On Friday night, when I was driving home from the grocery store, I noticed that the gas station on the corner had set up two tents, which were filled with flowers and balloons. At first I was confused, but then I realized, of course: Mother's Day.
We know how tricky this holiday is, for motherless children, for childless mothers, for the bereaved. And honestly, though I love the homemade cards from my children, I don't like the pressure to buy balloons and flowers and candy. I am uncomfortable with the iconography of motherhood that Hallmark offers up, even for those among us who had perfect pregnancies and exactly the number of children we wanted and managed to strike a perfect work/life balance and have fabulous relationships with our own--still living--mothers.
Like I've done in most years past, I'm choosing to celebrate Mother's Day (misplaced apostrophe and all) by celebrating my own Other Mothers, some of whom have no biological children of their own, but who have been mothers to me when I've needed them most. And I've needed a lot of mothering lately.
Here are the Other Mothers I'm honoring in my heart today:
J., who came when it felt like the walls were finally closing in; helped me to find a door; and may--though I haven't yet asked her--even let me and my daughter adopt her. Whose arms and heart are so open.
The other J., who invited me to be part of a group of amazing and inspiring women, who checks in on me periodically, despite the shitstorm in her own life. Who has given me the gift of her own vulnerability as a parent. Who is really an astonishingly strong and powerful mother.
Mel, who has been my patient blogging and writing mother, though I am a recalcitrant blogging child.
Lori, my wise mother-across-the-country, the one who reminds me to listen to myself, who always knows exactly the right thoughtful, thought-provoking, reassuring but also daring thing to say.
AmarJyothi, who teaches me, each time I am on the mat in her class, how to mother myself.
C., who reminds me how to be the mother I want to be.
N., who brought me tea and chocolate and made me rest during the worst of my pregnancy losses, who can no longer look across the driveway into my window, but still mothers me from the West Coast, and pokes me to go to bed, via Facebook.
E., who was my first professional mother, who taught me, by example, that the most important thing about working was protecting your integrity. Whose voice I still hear when I doubt my decision to leave my last position.
There have been others along the way. But today, I wanted to say thank you, for giving so generously of yourself, for mothering someone who shares no biology with you. Because really, in the end, that's not what motherhood is about at its core, is it. It's about the unselfish gift, of life, of love, even when the giving is not easy.
And to those of you who do this for other people, whether you are mothers to your own children or not, consider yourself hugged today.
Who are your Other Mothers?