Thoughts on Mother's Day
What Legacy Will You Leave?
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2023 updated edition, originally printed on Abltylife.com in 2022.
Am I a mom?
The obvious answer is no. I don't have a child, biological or otherwise. I don't know the elation and exhaustion that motherhood brings. Nor have I ever tried to find out.
But when I started searching for the definition of mother, I found this:
"To act as a mother to, as in nourishing and protecting."
For sixteen years, I gave my heart and talents to thousands of teens. I had my shirt soaked with tears. I baked cookies and bought lunches. I cheered at their successes and cried at their failures. I had my hand held as they faced scary challenges. I was lovingly pranked and surprised by birthday parties. I almost beat up a subway station agent for putting his hand on one of my "kids." I was called "Momma."
No, Skye. You were a teacher.
Yeah, but. I spent 16 years doing more than reciting facts and giving tests. I spent 16 years helping children become their own, brilliant persons. Is that "just a teacher"?
There are legions of women who love hugely and fiercely in their own unique ways
If I tell you that the love I give to my dogs is maternal, "as in nourishing and protecting," will you roll your eyes or nod along? The stages of grief I went through at the loss of Winston (my Corgi) were more intense than I ever imagined they'd be. Do you understand that pain, or do you consider me overreactive? If I tell you I'd willingly sustain any level of injury to keep Lincoln & Navi safe, am I ridiculous or reasonable?
"Deep down, I think every woman has the urge to be a mother." -My colleague, years ago.
I don't think that's true. I know many women happily content in their decision to remain child-free. I know women like myself, who aren't opposed to being a mom but who have given their deep, deep love in alternative ways.
Please don’t tell me I “can’t understand because I’m not a mother.” Please don’t reduce my experiences or capacity of feeling in that way. Those kind of dismissive, exclusionary statements do nothing to recognize one another’s humanity.
I know the bond of a mother to her child is unique and precious. But I also know my heart has the capacity for real, deep, pure love. I recognize the beautiful love of mother and child. But I also recognize the brilliant ability of all hearts to care. To suffer. To connect.
I can’t understand. I’m not a mother. But I know my own heart nonetheless. And there are legions of women who love hugely and fiercely in their own unique ways. I don’t live their experiences, either. But I see them as well.
Becoming a parent is a way of ensuring your legacy. Raising a child gives you the responsibility of impressing upon them all you’ve learned, and guiding them to be the best people they can be. I think it’s normal to hope that children turn out a little like you, only improved. Your second chance at loving who you are. Your opportunity to encourage someone to be their best self.
But legacy happens in many ways. If I never give birth in this life, I won't worry about legacy. I know I've made an impression on the next generation. I know I nourished and protected. I know I still do. My work, my life, is about lighting up others and helping them shine.
So, am I a Mom?
No. I'm not. But not wearing that title doesn't diminish my impact on this world.
I give my admiration and love to all the moms who are raising families and working on their personal goals and aspirations all at once. Balancing self-care and care for others is hard for everyone; when that's a 24/7 situation, the magnification is enormous.
Admiration and love, too, to the women who have chosen a different path. Your struggles are great and worthy, too.
Love to the women who have lost their moms. The sacred bond of mom and daughter works both ways, and I know your hearts hurt today in a special way.
Shoot, while I’m at it, love to the women who have lost their grandmothers. Talk about legacy—both of my grandmothers left a huge impact on me. They have been gone a long time, and I still talk to them constantly.
And, special love to the legion of women who are longing to become a mother. That journey can be hard as hell. I see you, love. I know you're hurting. I know you want in profound, unspeakable way—a way that, yes, I do not understand but I respect and recognize. Your impact on this world is still full of limitless potential.
Hug your mom if you can. Leave the world a brighter place because you can.