Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart


mothers by any other name

penguin motheringBy now, I’m sure most of America has heard of the two daddy penguins, Roy & Silo, who loved each other and raised little Tango. Who was, just FYI, no blood kin.

And that’s today’s post: mothering beyond biology. Because I have many friends (& family) who feel bruised, ignored, and downright out-of-the-club because they don’t have children. Some of these — men & women alike — have chosen not to have children, for various (highly personal) reasons. Others don’t have children for medical reasons. And a few have biological children whom they gave up for adoption into more stable family units (and what a gift is THAT!).

What my friends & family all have in common is society’s ignorance and cluelessness. Maybe the two are the same…

So this is a heartfelt paean to the many people I know who mother. My sister Jaynie, who mothers her sisters & friends with incomparable love and affection. My friend Dewayne, who ‘mothers’ his students, his mentees, and his friends, is another. My friend Betty Ann, who is a mother to her husband, her many friends (who adore her), and various animals passing through. My friend Ione, who mothered me like the daughter she lost to a hit&run driver.

I have so many friends who are slighted, even hurt, by their childless status. Not because they necessarily feel inadequate, but because for women, the culture at large EXPECTS you to reproduce. Period. And to not do so — even in this supposedly ‘post-feminist’ age — is to be, somehow, odd.

And yes, I KNOW this. Because many years ago, I was trying to get pregnant with no success. People would ask: why don’t you have children? Don’t you like them? What’s the problem? No, it wasn’t any of their business. But they STILL felt like it was okay to ask. Why, I’m not sure. It hurt badly enough I wasn’t able to support my dearest friend in her own pregnancy — just couldn’t go there.

There are also those of us whose mothers don’t even recognise us — Alzheimer’s makes Mother’s Day a mindfield for many. Or those of who are unhappily fostered, whose mothers aren’t in our lives in any good way. In other words? Mother’s Day is NOT a happy day for many many of my friends & family.

In the animal kingdom, all kinds of ‘mothers’ exist: seahorse fathers carry the eggs, and take care of the hatchlings. Elephants have aunts (my own helped raise me). Penguin fathers will raise an egg from an unknown donor. And don’t forget cuckoo chicks.

elephant family

via Wkipedia

So just in case you’re unintentionally clueless, pay attention! Having children is great — I adore my own. But it is NOT the only thing in life, and it shouldn’t define any one. There are very good reasons — not anyone else’s business!! — that couples may decide against children. Teachers often do — they mother their students. Gay couples often aren’t allowed to adopt. And then there are the many who can’t have children: do you really want to hurt anyone’s feelings, folks?

So on this day-after Mother’s Day, here’s to my dear friends & wonderful family who don’t have children: you mother me, you mother so many of us. And there is nothing more important than your kindness. Period.



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