“Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation”
-Robert A. Heinlein
A photo I took of a Mother’s Day project I worked on last year popped up in my social media feed this morning, prompting me to re-read my blog post on the concept of “second moms” that it accompanied. Taking a look back at this sentiment, I suddenly realized that I neglected to give a shout out in particular to a very distinct group of second moms. I’ll make it right this year by showing appreciation for a special but often overlooked category of mothers: those wonderful people in our lives who don’t have children of their own, but are nonetheless terrific at providing motherly guidance and support to anyone in need.
Someone close to me once coldly retorted to a suggestion I once made on good parenting by pointing out that I couldn’t possibly know what I was talking about due to the fact that I did not (yet) have children. I quickly recovered, saying that the issue at hand was really more about common sense, which is hardly exclusive to just parents, than it was about parenting. And that I would stand by my recommendation. But that dismissive exchange stayed with me for some time, with me often wondering if after I became a parent myself, would my response would have been any different. It felt demeaning to be so disregarded, as if magical fairy dust somehow is sprinkled on new mother’s brains once they bear children, and this in turn grants them superior thinking powers on how to handle young human beings. Years later and in the end I can quite confidently say no, if that same conversation had arisen after I became a mother myself, my helpful suggestion on that particular issue would not have changed. In the slightest, to be crystal clear.
A writer I very greatly admire, Anne Lamott once wrote about Mother’s Day that “The main thing that ever helped mothers was other people mothering them; a chain of mothering that keeps the whole shebang afloat. I am the woman I grew to be partly in spite of my mother, and partly because of the extraordinary love of her best friends, my own best friends’ mothers, and from surrogates, many of whom were not women at all but gay men…. And we are all mothers.” I think she is right. While I would concur that my feelings for my own daughter are unique to any other feelings I have for others because I am her mother, at the same time I don’t believe that she will only be best served or mentored by those adults who’ve experienced parenthood themselves. Motherhood is indeed an amazing experience, one that I am eternally grateful I did not miss- but it does not elevate me into any category that proves more loving, supportive or giving than those individuals I know who did not physically bring children into this world.
So while we get ready to celebrate Mother’s Day, I would like to think that those women out there without children who in spite of it have made a difference in the lives people such as their nieces, nephews, their friends children, and obviously their own mothers also feel celebrated this weekend in their own right. Let’s get it straight that the act of childbirth does not earn mothers any magical superpowers ( it definitely brings with it an excruciating kind of bodily pain that only a biological mother can know, but that’s a topic for a different kind of post). The bottom line is that the ability to have a positive, even parental impact upon kids is not exclusive to the procreative set. As this Mother’s Day quickly approaches, I’ll be thinking of all the wonderful folks I know who don’t have children, but whose presence and influence in young people’s lives is just as important and appreciated as that of anyone else, including their parents. And here’s hoping you’ll think of them too.
©2018 Lisa Ihnken All Rights Reserved, except where noted