Today is Mother’s Day and we are in the middle of International Women’s Month, which is not only perfect timing, but also a particularly great way to honor women and mothers. But people come in all glorious shapes, colors and sizes, and relationships do too. Mums have changed and grown as we have evolved our concepts of what constitutes a family, and now all mums, biological or chosen – human baby or fur – physically in our lives or spiritually in our hearts – get a space on the celebration stage.
Every Mother’s Day I get a bit nostalgic about my mum. She died when I was a kid, and I’ve never really written much about her at all. I even struggled to write this blog to be honest, but not because it is too painful anymore, but because writing about a relationship dynamic that I have not personally experienced could feel sad and out of place on a day that is set aside for celebration. For me, Mother’s Day tends to fall somewhere between the joy of remembering my mum and the sadness of not having her with me to celebrate.
But then I started thinking about motherhood as a concept of unabridged love, and about the amazing army of warrior women who gallantly and selflessly stepped into my mum’s shoes to guide and love me in her absence. Mother’s Day is a chance for me to celebrate these women, whose love and support created a much brighter future for me, and a much better man of me. While they might not be my biological mums, these women were crucial in defining my sense of identity and self-worth, and in helping me create a life that she would have been proud of. For me, Mother’s Day is a chance for my Mum and I to celebrate these women together.
We have complex relationships with our parents growing up. I’d love to say that mine was a shining example of what a mother and her child should be, but the truth is I am a lot like my mum: stubborn, sarcastic and confrontational, but kind and strong and resilient. I imagine the two of us in the same house were sometimes a handful, but I wonder if she created herself in me because she knew I would need her when she was gone.
Although my mum died 30 years ago, she is still the confidence in my step when I walk on uncertain ground, the calmness in my breath when I struggle with my own emotions, and the hope in my heart when I feel lost and defeated. She has taught me, over all these years, that Mums never really leave their kids.
My friends always tell me that becoming a mother themselves gave them a greater understanding of their own mums and of the challenges all mothers face. I remember my mum yelling, “You’ll understand one day!” at my sisters when they were pushing their luck with parties and curfews. It wasn’t until they had children of their own that they lived through the same struggles of celebrating the growing independence of their children while trying to hold on to the baby years. They learned about the uneasy emptiness of a home when their children were away in school and out of their protection, and they understood more clearly than ever that “smother mother” was just a woman trying to anchor her children’s heart to her own.
Outside of the general boundaries of “try not to kill your kids”, parenting is somewhat amorphous, and so are our experiences of it. My own life has shown me that motherhood is more than the relationship between a woman and her child; it’s a state of heart – an instinctive commitment from one life force to nurture, develop and protect another. I have seen the same selfless instinct in a best friend whose children are her dogs, and in others who love and protect their stepchildren like they are their biological own. I was once a kid in crisis, and the women who stood between me and my uncertain future became part of my mum’s army - they all became my mothers. Driven by instinct when faced with something or someone in need, women become mothers in an instant. With a reach of her arm or a text to check on my wellbeing, your mum momentarily becomes my own!
I’m blessed to work with two of my best friends, Fiona and Maria, both of whom are living their experiences of motherhood in different ways.
Fi is the mother of fur-babies. She’s a terrible Foster Mum! She’s just terrible at it! Her instinct to save and protect is strong, so dogs come into her house and they never leave. It’s one of the most profoundly beautiful things about her. Thankfully her house is as big as her heart, so it’s likely we will see more family additions eventually.
Earlier this year though, Fi lost her dog Elton. He was 14 years old and as much a part of her soul as any child would be to their mum. Every morning, Fi would wake up early and cook Elton and his brothers and sisters fresh chicken for breakfast. I love watching her cooking breakfast for her family. Elton’s life, like his personality, was legendary! Seeing Fi care for her fur babies in such a selfless way has always been incredibly beautiful to me. Her instincts to protect them, to love and nurture them, to make sure they are safe, and their lives are filled with joy is as strong as I have seen with any human baby mum I know. Incidentally, this is also how she takes care of me!
As Elton got older and it became clear his health was that of an older chap, I watched Fiona rise up resiliently to every challenge, even when it was time to let him go. Although she has chosen to not have human children of her own, her mother instincts are one of the most innately strong and beautiful things about her. On Mother’s Day (and every day), I celebrate my friend Fi for the incredible mum she is!
Maria has two young children creating memories right now that are packaged in beautiful chaos. She has always been one of the most glamorous women I know. Not in an ostentatious way - she is just naturally fabulous! I mention this because watching her walk her own path through motherhood without giving up on her innate sense of self has been incredibly powerful. It’s something I saw in my sisters too when they started their journey as mums.
Mothers need to be strong to protect their children, but also to protect themselves and their self-identity. While I am sure she will tell me there were weeks when she couldn’t even wash her hair, Maria’s identity, resilience and ability to navigate her way through chaos has never faltered. Occasionally they were just below the surface, as any mother will admit to, but her connection to self is never far away from who she is in the moment. Maria the mother is not so far from Maria the fabulous friend, and the message to her children is clear: be powerful - be strong - be who you are.
It’s been wonderful to watch Maria evolve into motherhood. Seeing my friend embrace and evolve instincts that I never saw before – ones even she possibly never saw before – has been a lesson to me in the resilience of all women. In many ways, I feel like I am not just witnessing the birth and development of Maria’s children, but also the birth and development of Maria herself. She has taken the experience of motherhood and has become a more powerful woman from it. On Mother’s Day (and every day), I celebrate my friend Maria for the incredible mum she is!
And that’s really what we are celebrating on Mother’s Day: the power and resilience of a woman who shines her entire light selflessly onto the journey of her family, because Mothers are created in the moment they become another heartbeat’s everything, just as the mother in you has already done or will someday do, and the mother to you has been doing for your whole life.
Motherhood is a warrior instinct; it is mad journey into unknown territory that requires women to be brave yet calm, nurturing yet strong, and fearless yet fearful. And if you are lucky enough to be celebrated today with love and appreciation – if you have brought light into the lives of someone or something you love with all your heart, then know that you are a proud warrior mum, and you deserve to be celebrated!
Happy Mother’s Day to the incredible army of warrior women who make this world a safer and more beautiful place to be!