I’m not a mom. Not yet, at least. I’ve got a pasture full of 13 babies that have brought me to tears with their first breaths, but none of them are truly mine. In fact, I can barely get my hands on them, but I love them just the same.
Because that’s what being a mother is actually about, right? Unfathomable love, even in the hard times. A child doesn’t have to be born of its mother to be mothered by a woman who loves him or her with all that they have. And a mother doesn’t have to give birth to love. In fact, if we really want to get down to the nitty-gritty, a mother doesn’t have to be a woman at all. A mother is a model. A mother is someone who mothers with care.
All my life, I’ve been blessed with a mother who is perfect for me. She’s mothered me well because her mother mothered her well. She has always respected me. Always supported me. Always been there to listen. And yes, she gave birth to me; I can’t change that narrative. But somehow, I believe our relationship would be just the same if she hadn’t.
It makes me think about how I want to mother one day. How I want, as I put it to my fiancé the other day, to mother children who are “a little weird.” I want my children to feel free to pursue their crazy passions; who understand words like “zen” and “love” and “radical acceptance.”
I was mothered through boy bands, broken hearts, black hair, country concerts, long distances, and quarantines. I was mothered to share my feelings, to have open and honest conversations, to chase wild and crazy dreams. I was mothered to be responsible, to believe in brighter days, and to give through the gifts I’ve been given. And it’s all of these things I now know I want to mother into my children, as well.
You see, when we’re 5 years old making handmade cards to sit out on the kitchen counter, we don’t know how lucky we are to have a mother like this. We take it for granted. And it’s not until we are older that we begin to notice other, far different narratives: Mothers who criticize. Mothers who are stubborn. Mothers who push and push and push until their children are so far away that they don’t even speak anymore.
It’s wild to think about how easy it could be to have a mother like that.
And I’m sure it’s easy to gloss over the hardships on a day like today, when we’re all competing for the much-coveted Instagram likes that will prove to the world what good children we are. But I can’t imagine lying. I can’t imagine being a mother to children who have to lie.
Maybe those mothers can’t help it. Maybe they don’t mother well because they were not mothered well. But there’s a point in which we have to look past our experience into the new realities that we can forge for ourselves.
True motherhood – whether from childless women who care for their community, from friends who stand alongside one another, from mothers who defeat their impulses to mother from a place of acceptance over criticism – is rooted in kindness. It’s grounded in love. And in times like these, we need mothers more than ever. We need a soft rub on the back. We need the “it’s all going to be ok”s. We need to take a note from our mothers and learn to mother one another through these hardships so that we can come out better on the other side.
Because that’s what being a mother is actually about, right? Unfathomable love, even in the hard times.