Oct 4, 2008

Mothers and Mothering

What, when, where, why and how are you a mother. Is mother a title that needs to be earned? What are the qualifying factors? These questions and others have been circling my brain over the past several days. With our society’s new definition of family – what constitutes a family – what is marriage – who can be married I felt maybe a closer look should be given to the heart of the home – the mother.

For those who believe in the Bible, the first mother on this earth was Eve – the mother of all living. She is the model that all the rest of the feminine population emulates. She was the brave one that ate of the forbidden fruit and then convinced Adam to do likewise so they could remain together and populate the earth. It had to be hard for her – having no one to follow or example to look to. She had to grow her own food, help provide the home to raise her family in, and then start and provide the first ever home school. She was the first one to see that each child had their own unique personality. Some were obedient, kind and eager to do what was right. Others were rebellious, uncaring and quick to do what was easy. She was the first to grieve for the death of her child – caused by the actions of another of her offspring. It had to tear her heart into pieces to realize no matter how hard she and Adam tried to do what was right that they couldn’t always keep their children close to home, doing what they should.

There are girls having babies that have yet to grow up themselves. Are they less of a mother than the older woman who finally has a baby after years of infertility treatments? How about the woman that never has a fetus in her womb? If she adopts someone else’s child and raises them as her own is she still a mother? How about the lady that never marries? Is there any way for her to be a mother? Does nursing or teaching count as mothering? What other service or activity counts as mothering? And what about all the “steps” out there? Are they mothers? With all the mixed families in the world how does one choose which one is the mother?

Those of us who have been mothers know that mothering entails several roles including but not limited to cooking, cleaning, taxi driver, doctor and nurse, teacher, coach, scout leader, counselor, friend, disciplinarian, baby sitter, diaper changer, fashion consultant, hair stylist, comforter, magician, comedian, actress, accountant, legal advisor, homework consultant, seamstress, caretaker of pets, all knowing, all seeing and finder of lost everything. All of these are done in addition to holding down a job, being a wife, being a productive citizen.

Mothers nag, cajole, bargain, bribe, beg, nag, harass, nurture, empathize, sympathize, mesmerize and anything else in their power to encourage their children to become the best they can be. Does anyone that uses these tactics qualify as a mother? How about men? Single Dads that have to play both roles – are they mothers? How about the homosexual couples that have children – two men – are they both mother and father? Two women – are they both mother and father? How about women who donate eggs? Are they mothers to the zygotes that are formed in petri dishes or are the test tube and scientist the mother? How about the surrogate mothers that incubate a child and then turn them over to the couple who paid them to have the child. Is she a mother? Are you more of a mother if you breast feed? Are you less of a mother if you bottle feed?

There are soft, warm and tender women who mother with overabundant love. There are women that mother with an iron hand, and strict discipline. Are they less that the first? There are a few unfortunate cases where women abandon their babies, abuse their children, or otherwise act in ways that are incomprehensible. Are they no longer mothers? And where do the females that abort their fetuses fit? Are they mothers? Are they mothers if and only if they later have viable babies – or do they no longer qualify for the noble title?

After thinking about all these various situations I’ve come to my own conclusions which you may or may not agree with. Mothers come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. No matter what culture, country, ethnicity or religion they are mothers. They may not show their love or devotion in the same way but they do have several things in common. First a mother is a female. Males may try to do mothering tasks, but they can never be a mother. Second a mother is the female who raises the child, not the egg donor or womb provider. Whether you breast or bottle feed doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you hold, cuddle and love the infant. Third it is ideal if the mother is successfully and happily married prior to conception – thus providing the best environment for her children to grow and learn. Fourth it is wonderful and commendable if a mother can stay at home full time – but if circumstances are such that the mother must work to provide necessities for her children – she is no less of a mother – but rather a person on who is producing herculean efforts in order to fulfill her duties. Fifth is that anyone male or female, who nurtures, loves and provides for a child is assisting the mother, or substituting for the mother, and should be commended for their kind acts.

She is not always perfect
But she is the perfect one for me.
I did not always choose correctly,
But I hope my children love me.
In old age she feels her job is never done.
In youth she wonders if it will ever come.
Something every little girl wants to be.


  1. Margaret, I enjoyed reading your questions and thoughts on this subject of mothers. You always have something to say that makes me think! Thanks!

  2. Thank you so much for writing about motherhood.

    As a mother via egg donation, I can tell you most assuredly I am my son's mother.

    I am the Mom:)

  3. Isn't it wonderful that technology has allowed us to enjoy priveleges that otherwise could not be realized.
    Of course you are the mom.

  4. As a never married, childless woman, I can truly say that being a mother is part of our DNA. We are just wired that way. In my particular case, my dogs get the benefit of it and judging by them, I think I would have been the rather indulgent mom, ha.


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