In my life and experience of motherhood, I’ve come to realize that a traditional definition of that word doesn’t tell the whole story. I believe we are all mothers, each in a unique and multi-faceted way.
I’m a step-mom. I’m a dog-mom. I’m a plant-mom. I’m a mom to my newspaper. And I’m a mom to myself. We all need to be mothers to our own inner children, who still need our love and attention to thrive.
I have two consummate examples of matriarchs in my own family. My mom and grandmother demonstrated to me how to move through life with courage, grace, compassion and laughter.
I’ve been enormously lucky to have been a bonus mom in two different blended families and a mentor to a handful of island youth. Being a part of these children’s lives has been both uplifting and humbling. Their resilience in the face of adversity and capacity for joy continue to inspire me.
Women have made astounding strides in how we are perceived and valued in the world, but my decision to not bear my own children has often been met with confusion, concern and questions. I’ve wrestled with who I am if not a “real” mother. What legacy am I leaving behind in the world? Am I flawed in some way because I don’t have a core desire to reproduce?
Ultimately, I am fulfilled by my life’s choices and grateful to the families who have welcomed me into their arms. I believe that being a mother is providing unconditional care and love to those in need of guidance. That can take an infinite number of forms, all of which should be celebrated and cherished.
We asked our readers to weigh in on their own experiences with motherhood.
• My mom has been gone for just about 20 years now. She was quite a gal! She gave this to me and I thought it was a generous gift: “You do not have to be your mother unless she is who you want to be. You do not have to be your mother’s mother, or your mother’s mother’s mother, or even your grandmother’s mother on your father’s side. You may inherit their chins or their hips or their eyes, but you are not destined to become the women who came before you, you are not destined to live their lives. So if you inherit something, inherit their strength. If you inherit something, inherit their resilience. Because the only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
• Motherhood has provided me with my two best friends ever. One is my amazing daughter. The other, in turn, is my amazing granddaughter. My gratitude and love for them know no bounds.
• I’ve gone from daughter to dear friend to mother to my own daughter. I wasn’t always the best at being a daughter. I grew up. I am better at being a daughter now. I am not always the best mother, but I will never stop trying to be better for my daughter. Motherhood opened my heart like I never thought it could be opened. I love being a mom.
• Being a mother has been the greatest journey of my life. From the moment I met my beautiful girl, my life was changed forever. Loving her, guiding her, and watching her grow into a kind, compassionate and truly extraordinary woman has brought me endless love and joy. This remarkable woman continues to be the love of my life.
• Being a mother is not about knowing all the answers or exactly what to do at all times. It’s a privilege to be able to help shape an innocent human into being the best possible version of themselves. It’s giving them the confidence to take on the world and remain humble enough to admit wrongdoings. Teaching them how to have hard conversations and also to be light-hearted. Showing them how to laugh at mistakes and cry when needed. Giving them balance in life and a safe space to land when they fall. Being a mother is one of the greatest gifts. Cheers to all the moms out there and to all the women who may not have given birth but love another human as a mother would. Without motherly figures, this world would be so different. I am so thankful to have this privilege.
• Motherhood is like finding a room in your house you never knew existed even though you’ve always lived there. When we give birth to our children we are also birthing ourselves as mothers. I believe that my children are not only made of the genetic material of their fathers and me but also fragments of our very souls. When I hold my son, now six feet tall and all arms, legs, and smile, I feel the imprint of the child he once was. He still fits perfectly. My friend said of her first birth, “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and now I know I can do anything.” I believe that the sacred birthing process prepares us for the exquisite pain of motherhood.