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What Motherhood Means to Me: Reflection

What does motherhood mean to you?

Published on: April 27, 2018

mother generations

I think about the mothering that my mother never had.

Bedtime reading: nighttime showers already taken, youngest daughter on my lap, oldest daughter snuggled close by. We’ve just finished reading Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” My mother is there in the living room, too. When I’ve finished the evening’s chapter, she sighs wistfully.

“That was nice. No one ever read to me when I was growing up.”

I know the outline of my mother’s childhood years through broad brushstrokes, but it’s the small details that hit me the hardest. And this detail is one I’d never heard before.

For the first 10 years of her life, my mother grew up in the Philippines with extended family, before coming to the United States with a family she barely knew.

I think about the mothering that my mother never had.

***

I think about the mothering that I had.

When I started first grade, I was scared and worried. But after making it through that first day, I came home to a mother excited to talk.

“Tell me all about your day,” she said. “I want to hear everything.”  

So, I told my mom about my new friend Sheri, whom I met on the playground. I told her how the teachers had a hard time pronouncing my first name. I told her about how my classmates and I, forced to stay in our seats during lunchtime, began to scoot around the room in our chairs.

It was all the minutiae of childhood. And no matter what, the invitation was always there: “Tell me about your day.”

***

I think about the mothering that I do now.

There’s a black office chair in our kitchen; it might be one of the most important chairs in our house.

These conversations are part of the bedrock of my mothering.

Sometimes my youngest daughter sits in the chair on her knees, swiveling from side to side, telling me about playground drama and school projects.

Sometimes my oldest daughter sits in the chair with her legs crossed, telling me about middle school lunchroom politics.

These conversations are usually better than the “How was your day?” conversations that happen right after school. I think they’re better because the girls initiate them. These conversations are part of the bedrock of my mothering.

I credit my mom for the chair. In our house, it’s a tangible invitation to my daughters: “Tell me all about your day.”

***

When I think about what my mother missed and when I look at my own daughters, who have grown up happily in a childhood replete with mothering, my heart aches.

How was my mother able to parent so well, not having known her own mother during those early years? How did she learn to mother herself?

Each Mother’s Day, may we summon the extraordinary generosity of will and imagination that mothering requires.

May we hold space for the mothers whom many of us haven’t had.

May we honor the mothers we have in all of us.

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