As we approach Mother’s Day this year in the U.S., I am inspired to quote childfree icon, Gloria Steinem. Her 2016 Facebook post is right on:
I’ve been thinking about Mother’s Day, and why I and others, who are not mothers, identify with this day just as much as if we were.
Of course, it’s partly because we all owe our lives to our own mothers — which would be enough — but I think there is another reason. Even if we are not mothers, the noun, we may be mothering, the verb. Indeed, unless mothering is a verb, it is not an action in the world.
Think about it: As a noun, mother is limited to half the human race, and also to the accident of fertility and age and intention. In some societies, motherhood is honored only in women who are married, or who have sons. In most societies, a woman is more encouraged to give birth to another person than she is to give birth to herself.
As a noun, mother may be good or bad, willing or unwilling, on welfare or rich, worshipped or blamed, dominating or nurturing, accidental or chosen.
Perhaps that’s why the word mother is so much used in profanity; in war, as in “the Mother of All Bombs;” or by war-makers who honor Hero Mothers who give birth to soldiers.
But when mother is a verb – as in to be mothered and to mother — ah, then the very best of human possibilities come into our imaginations. And we are all able to mother, whatever our sex or our age or our abilities.
To mother is to care about the welfare of another person as much as one’s own.
To mother depends on empathy and thoughtfulness, noticing and caring.
To mother creates the only pairing in which the older and the younger, the stronger and the weaker, are perfectly matched.
It is also about free will. One can be forced to become a mother, but one cannot be forced to mother.
What Julia Ward Howe had in mind in 1870 when she invented Mother’s Day was a day on which we oppose war and advance peace. In other words, it was not Mother’s Day, but a Mothering Day.
It reminds us all, whether we are young or old, male or female, of the possibilities that lie within us and that we cherish in others.
I thank Julia. On this day and forever more, we will be reminded that peace is not just the absence of war. It is the presence of mothering.
And we thank you, Gloria Steinem, for this wisdom that deserves to be shared each year.