A Mother by any other name would still be a Mother. Mothers come in all shapes, sizes, and disguises. There are many versions of mothers that have nothing to do with giving birth. To make this a bit more convoluted, there are mothers who fit into all the following categories of birth mother, adoptive mother, foster mother, father mother (dads who also act as moms), and lastly, mothers to others.
Let me explain a little further.
A Birth Mom with the Perfect Scenario
This one seems to be a no-brainer but, it’s not. Let’s say you gave birth to your little human and you bonded immediately. Your baby is happy and healthy, and most of all loved by all. This is the perfect scenario, congratulations. But, now what? The terrifying, never ending thought-cycle of: what now, what do I do next, what if I don’t know how to be a mother? Don’t fret because this is normal, this happens to every new mom. You figure it out somehow through books, groups, family, doctors and most of all through your own version of trial and error.
A Birth Mom Without the Perfect Scenario
What if this was an unwanted pregnancy? Or, you are thrilled to be a Mom, but you have no partner? Or, this child is born into poverty? Or, your life is in danger now because you are growing a life?
The list goes on and on. But, one element runs through all situations: you have given birth and now you are handling your most important role in life. You are responsible for absolutely everything this child needs. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter the circumstances of how or why you have become a mother, it only matters that you are now a mother. There is no turning back and you are in for the long haul. Pull up your big girl panties and get busy because this is your job, with or without a partner, with or with adequate income. You’re up to bat every moment of the day and while you don’t need to hit a homerun all the time, you can’t be sitting in the dugout filing your nails either.
No matter how you have arrived at the gates of Motherhood, you are there and you will need guidance. A common myth is that we are genetically wired to mother another human and to innately know how. This is absolutely not true whatsoever! It’s terrifying, stressful, rewarding, and sometimes lonely Yet, hopefully, it becomes the most amazingly gratifying experience of your life.
While it is ideal to have a 2-parent household filled with love, family support, and money. I’m here to let you in on a secret. Your child doesn’t know that this is the “ideal” so you have the freedom to create your “ideal” if you are indeed a single parent. But, I promise you, even those fortunate families struggle with doubt, sleepless nights, scheduling childcare duties and the nagging feeling that it’s all not working. They often wonder, “how can we be sure every decision is the right one?” The answer is that no one knows the answer, ever. Sometimes, the easiest answers are exactly the things you are already doing.
By fulfilling the requirements of motherhood: putting the child’s well-being first in making sure they are fed, clean, safe, protected, and loved, you are actually doing an excellent job.
What if you have never given birth? Can you still be a Mother? Yes, in more ways than you imagine.
Adoption is the most obvious way to be a non-birth mother and thank you to every loving person who chooses to raise a child that was not born from their flesh. This type of mother definitely gets a gold star because it’s a demanding job and not to be taken lightly. As animals in the wild don’t easily adopt babies that aren’t of their own genetic makeup, the same concept apparently applies for humans. Luckily, we have evolved a little better than the typical African lion and are able to love those who don’t have our genes.
This is actually a very loaded topic which will not be debated here at this time. But, the thought of offering someone the use of your body for the purpose of creating life to then be given over to someone else is nothing short of miraculous, the epitome of generosity. Granted the surrogate earns a hefty sum of money but, still, would you do it?
This can an ideal situation for some and simply a cold-hearted meal ticket for others (foster parents get money for fostering children). The children in the foster system are more often at risk than at peace in these homes, but not all the time. Speaking from personal experience, I know that the system is broken, the statistics are grim and it’s the kids who more often than not end up suffering. It’s not fair and not acceptable. I believe that our country can do better because our children deserve better.
Fathers who Mother
Bless these men, because it’s not the role our young boys are trained to do. Young boys are taught to provide financially and be the rock of the family. But, I am seeing more and more young fathers who end up mothering quite well and some even appear to genuinely love it. There are plenty of men who are raising healthy, well-adjusted, loved children. I can also tell you from experience that there are more children being removed from their mothers than you would think because they are actually the unfit parent. Children are suffering abuse and neglect at the hands of the women who bore them.
So, I ask myself, Is mothering genetically specific to females? Evidently, not! Sexism goes both ways when it comes to children and we can no longer assume that men can’t be mothers (and in some cases, even better mothers than women).
Mothers to Others
Finally, I come to my favorite level of mothering. One that I am proud of and one that I embrace. Mothers to others is a type of mothering for the sheer purpose of spreading love, kindness, compassion and wisdom. This is a most rewarding perk of aging for me, personally. My only child is in her 40’s, my grandchildren are in their teens. But, my life has always been about mothering and I continue to be needed even as I am into my 60’s. I wouldn’t know how to not mother. I jokingly say that I was born with a “mothering bone” and I wouldn’t change a thing.
My mothering skills are still vital, but not in the traditional child-rearing ways. I believe that we all need to be mothered from the cradle to the grave. If you look around you will see examples of this everywhere. A friend who needs a compassionate shoulder. An elder in need of care. A stranger who seems to desperately need “a win” in the form of a smile and a kind word. Widows and widowers who are lost without a strong hand to hold. Our children’s friends who need the kind of mothering they don’t receive at home. A new co-worker who is having a day from hell. The friend who is closer to the grave than the cradle who never married or had children and is now experiencing a fear of epic proportions that comes from being completely alone in her final years. I have been mothering to all of these souls and continue to do so because, in the end, it’s about unconditional compassion.
It comes to feeling safe and loved and I believe this is the most basic function a mother can provide. No matter where we are on the mother chart at any given point in your lifetime, we all need some form mothering.
I am not an exception to being able to mother at this level. The fact of the matter is that I didn’t have the type of mother that I needed growing up. I was cared for, disciplined, educated, clothed and fed, but I didn’t feel that unconditional love. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I never wanted to be a mother because I didn’t think I would be good at it. After all, my role model was not someone to emulate. However, things changed, marriage happened and so did pregnancy. At the age of 19, in an abusive marriage, I gave birth to my daughter. It was then and there that I vowed to her that failure is not an option.
I told myself I would embrace this life and build the mother/daughter relationship that I was denied. This was my vow then as it is today 41 years later. I am proud of myself because I have a success story. I moved out of the abuse and at the same time, pulled my baby close to my heart with a fierce grip and made a life of love and acceptance. My child was my savior and still is. She is my everything. She is the wind beneath me that allows me to soar. She is my greatest achievement. She is my soul, my heart, and my reason. My baby was easy to raise, healthy and sweet which afforded me the strength to tackle the beasts at my door. I learned how to mother through trial and error a popular book of the time written by Dr. Spock. Yes, I made mistakes along the way but I learned more than I imagined I could.
I learned the gift of self-mothering thanks to my daughter who didn’t come into this world under the perfect scenario we talked about earlier. But, I will continue to mother everyone who needs it today until I go to the grave. We don’t need to have the perfect mother to be a great mother. We just need to dig a little deeper because a good mother is inside all of us. I wish all of my readers warmth and love, now during the Mother Month of May and every day thereafter.