Monday, May 11, 2020


From bottom left, clockwise:

for those mourning their mama
for trans mamas
for those who have painful relationships with their moms
for mamas who have lost a child
for stand in mamas
for mamas of fur babies
for teachers who love their students as kids
for bonus step moms
for moms
for first time mamas

In the past decade or two, on Mother's Day and all through the year, our culture has spoken out more often about the different kinds of mothering.

Of course, it's been that way all along. Throughout history, women have found room in their hearts and at their supper tables for children not of their own bodies, and that has always been a beautiful part of life. 

But these days we are talking about it more often, and making a point to be thoughtful and inclusive enough to recognize and celebrate women who mother in the broader sense of the word. 

I am for that. I am 100% behind anything and everything we can do to inscribe value to this incredible art of creation and nurture that we call mothering. 

My only concern is that by lifting up the different kinds of mothering, we may inadvertently suggest that mothers are one or the other, compartmentalized as bio mom, foster mom, pet mom, and so on. 

The truth is much more subtle and interesting than that. 

Take me, for example. 

First and foremost, I call myself a bio mom, and I consider it the biggest blessing and privilege of my life to have raised four daughters bred from my bone. And let's be honest, that blood connection matters. 

A couple years ago, when I met my new brother-from-another-mother, a secret sibling who had grown up knowing he was adopted, he told me in no uncertain terms that as much as he loved his real (adoptive) parents and sister, he craved that blood connection. And when his first child was born, he felt incredible joy in the knowledge that finally, on this earth, he knew of someone who shared his blood. 

I'm not a foster mom or an adoptive mom, but I've had a long line and a steady stream of young people passing into my house and through my life who I have mothered. My daughter's friends. My students. My Girl Scouts. My youth group kids.  And let's not even get started on all the toddlers who have wandered into my life and stayed around to play and eat popsicles at my house. 

I mother adults too, though I don't like to say it that way. People who struggle with grief, anxiety, depression, addiction. With a bad break-up or a career crisis. With kids who are running amok. People who need someone to sit down, shut up, and listen without passing any judgment or parceling out unwanted advice. I prefer to call that friendship, but it really is a form of motherly nurturing and care. 

I mother with wild abandon my dogs. Interestingly, I never think of them as my children but I definitely see that I mother them, each one my darling and special red-headed mischief-making only, and I have loved each one of them with my whole heart.   

In a mind-bending reversal of roles, I mothered my mother on her journey through Lewy Body Dementia. Another example of how mothering does not imply an adult-child relationship; instead it speaks to nurture and care. I mothered my mother fiercely. 

And sometimes, I find that I need to mother myself. 

You see my point? 

Most women are more than just this type of mom or that type of mom. We all pour fourth many kinds of mothering not just over our lifetimes but on any given day, because that's just how we roll. 

We are not, as the image suggests, individual flowers in the garden of mothering. 

Each one of us is the whole darn bouquet.

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My latest thoughts on mothers and mothering:

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