I've had a few personal thoughts lately that I'd like to share with you.
One definition of "mother" as a verb is: to bring up with care and affection. My personal definition of "mother" as a noun is: one who nurtures.
The most well-known and accepted definition of "mother" is: to bear or give birth to a child.
I have never physically birthed a child, but have loved many children. I have never stayed up all night with a crying child, but I have cried all night for the lack of a child.
So, without children can I call myself a mother? Is it enough that I love my younger siblings and glory in their progress and ache over their detours? Is it enough that I get worried when my nephew is sick or injured? Is it enough that I work with children in church and pray for their protection and growth? Is it enough that tears well up in my eyes when I see you children pass milestones? Can I truly be called a mother without having born a child in my womb? By my own definition, one who nurtures, I am a mother.
In my twenties I would look at how others were raising their children, and I would say things like: "When I have children I will never.....(fill in the blank with a preconceived belief)."
I'm sure my friends thought the same things in their mid-twenties. Then they actually had their own kids and found out that "never" doesn't really make sense for raising children or for living a happy life. I too have moved on from the fairy-tale ideals of raising children and have experienced the true-grit by osmosis.
Now in my late 30's, I see parents and children, and with jealousy I think: "If I had children I would love to.....with them." I see my friends loving the sacrifice and forgetting about the ideal (whatever that may be) and I, in my own way, have done that too.
As the Reverend Michele Torigian says,
"I am stuck somewhere between childless and child-free."
Childless describes the disappointment of an unfulfilled dream to carry and birth a child. It describes the loneliness I feel at a party when everyone else is showing pictures of their children. It is the adjective that stands as a wall between me and almost every other woman my age. Childless is the look of pity from friends, family, and society.
Child-free describes a lifestyle that I did not willingly choose. Some women may choose this lifestyle and that is their right. This is a lifestyle that has consequences both positive and negative. You don't believe there are negative consequences to being child-free? How about when others, often strangers, ask why I don't have any children? Or when I am asked to take on extra responsibility because "you don't have anybody waiting for you at home?" Or how about when I ponder that the legacy of my life work will die with me? These are sobering facts of the child-free lifestyle.
I think some people see my life as a Rolling Stones song. They imagine me loafing around while wailing bombastic tones of "I'm free, to do what I want, any old time." I can assure you that is far from my reality. The child-free life is not all rock concerts and skydiving.
Like I said, I am stuck between childless and child-free. It is not a great place to be....especially on Mother's Day. Could we celebrate this day in May for all women who nurture, love, rear and teach? Would we let go of the "birthing" part of the definition and hold onto the "care and affection" part?
Many women fit the accepted definition of mother. Happy Mother's Day to you. I honor you for your sacrifice, ability to multi-task, and dedication to teaching and rearing your children. For those of you who don't fit into that primary definition, Happy Mother's Day to you. I honor you for your sacrifice, ability to multi-task, and dedication to teaching and rearing others' children. And to me, I fit the alternate definition of mother---Happy Mother's Day. I honor myself for the care, affection, and nurturing that I give to others and others' children.
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