It’s Mother’s Day. Naturally I’ve been thinking about my mom. She passed away a long time ago when I was barely 30. I had just had my second child. My oldest was not yet three. My mom did not see her 70th birthday.
I think my mom was beautiful. She did good things in her life, but she was not perfect. Few of us are. She faltered here and there as a daughter, wife and mother. But, she gave me many gifts in childhood and adulthood. She sewed fairy wings and fairy shoes for me so I could dance through the woods. She read me fantastic books while cuddled in bed drinking not one, but TWO cups of hot chocolate. She held me when I cried. Cared for me when I was sick. Later on in life she helped me pick out my wedding dress and babysat my infant daughter when I had to go back to work.
On Mother’s Day I also think about myself as a young mother, without my mother by my side. There were times when I needed her, wanted her. When I wished more than anything she could be by my side.
As I look back now I realize that my being what I hope was a “good” mother was the direct result of my “community”. All the people in my life, including my mother, and father, who directly influenced who I was and who I would become as a mother. My husband also played a role in who I would be as a mother. His love, patience and support allowed me to grow, as well as to be fragile, knowing he was there to support my stumblings.
I had a biological mother, and biological grandmothers (only one was living when I was a child), but there were many other women who showed me what it was to be a mother.
For most women, it is a miracle of sorts, that some switch clicks on when we give birth. We become, in many ways a new, different person. Holding a small, fragile, totally dependent bundle of life in your arms is humbling. And terrifying. There is a huge sense of responsibility and protectiveness. And a lot of praying that we will do well by this small child, be able to nurture and love him/her so they will grow into healthy, happy adults.
Communities, of all kinds support mothers. There is the Family Community. The Religious/Spiritual Community. The Neighborhood Community. The Health Care Community (OBGYN, pre-natal, post natal, pediatric). The School Community. The Friends Community. One type of community after another that influences, supports, guides or breaks and demoralizes mothers.
Girls, women raised in stable, safe, educated,economically sound households often have the benefit of many of these healthy communities and grow up to be nurturing mothers. Girls, women raised in poverty, or suffering abuse, with little or no medical or emotional support and often no social support, often struggle to provide physical, emotional, financial support their children need and deserve. When they are able to succeed, the effort is unimaginably more difficult that most of us reading this can understand.
We know the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” I would suggest it also takes a village to raise a mother.
Let’s look around where we live, and in neighboring communities different from our own and see how we’re doing. Let’s begin to make Mother’s Day about more than cards and flowers and reach out to young, struggling, poor, abused mothers who are trying to break the cycle they were born into and trying so hard to be healthy mothers who can provide for their children on so many levels. Let’s address poverty, homelessness, addiction, abuse, lack of education, joblessness and be a mother to these mothers who need us. Let’s put the card in the mail for our mom, and a donation in the mail for a women’s shelter, a teen mother program, a teen pregnancy program.
I know how lucky I am to live the life I am living. I know how lucky I am to have two beautiful children who are healthy, happy, thoughtful, educated, employed, loving and generous. I know how much the people in my life including not only my mother, but many, many other people nurtured and guided me so I could be a good mother.
And I know what it looks like for a mother not to have those things. To be holding a crying, hungry, sick, homeless child. To have very little support or hope. As a mother I want to do better for these girls and women. For their children. We don’t have to have a biological connection to help someone, to love someone. We don’t have to only offer motherly love and support to those in our immediate family. We can make a difference. So, I challenge all of you, on this Mother’s Day, whether you are male or female, mother or not, to make a difference in the life of a mother who is struggling.
Walking the walk: it’s 12:50 p.m. and I just made my donation.
Find organizations that help mothers of all ages and backgrounds in your community to support, or look here: