For the longest time, Mother’s Day was all about my mother. Getting her the best gift, a dinner in her honor, and after her mother died—trying to assuage her grief. At the time, I didn’t understand that when she mourned her mother, it didn’t diminish the love she felt for me.
When I became a mother, the holiday still felt like her day. Maybe it was because I was trying to figure out my new role. After she died, the landscape shifted. There may have been times when feelings of bereavement for my mother had my son questioning, “I’m here. Aren’t I enough?”
This will be my last Mother’s Day before my son leaves for college. Next year, he may not be with me for the second Sunday in May. Regardless, I will be cognizant of the fact that I did the best I could to set him on a good path.
Over the past seventeen years, my views about motherhood have shifted, evolved, and been redefined. Beyond the very singular connectivity I had with my son as he grew and matured, the mommy frame expanded my preexisting empathic point of view.
The homeless person was no longer just homeless. I recognized them as the child of a mother whose aspirations didn’t include a vision of her baby growing up to live on the street. When I read the names of soldiers not returning; about a marching band hazing victim dying needlessly; a bullied Chinese-American private who committed suicide; a black teenager killed on the streets of a gated community—or elsewhere…I feel it beyond the sphere of sympathy. Rather, I experienced it as a compatriot mother, with the knowledge and understanding that their offspring had also been the recipient of an unfathomable love.
Even if diversity is not acknowledged in the “Mom and apple pie” culture that Americans have been raised in—and which predominates—mothers come in all varieties. Lesbian mothers, mothers of color, and women who become mothers in prison (often while being shackled during childbirth) are too often ignored.
The “Mama grizzlies” tag and phenomenon may have been co-opted by women on the right, but there has been a long history of mothers taking responsibility as protectors of the human race. They have self-identified as mothers against war, mothers for peace, and mothers against the bomb.
Whenever mothers allow themselves to be touched by the plight of other mothers’ children, their perspective expands. Mothers are the best force for changing the direction of humankind—even if it is one step at a time. From Liberia to Ireland to the Middle East, mothers have come together to bridge the chasm of differences.
Of course, mothers can also be filled with hate and rage against those who are perceived to threaten their specific community’s status quo. Those snapshots of fury can be seen in photographs documenting the 1960s, when white mothers screamed at and vilified black children entering “their schools.”
I wonder if it would be possible for mothers to transfer the feelings of deep love and concern that they feel for their children to other women’s children—encompassing the world at large.
It could be a first step toward universal healing.