To the Childless Mother,
As Mother’s Day approaches, I always think of you. You know, because I have lusted after this day. I’m not sure what the exact circumstances are that have brought you to this place of childless, but I’m familiar with the pain (even though I have children today.) It is a pain that isn’t quickly forgotten.
I’m not sure about you, but I was born with a mother’s heart. From a very early age, I remember caring for my babies. Ensuring that things were just so… everybody was fed, fresh air in the park (yes, for dolls), diapers changed, pajamas securely fastened. In my five year-old mind those were the essentials of motherhood. I was nailing it.
Through my early teens, I grew to understand babysitting that many cries could be quelled with security blankets and hugs. Snuggles could be doled out as tears were wiped away. That a sense of safety and belonging went a long way in comforting a child that wanted something they couldn’t have at that moment.
By the time I was nineteen and a resident assistant for ten precocious freshman ladies, I realized that my mother’s heart would have to grow… I would have to grow. I practiced (and regularly failed) figuring out the line between enabling and caring. My mother’s heart broke as I watched mistakes get made and lessons being learned. It swelled with pride at accomplishments made that had previously been unimaginable.
After college, I took a hiatus from mothering. Honestly, I needed to mother myself. Sorting out what my purpose was, who I wanted to grow up to be, and what dreams I needed to chase.
Since becoming a mother, I’ve learned how love swallows you up whole. That building self-worth and self-esteem is my greatest responsibility. Teaching values and virtues to raise good humans. That my mother’s heart is a vocation and calling.
I see you, those with mother’s heart, but no children to call your own. It isn’t lost on me that you grind away mothering along side of me, but it is other’s children you are mothering. Mothering all the same. Toiling in a labor of love.
I see you doing the physical caring for children. The changing and feeding. The thankless job that never seems to end until your sweet charge no longer needs you.
You are advocating for children to our government and running businesses that deliver services that can be life changing for those who have small voices or no voice.
I find you in schools and on campus leading, teaching, and nurturing while parents aren’t there. You are trusted confidants to students that you serve. You are expanding horizons and encouraging students to launch themselves into a world that is uncertain and sometimes scary.
You are serving the under-served and the unseen. Walking into prisons and juvenile detention centers where men, women, boys, and girls found themselves, because they lacked the foundation they needed to find their way in a difficult world. You help them find their worth in a society who has deemed them lost causes.
I see you in the pulpit teaching values and virtues. You listen as His children try to find their way. You encourage them to do what is best, even when it isn’t easy. You minister in times of need, when a mother’s heart fills a void.
You are the amazing aunts, stepmothers, and friends that children need, because it take a village. Nobody mothers alone. You are filling in the mosaic of what womanhood can be for girls beyond the model their mothers set forth. I’m never going to scale Kilimanjaro, but I’m glad Littles can see that it is a possibility for her.
What I’m not so familiar with is what it feels like when someone compliments you by saying, “You are so wonderful with kids. You should really have your own.” For some I know it is physically impossible and the resources required to adopt or surrogate aren’t available. For others I see how life’s path didn’t lead in the direction you intended and any possibility is like a ticking countdown clock. I grieve with you, but I’m not very good at expressing it and for that I’m sorry.
As Mother’s Day approaches on Sunday, it is just as much yours as it is mine. Nobody is giving me the side-eye when I’m being celebrated, but nobody should be giving it to you either. I don’t think having a child is required to mother, but our children need all the mothers they can have.