With Mother’s Day upon us, let’s take a moment to celebrate all the maternal figures in our lives!
First of all, what does it mean to be a mother? There is no one right answer to that, but we as a society tend to make pretty strong associations between the word and a set of qualities and behaviors. So much so that “mothering” as a verb often isn’t about raising a child at all. It’s about engaging with love and affection. It’s about nurturing.
You can see those associations in the way positive mother figures are portrayed in media as well. Whether we’re talking about Carol Brady of The Brady Bunch, Morticia Addams from The Addams Family, or even Sarah Connor from the Terminator franchise, there are some common threads. Though personalities, lifestyles, and approaches to parenting are often quite different from one character to the next, they’re usually united in the care they take in guiding and supporting those around them.
Being a mother matters! Every sibling squabble they mediate, every hurt they soothe, every skill they teach makes a difference, now and in the future of their children. Research shows that love and affection are vital to the physical growth and development of a child. And children who grow up with warmth and affection don’t just have happier childhoods. They tend to more often flourish as adults as well. The compassionate, nurturing traits we associate with motherhood literally make a difference in every facet of our lives.
What none of this captures is how much work motherhood is. There’s no end to the emotional and physical labor required to raise a child, and it can get overwhelming at times, so if you’re a mother, don’t forget to give yourself some care too! Take time to yourself for a walk or a bubble bath, escape with a good book, or maybe reflect on your experiences through journaling. The care you give yourself is a gift to your family too, allowing you time to relax and reset so that you can engage with them the way you want to.
Lest anyone feel left out, it’s important to note that maternal figures aren’t always our biological or adoptive mothers either! People don’t stop needing the kind of engagement associated with motherhood just because their own mother doesn’t happen to be there. Luckily, these important traits we look for in a mother figure can show up all over the place. A grandmother, aunt, or older cousin who are very involved in a child’s life might come to mind. They could be a tutor or a teacher or a camp counselor providing a child with a supportive and safe environment to learn in. Perhaps they’re a nurse or caregiver who provides warmth and kindness that would otherwise be missing. They might be a social worker who has dedicated their career to being a desperately needed lifeline. Or maybe they’re the neighbor who goes out of the way to make everyone feel like they belong. These too can be maternal figures, wielding that same power to change the world for the better, one person at a time.
So, whatever role they play in your life, think of the mother figures in your life and consider letting them know the difference they’re making. And if you’re a mother, whether in letter or in spirit, know that you’re a vital fixture in our lives. Every time you inspire someone to reach a little farther, every time you teach someone a new skill, every time you make sure someone knows that they’re loved and cared for, you’re making the world a little bit better. Every day, but especially on Mother’s Day, that is worth celebrating.