I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it means to be a mother—what exactly it is that makes one a mom. Technically speaking, a mother is “a female parent.”1 But I think we can all affirm that a mother is much more than that narrow definition. At the core, mothering is about nurturing. When you nurture or provide for the baby you just birthed, the baby someone else birthed but you are raising, or a baby who isn’t even yours at all, you are acting as a mother.
The Influential Mothers in My Life
In my life, I look back with such gratitude at all the women who have “mothered” me. First, I look to my own sweet Momma, who worked a stressful job and taught me the value of work, who provided so much and encouraged me that I truly could be or do anything I wanted to do. Then there was my mom’s mom, my Nan, who moved in with us when I was in kindergarten. She did most of the cooking at my house, and to this day I’ve never tasted better biscuits than hers. She didn’t have more than an elementary school education, and she never learned how to drive, but from her I learned the value of hard work. Hers was also the room I’d sneak into at night if I got scared. We’d talk and count cars driving by until I fell back asleep. She was a great mom to me, too. And also, my Maymee, my dad’s mom—I always wanted to be like her when I grew up. She was smart, she read a lot; she thought deep thoughts. We had some of the most impactful conversations of my life. Then there are my aunts—my parents’ sisters. One of them taught me Sunday School. One of them bought me frilly dresses. One of them taught me a love of jazz and through her I first learned about the city of New Orleans. In my college years, Heather, who worked with the Wesley Foundation, had coffee regularly with a freshman (me) trying to figure out her faith and how it impacted her life. This woman, who didn’t have biological kids, is a mom too—she nurtured my soul. When looking at this list of influential ladies, only one of them gave birth to me, but all of them “mothered” me.
The Mothers in My Daughter’s Life
Then I think on my own daughter’s life, and recognize all the women who play a role in her life. She has loving and doting grandmothers and aunts, for sure. Her godmother, Rachel, doesn’t have to, but she takes a keen interest in Elizabeth’s education, her fashion choices, the books she’s reading. Then there is Mary, who babysits both our kids regularly, but who connects with Elizabeth by bringing a treat of frozen yogurt. Joan is in our small group and prays consistently and fervently for everything from our daughter’s sleeping habits to her salvation (The sleeping habits have drastically improved from Joan’s prayers; I can only hope the same for her salvation!). These women aren’t bound or required to do these things for my girl—they are not her mother, or even biologically related. Two of them are single ladies who choose to give of their free time and efforts to pour into my daughter’s life. The other has made a commitment always to care for my girl—to help lead in her mental and spiritual formation. I am so thankful for these women and for the gift they are to my daughter and my family.
With Mother’s Day approaching, I honor the women who have helped shape my life in so many ways and those who are shaping my daughter’s life. I wouldn’t be the woman I am or have the breadth of life experience I’ve been given without these Moms of mine.
And so, if motherhood is more than birthing babies, and if mothering is more than a biological relationship to a child; if it is a heart of loving and caring and nurturing another human, I must ask myself, who in my life I can mother. Obviously, my two little wiggles fall into that category. But who else? Are there ladies who would benefit from my time and encouragement? Are there friends who I could and should be nurturing or encouraging? I am praying that I could be (that you could be, too) a woman, the likes of whom Paul was encouraging in Titus 2, to pour into younger women. We’ve been given these gifts of nurturing, of caring, of encouraging, let’s use them!
. . . and don’t forget to call your mother(s) this weekend.