled in us a love of family and a work ethic that has served me well.
And most especially to the anonymous birthmother who twenty-eight years ago gave me the most precious gift I have ever received, my daughter. A gift I have enjoyed, cherished and loved every day. And now, as a teacher at a boarding school, she is a surrogate mom and role model every day to her young students.
Mothering is a verb, defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “taking care of somebody with tenderness.” Some of us will mourn the passing of our moms. For some, our moms may still be here but are no longer able to mother and we now mother them. So as a world of Hallmark cards, carnations and Facebook tributes explode around you, take a moment to reflect on the “mothering” skills you have and claim this as your day too.
Maybe you mother your pet, a favorite niece or nephew, a good friend (or yes, even a significant other) who needs special attention and a dose of TLC every once in a while; a child you mentor, the plants that need your nurturing touch, the stories you tenderly read during story time with a special child, the older person you visit at the nursing home and share a warm hug. We were all children once, and in the very broadest of terms, we all still need mothering.
Jeanne Marie recently relocated to Fearrington Village by way of Kentucky, Washington DC and many points in between. When she’s not unpacking and remodeling, she loves spending time with friends, cooking, reading and traveling, all fueled with great conversation, coffee and chocolate.