I don’t want to blindside anyone with this news, but Mother’s Day is this Sunday.
I read a tweet a few days ago from a woman who said that she was “taking heat” for tweeting that Mother’s Day was “a time to celebrate bio, birth, adoptive, step and all the other kinds of mothers in your life.” WTF? Ok, barring the slim possibility that her heat-throwers have a full team of only crazy women in their lives, none of whom provide ANY kind of loving, caring, nurturing support, these folks must be out to lunch.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again:
GIVING BIRTH DOES NOT ALWAYS MAKE YOU A MOTHER, AND MOTHERS DON’T ALWAYS GIVE BIRTH.
Many women can and do give birth, but does that instantly qualify them as a mother? Are women who have never given birth disqualified from the title? Just how do we define “mother” anyway?
I answered that woman’s tweet with this: “ANY motherly person who contributes something of value to someone else deserves recognition.” In other words, the title of “mother” is not exclusively owned by those who give birth.
I am a mother. I adopted my daughter. This does not make me less of a mother than if I had given birth to her and aside from not being able to participate in pregnancy/birth/labour conversations with my own experiences, I rarely feel as though society doesn’t think of me as a mother.
Not so with my stepmother role. I am a damned good stepmother to my stepson, who lives with us 50% of the time. I care for him when he is sick, I help him with homework. I hug him every day and kiss him goodnight before bed. I encourage and support him. I rub his back when he is sad and talk it through with him. I listen to his sometimes not-so-interesting stories and I laugh at his tween jokes. I play games with him and teach him life skills and lessons. Despite having NO acknowledgement EVER from his birth mother for my efforts, I am his mom-away-from-mom. I’m sure birth mothers whose kids have stepmoms are cringing at this description, but you’ll have to suck it up, buttercup. On his weeks with us, she’s not there, and I am. And I AM the closest thing to mom he’s got right in front of him.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want him to call me “mom” and I’m not trying to replace his mother (nor am I suggesting all stepmoms should behave like I do). I’m not his mom, nor do I want to be, but what I am trying to say is that I provide ALL of the same essential services as “mom”, aside from the birthing part, yet get very little of the respect and recognition that “mom” gets for exactly the same efforts. From him, his birth mother, her family or society in general. Somehow, because there is duplication in the mothering I give him, I am seen as less of a mother to him because I didn’t deliver him to this earth.
This needs to change. Our society loves to throw out the “It takes a village” mantra about child-rearing, but when are we going to start to respect and appreciate the efforts of the entire village, instead of just the mother?
As Mother’s Day approaches and I mentally prepare myself to be honoured by only one of the two children that I mother, I had an idea:
Change the name from “Mother’s Day” to “Motherly Day”.
See what I just did there? With simple wordsmithing, I removed ALL of the possessive, territorial ownership from the “mothers only” name of a special day to make it sound far more open and inclusive of ALL women who give good mothering. These women should get some kind of recognition too, regardless of their birthing status.
We’re ALL supercalifragilisticexpialidocious moms. But don’t think for one second that your kid would be as awesome as he or she is without the influence of other women in that kid’s life. Stepmoms, teachers, stepgrandmoms, babysitters, stepaunts, school secretaries, coaches, mentors, moms of friends – there are plenty of other motherly women in your child’s life that contribute to their awesomeness, and even yours. How great of a mom would YOU be without the support of that village?
If you have a woman in your life or your child’s life that gives something of value – love, support, affection, encouragement – recognize her on Motherly Day. Recognize her EVERY day. If your child has a woman in their life that adds to your mothering , set down your ego and acknowledge that there is room for more than one person in a child’s heart. A child will always know the difference between the mom that gave birth to them or adopted them, and the village moms who enrich their lives. Set a good example for your child and teach him or her to appreciate people who appreciate them.
Going forward on Motherly Day (and every day) let’s all think outside of the vajayjay in terms of what defines a mother, ok? Show your respect and appreciation for the fact that somebody cares enough about you and/or your child to want to contribute something meaningful to you both. Respecting another woman’s efforts doesn’t minimize your own mothering, it expands it.
We’re all in this Momiverse together.
Thank you and Happy Motherly Day to my mom and the birth mothers of my children. Without you, Motherly Day would be meaningless to me. Thank you and Happy Motherly Day also to my BFF’s without whom my Momiverse would be empty and boring and just hard to deal with. Thank you and Happy Motherly Day to my and my children’s support networks and to certain family members – you know who you are – who genuinely care about my children and teach them so much. Love to you all. xoxo