Mother. [ˈmə-thər] Noun. Etymology: Middle English moder, from Old English mōdor; akin to Old High German muoter mother, Latin mater, Greek mētēr, Sanskrit mātṛ. Date: before 12th century
1 a : a female parent b (1) : a woman in authority; specifically : the superior of a religious community of women (2) : an old or elderly woman 2 : source, origin 3 : maternal tenderness or affection
Merriam Webster Dictionary Online, 2010.
This is our working definition of mother, the one we just know, the one we've known from birth when we looked up into that sweet loving face smiling down at us. No matter who raised us, we looked up to her: we called her Mother. For some, Mother was never a figure in our lives. She might be a memory, a photograph, or a story told to us by others. But always, always this connection to somewhere or someone: Mother.
In my video, I posed the question: what if I redefine what it means to be woman, mother, family? Even in my blog header, I proclaim that I'm redefining womanhood. I no longer define my womanhood by my fertility. While pregnancy is an experience for which I mourn and sometimes long, it is no longer a defining experience of womanhood to me. I've resolved to let my experiences and my history define me.
This Mother's Day, I want to redefine motherhood. So how do we redefine motherhood? I may not be able to compete with Webster's dictionary, but I can certainly do my best to work on a cultural shift.
Motherhood isn't just an act of procreation. My uterus may not have borne children, but it shall bear ideas, voices, action. Motherhood is an act of love, of selfless love at that. Motherhood is an act of sacrifice: whether it's the pain of labor and delivery to the sheer act of giving a part of our heart to another. And that's different from the giving of our hearts to our lifelong companions. Motherhood is sacrificing that bit of ourselves, that bit of our hearts, for another. It is more than just loving affection. Motherhood is about fighting and dying for those we love, the primal lioness who protects her cubs.
And our cubs: they may be borne of us or another. They may yet be born in our hearts. They may indeed be furry friends. They may in fact, be our friends.
This week, as we approach Mother's Day on Sunday, I want to write and explore this idea more, this idea of what it means to be a mother. I know this is a very hard time of the year for many of us. I'm hoping this week as I tease this all out more, that we find strength together, that we channel our fears and worries and dread of this holiday into something positive, into action and renewal.