This morning my darlin’ husband woke me up singing, “Happy You-Would-Have-Made-A-Great-Mother Day!” I was gifted with coffee in bed, peonies, and Godiva chocolates. Since I achieved motherhood in a non-biological way, his celebration got me thinking.
My mother did not have a clue about how to be a mother, which makes sense because her own mother did not have a clue either. I knew from an early age that I did not want to be a mother.
Yet I have been mothered throughout my life. My older sister, Becky, came out of the womb knowing there was a mothering vacuum in the family. She has been the mother of us all, parents included, ever since.
Mrs. Lastor (4th grade), Mrs. Olson (7th grade), and Mrs. Shuford (12th grade) were my three very special English teachers/achievement mothers. They saw what was special about me and helped me shine in ways that were truly my own.
My boyfriends would have been good mothers. They mothered critters, children, and me; and they could all cook. These generous mother birds fed me the choicest morsels, and my deep hunger grew less.
I had to seek out a wise-woman mother to teach me the things my parents could not. Without her guidance and tough love I would not have made it.
My husband, David, can’t help but mother me, but I have finally evolved enough to mother him back. That makes us partners, rather than co-dependents. Lovely.
BECOMING A MOTHER
I was shocked with the strange, deep-in-the-belly love I had for Melitta, the Maine Coon Cat. I did not know about oxytocin then, the hormone that is triggered with breast-feeding (and with other acts of mothering). We mothered each other. Every time Melitta and I shared a glance of love I marveled at the wonderful feeling. Later, I adopted my own cats and dogs and discovered that I too could be a mother. Today, I am also step-mother to a ready-made, 29-year-old son.
When I became my parents’ caregiver, I began to understand the real sacrifice that goes into the act of mothering. It took great physical tolls, but I evolved into a better person. Caregiving taught me how to love selflessly at the human level. Those who are actual mothers learn this from the first moment they hold their babies in their arms. I was lucky to learn it in my 50′s.
I witness the exhaustion of mothers of both sexes with babies, teenagers, and grown children. The bonds they share with their birth children are unique and at a level I will never know. They will always be mothers.
I believe I would have been a great mother, but not until I had reached my early 50′s. So that is a road not taken.
Now that both parents are gone, my siblings and I struggle for equilibrium. Throughout life, we formed a common front as protection from bad parenting. With the passing of our parents, our relationships wobble. We no longer have a common mission. Perhaps we need to give each other more than mothering at this stage. At age 58, I struggle to understand my extended family and challenge myself to grow yet again.
EMPATHY FOR ALL MOTHERS
I have been thinking about the ways that I responded to my parents mistakes. I withheld myself as a form of self-protection and a way to punish. There were five years when I did not speak to either parent. That only ended when I showed up to become their caregiver. I am profoundly grateful that we found our way to a peaceful and loving relationship before they died.
Ironically, it is only now, two years after Mom’s death, that I finally recognize the great hurt I caused my parents. I had my justifications, but that does not diminish the hurt. My mother also evolved into a good mother in her later years. Even in death, we still experience her loving care.
Maybe the human condition is that we never get to a final point of evolution. I learned from my parents mistakes and their love–and they from mine.
YOU CAN BE A MOTHER AT ANY AGE
For all of us who missed motherhood, it is not too late. The world may have been saved from the awful parents we would have been in our twenties. We might make absolutely fantastic mothers at this stage.
My men, David and Malcolm, are taking me on a picnic today to celebrate, “You-Would-Have-Made-A-Great-Mother Day.” If no one takes you out for a picnic, take yourself out. Then, go feed the birds and think about how you get your inner mother on. No life should be without it.
Salutations to mothers everywhere. We would not be here without you.