By Ingrid Clark
There was a time in my life when I viewed Mother’s Day as just another over-commercialised event on the calendar. Not that I ever felt my Mum wasn’t worth celebrating; on the contrary – my Mum is the rock star of all mums, and all 5 of her children agree. What I mean is, I felt it shouldn’t be necessary for us to have to be told to celebrate our mums and to let them know they’re appreciated. I’d like to think that Mum felt this on some of the remaining 364 days of the year.
However, now that I’m a mother myself, I realise amid the full-time job of parenting that it is nice to have a day where mothers are told how much they’re appreciated; when they perhaps get a bit of pampering (even if it means toast crumbs in the bed – eeew!), and where society as a whole jumps on board. It’s really sweet to see the kids do their own shopping at the school Mother’s Day stall, especially when they can’t wait beyond the school bell on the Friday afternoon to present you with their gift! Sure, it might not be what you’d have chosen for yourself … but for me, this is a time when it’s definitely ‘the thought that counts’!
I could go on and on about how celebrating Mother’s Day is actually a healthy lesson for our children to learn to acknowledge what others do for them, to verbalise their gratitude and love for another person, etc., but I actually want to digress a little.
Years ago, I read a quote: ‘Being a mother is to have your heart walk around outside your body’. It was before I had children myself, but it resonated with me nonetheless. I thought it was possibly the best way to describe the intensity of the love a mother feels towards her child. A few years later I had my first baby and that quote popped back into my head. As it did, my heart felt like it would explode out of my chest. It was indeed the closest words could come to describing what I felt.
Yet, that doesn’t always mean that being a mother is full of such ‘lovey-dovey’ feelings and words. Those little people who steal our hearts don’t just walk around with them; they also have the capacity to stomp on them at times, and boy does THAT hurt! But you know what? That can only happen because of how much we love them. If we didn’t care, it wouldn’t hurt. And it makes sense, doesn’t it? We’ve grown these little babies inside us, birthed them, fed them, changed them, rocked them, comforted them, taught them … the list goes on. And that’s natural; it’s what mothers are supposed to do. We love them sacrificially. We constantly put our children before ourselves, even whilst trying to teach them independence as they grow and mature.
Except sometimes, a mother isn’t able to be a mother to her baby, and someone else takes on that role. It may be someone who’s had her own biological children and adopts another. It may be a single mum who has foster children. And it can be anything in between. This is next-level sacrificial love. To unconditionally love your baby comes naturally to most – they are your own “flesh and blood”, hopefully a product of love, and when we give birth there’s a wondrous cascade of hormones that helps us to bond, love and protect our babies. To choose to unconditionally love a child that you haven’t birthed is simply amazing.
These reflections got me thinking. There are all sorts of motherly figures in our lives. It may not be someone who actually fed, clothed and raised us; it could be someone in more of a mentor role. And it may only be for a particular season of your life. I think when we think of the word “mother”, we most often think of a woman with a newborn babe in arms. When Mother’s Day rolls around each year, mothers are spoiled and celebrated. And although there is that aspect of overdone commercialism that makes me cringe, I actually love the whole idea of intentionally celebrating mums for all that they do.
Yet there are mums out there who get overlooked, because they don’t have ‘children’, as such. This day can be a lonely one for many; for those battling infertility, for those who are single & childless, for those whose children have passed away. I guess I just want to acknowledge mothers everywhere, including those who don’t ‘fit’ the traditional mother description. If there’s someone in your life who is like a mother to you, make sure you celebrate them. Maybe with something from the school Mother’s Day stall … or maybe not!
Jen is a midwife with almost 20 years experience in a Sydney birthing unit. She now lives & works on the Central Coast, supporting new mothers as they transition into motherhood.
Ingrid is a birth & postpartum doula, living and working on the beautiful NSW Central Coast.