The act of mothering is defined as to “bring up (a child) with care and affection; look after kindly and protectively, sometimes excessively so; to take care of, nurse, protect, tend, raise; to give birth to.
We’ve all come into this world through a mother, that woman we used as a portal for physical life. Some relationships with our mothers are deeply nurturing, close, kindly, and provide the emotional nourishment that allows us to grow into fully formed adults. Other relationships with mother aren’t so fortunate. Where the mother lacked an emotional connection, the child starved emotionally, unable to form that deep connection that allowed for emotional maturity, the ability to love and be loved, to deeply care for self.
Mothers come in many different shapes and sizes, and sometimes they come to us not through birth but through life circumstance, and those who “mother us,” raise us up, and nurture us may be older or younger than us and they may be women or men…or animals. The act of nurturing is not limited to one who brings us into the world, although having that essential first relationship in tact is wonderful. Yet it doesn’t guarantee that we will be emotionally balanced, loved throughout our lives or even happy.
I am very grateful for the mother who brought me into the world. She had strength of character, courage, strength, almost super-human powers at times, and vulnerability. Her given name was Mary, which has numerous meanings, two of which are “my beloved,” and “rebelliousness.” My mother wanted to be a rebel, but had the constraints of seven children, maintaining a household, limited resources, and the emotional inheritance she shared with women of her generation, which was that she had a particular place in society. Near the time of her death, she talked about this, about how she wished for more for herself, yet how thrilled she was that her daughters had the opportunities to accomplish that which she could not.
She also mused on how the tables had turned; once she had cared for us, and now we cared for her as she struggled with the aftermath of a stroke, with I might add, a great sense of dignity and her wicked Irish humor, which sustained her and all of us throughout her life and through her death. She loved that my two daughters, Claudia and Emily, would “nurse” her – bring her tea, read her poems, knit and crochet for her when she couldn’t move her hands, perform for her. It was lovely to witness, and it reinforced in me that mother is not just a noun or a name to call someone; it is a verb—for the act of caring, tending and nurturing another.
I have been so fortunate to have been mothered by many and to have mothered many, most particularly my daughters, who actually taught me how to be a mother, and they continue to do so every day.
I honor Mary, my sisters and sisters-in-law, mothers-in-law, my dear friend, Regina, my daughters, my husband, Peter (yes, men can mother! And some of them do it very well.) My puppiesJ and all of those throughout my life who gave me the opportunity to love and be loved, to nurture, and to grow.
Happy Mother’s Day.