Who gets to be ‘a Mother’?
I’ve been reflecting on motherhood and moms since 2011 when I held my precious baby boy for the first time. I was filled with a love that I had never known before, I also knew I would die before I let anything happen to him.
These were very conflicting feelings to me. It’s when I first began realizing that what I had experienced as a child was not love, and in fact that my “mother” did not do her job to protect me.
I made a Facebook post that some could say is controversial, it read, “Happy Mother’s Day to the kids who had to raise themselves!” and I gave a little more framing in a comment, “Not every person that gives birth to a child gets the title of mother.” Some might say that I’m cold blooded, and my response would be, “It’s only because I was abused, neglected, and abandoned.”
But so often, humans make it hard for kids to get the care they need. Whether that’s making people jump through hoops for adoption, or for parents who might have struggled in the past get custody of their kids back… or even when children aren’t listened to when they speak up about abuse (or if they are too scared to)… or in my case didn’t know I was being abused. Or even our healthcare system denying medical attention based on race or the ability to pay.
But I think Mothering goes beyond the archetype that was created by social
“norms”… that archetype excludes Trans-moms, Gay partners, friends, and all kinds of people that step up to “Mother”. Sometimes moms are adopted officially or unofficially… sometimes a mom is someone who raises you but didn’t give birth to you. We see surrogate mothers in nature all the time, whether a baby was rejected by it’s parents or the baby animal’s parents died… sometimes the surrogate isn’t even the same species. Humans have redefined the word surrogate to only mean a woman who carries/gives birth to someone else’s child… which is not the case.
Mother isn’t a title given, it’s a titled that is earned. Some mothers never have or will give birth. Giving birth is not a prerequisite to being a mother. Some people raise children that aren’t blood, and yes some kids have to mother themselves or their siblings because of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Teachers can also be mothers.
The word “Mother” has become gendered and synonymous with giving birth and woman/womanhood. And I’m challenging that.
My definition of the act of mothering is to nurture, care for, teach, encourage, and make one feel safe. I would also add being supportive and loving despite differences of opinions or lifestyles.
According to my 8 year old, the definition of a mom is “determination, to keep your child safe, and being good to the child.” Not to brag but he’s one smart cookie! 😉
Going back to my post about people mothering themselves… we all need to be nurtured and feel safe and for a lot of people we don’t have that in others. No one has made us feel those things–so we had to be that for ourselves. Whether that was as a child, teen, or a young adult we all needed to be mothered but had no one to turn to.
Often times we have friends who are our “mom-friend” meaning they mother us and others. They show us care when we can’t care for ourselves. Sometimes that person is a mentor, or teacher, a sibling, a cousin or other family member a boss or even a spouse. I think when we un-gender the word “mother” in our minds we can appreciate the fullness of being mothered by someone or ourselves.
Some people also have wonderful moms who did give birth to them, and that’s also great! Un-gendereing the word or removing the prerequisite of birthing doesn’t take away from them in the slightest.
With that said, Happy Mother’s Day to ALL the Moms out there! ♥️