Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day for Those Without Children

 As I celebrated Mother's Day at church yesterday, I really valued the service which had music and readings about all kinds of mothers--not just the type who have birthed or adopted children and raised them to adulthood.  In addition to the traditional motherhood role we all associate with Mother's Day, We celebrated mother earth, a spiritual mother, and the mother nurturing spirit inside all of us (men and women).

I am one of those women who could never have biological children. A variety of medical events and surgeries, when I was young, conspired to make sure I could never have children. At least I knew this for sure before I got married and never went through the trials and disappointments of trying to get pregnant.  Though I was sad not to have children, I always figured I would adopt. After all there are hundreds of thousands of children in the world who need a permanent family. I am the oldest of nine children and loved being part of a large family, so having a family (though not as large) was always a part of my plan.

Around age 26, I thought my then husband and I would begin the long and arduous adoption process. We had discussed it as a given since our marriage five years previously. Unfortunately, we  instead got divorced. Time passed, my career goals became my children, and when I married my current husband I was beyond the age of adopting babies or young children. In addition, my husband came with two teenaged sons.  I am fortunate that those two young men became a part of my life and that I had some small amount of mothering to invest--shared with their biological mother.  I am also doubly fortunate because the eldest son is now married and expecting a baby. This means I will actually get to be a grandmother. Something I never imagined would happen to me.

Even though I have been blessed, through marriage, to participate in some small way in the traditional mother and grandmother roles, I admit I still occasionally yearn to have been a "real" mother. I occasionally yearn to move across country and be a "real" grandmother--one who lives close enough that she can babysit regularly and be a part of the daily life of a growing child.  It's not that I am unable to move, it's that other needs/desires/economics trump that yearning to live near our grandchild and future grandchildren. Sometimes, when I look at the newspaper and see a child or a sibling group looking for a permanent home (particularly children around age 10-14) I often have a moment when I think. We could adopt these children. We could give them a loving home. Note, these are my personal thoughts, not my husband's who rightfully feels he has already raised children and is ready for a different stage in life.

I also realize that many women have not been as fortunate as I in marrying someone with a built in family to be part of, and that some of these women have a very difficult time with Mother's Day as they look back and yearn for that role.  In my church congregation I know of several women who have difficulty on Mother's Day. The celebration, no matter how open and encompassing, reignites that yearning for something that will never be.

I have not learned to stop the yearning, so I have no easy answer to help with that other than accept it is and will always be a part of my life. I think it is forever with you in some way, just like grief for someone who has died. It is, for me, a grieving for a life I will never know and wanted very much.

However, I have learned to accept that I am a mother in many ways beyond raising a child or being a part of the daily life of a child because I am a nurturer and I enjoy being a nurturer.  Through different times in my life, I have nurtured children in Sunday School. I have nurtured teenagers when I was a foster parent. I have nurtured young college students as a professor and an administrator. In addition to my wonderful step-sons, I continue to nurture friends and, in turn, their children whenever asked. My need to "mother" comes out every day in some way, and I have embraced it as my calling and a way to live my daily life without raising children or being near them all the time.

I believe that those of us who have that nurturing/mothering need inside of us (men as well as women) have always expressed it. We just can't help ourselves. We may not be aware of how it has manifested to help others, and we may not be aware of how it can help us to temper the yearning we may still have. I wish for all those who yearn to be mothers, for all those who are natural nurturers, that you find some peace in the gifts you have and in sharing them in whatever way you can. You are a mother in the true sense of the word. You are a person who nurtures.

Outside of raising children, how have you been a mother in your life?

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