I was surprised when my daughter Simone emailed me, my son and my ex (with whom I have a wonderful relationship) to report that she’d made a lunch reservation for all of us on Mother’s Day. Primo, her six- year-old son (aka my grandson), would of course be part of the festivities. Simone typically doesn’t care about officially celebrating her own birthday, no less Mother’s Day; hence, my surprise, and delight. I don’t often see both of my grown children at the same time, so it’s nice when I do!
Giving birth may make a woman a “mother,” but we all know that a world of adjectives can modify the noun: Selfless and selfish; controlling and liberating; protective and negligent, and on and on. No doubt, most every mother has been described in more than one way by her children, depending on the moment in time and the mommy meters in their brains. I surely have. But as long as the attributes on the plus side outweigh those on the downside, I guess a mother comes out on the winning side.
Of course, many women who don’t give birth also become “mothers,” such as stepmothers, foster mothers and adoptive mothers. A big sister can become a “mother” to her younger siblings if their biological mother dies; a maiden aunt can become a “mother” to a nephew if his biological mother relinquishes her role. A childless woman can become a mother to her best friend’s child (think of the 1988 movie Beaches with Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey.)
On this Mother’s Day, I think especially of…
Grieving mothers who have lost children to sickness, violence, drugs, and accidents.
Selfless mothers who make tremendous sacrifices to provide their children with proper medical care, safe homes, and good educations.
Young widowed mothers who suddenly must raise their children alone.
Abused mothers who are desperate to grab their children and flee from their husbands, but don’t know where to turn.
Terminally ill mothers who won’t see their children grow up.
Mothers we miss.
And I think of the women who can’t become pregnant, and I hope they can find other ways to become mothers. Because it’s one thing to conceive something, including a baby. It’s another to nurture it. That’s where motherhood really begins.