Redefining Mother’s Day to honor all the special women in our lives…and ourselves.
As a young child, I was not in the habit of questioning what I was told to do. So when my mother told me to visit a neighbor who was widowed, had no children, and lived alone, I simply went. Over time, stopping by to see Mrs. Gerardi became something I did on my own, without having to be asked. I remember few details of those visits, but what comes to me most vividly was the way I felt when I was with her. Wrapped in the radiance of her smile and maternal love, I felt like I was the only person on earth who mattered. That feeling kept me coming back for years until after I graduated from college, when Mrs. Gerardi, then 96, passed away. But for the time that we had each other, Mrs. Gerardi and I—a childless older woman and a young girl—had mothered each other.
In her book, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution (W. W. Norton and Company, 1995), Adrienne Rich tells us: “The ‘childless woman’ and the ‘mother’ are a false polarity…There are no such simple categories…in the original matriarchal clan all females, of whatever age, were called ‘mothers’—even little girls. Women…were sisters to one another and mothers to all the children of the community without regard to which individual mother bore any child.”
Mothering is not just what women do…it’s who we are. Yet in our culture, the Mother’s Day holiday, with its emphasis on having children within traditional families, limits the breadth of what this holiday can truly mean. We all know that biology does not a mother make, and in fact, some of the most maternal women we know may not have children at all. Any woman who makes the choice to open her heart, to care and to nurture, is tapping into that spirit. Women mother, naturally and generously, and this extends not only to their children, but to the children of others, as well. Women mother projects, co-workers, their community, their friends, their pets, even plants.
Often women who are struggling to have families will cringe when mothering is mentioned in this context, claiming that these things are poor substitutions for having children of their own. But maybe the point is not that these things are replacements for children, but are instead other avenues for women to grow and express this mother within. For us to chop up and minimize such an essential part of ourselves, and judge pieces as not being acceptable or good enough, is devastating. Perhaps, the time has come for us to reclaim the wholeness of a mother’s heart, and the myriad of miraculous ways that exist for its expression. Mother’s Day provides the perfect opportunity to do just that.
Creating New Rituals
What do you think of when you think of Mother’s Day? Cards? Flowers? A special church service? Advertisements depicting the “perfect mother” in the midst of a loving family? There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, but the spirit of the day can be so much more than that. Begin by looking around you and noticing how this generous life-giving spirit shows up in your world, even in the smallest of ways. See Mother’s Day as a day to celebrate this expanded view of yourself, as well as your connectedness to all women.