What is a Mother?

With Mothers’ Day just past, I’ve been thinking: What is a mother? What makes a mother?

The relationship with Mom can be great or complicated.

The relationship with Mom can be great or complicated.

You see, it started with thoughts about my friends who are happy to be mothers, as well as friends who are less happy to be mothers. I thought about friends who want to be mothers but aren’t, friends who don’t want to be mothers but who might also be loving women who give a lot of themselves to others, friends who have given their children up for adoption, and friends who have adopted. Then I thought about friends who have great relationships with their mothers, no relationships with their mothers, so-so relationships with their mothers, and difficult relationships with their mothers. Due to this NPR article, I also thought about kids in foster care – dealing with potentially missing their biological mothers and possibly adjusting to multiple foster mothers. Finally, I thought about those whose mothers have died and those who never met their mothers.

On Mothers’ Day there’s a social pressure to celebrate mothers. You may be fine with this – you may even be excited to celebrate your mother! That said, there are many reasons you might be hurt or frustrated by the social pressure to celebrate mothers. You may be hurt because you wish your relationship with mom was better. You may be sad because your mom passed away. You may be anxious because contact with your mother harms you. You may also be hurt by the idea that everyone else has a great relationship with their mother. You may be unhappy with your own motherhood status. You may wish Mothers’ Day would just go away (and feel like the only one). No matter why Mothers Day is difficult for you, you are not alone.

There’s no question that mothers are important. Mothers can be amazing, positive influences, giving us love and nurturing us to grow. In an ideal world we probably all want loving, warm, attentive mothers. We hope that kind of mothering for each other and for ourselves, as children and if we become a mother. Unfortunately, the world isn’t ideal. Mothers can also be harmful, whether they are abusive mothers, neglectful mothers, unloving mothers, or absent mothers. Mothers can have addictions, mental illnesses, or core beliefs that lead them to compete with us or otherwise put us down. Mothers can also face external factors like poverty that make it difficult for them to give to their children, whether they want to or not. Most mothers, like most human beings (because, believe it or not, mothers are still human beings), are a mix. No one is perfect, mothers included. The majority of us probably got some amazing, positive influences and some not-so-great influences from our mothers.

When mothers do hurt us the wounds can be very powerful. At least at the beginning of life, parents are typically our primary caregivers and therefore the most important people in our world. To be hurt by those people can rock our very foundations, self-worth, self-esteem, and beliefs about what we are and are not capable of accomplishing. Pain from parental wounds can be successfully dealt with in therapy, whether through traditional talk therapy or a specialized technique such as EMDR (Risa Bos and Kelli Skorman in our office can provide Orlando EMDR).

So, when you think of a mother, what do you think of? Do you think of your mother? Someone else who was “like a mother” to you? Do you think of specific characteristics that you want or don’t want in a mother? Do these thoughts make you happy? sad? stressed? What if you could change those thoughts?

NPR put out another very interesting article today, this one on allomothers – everyone but mothers who “mother” us. The article made the case that allomothers are critical to the survival of the human race: both in the past and now, allowing us to grow up slowly but safely through the care of many helpers. And it got me thinking, whatever your relationship with your mother, there are lots of people to thank for who you have become today: family members, teachers, friends, babysitters, and many more.

And so, while I wish that everyone had a mother they could and wanted to celebrate, my belated Mothers’ Day wish for you is to have at least one person you can celebrate as a mother or an allomother; someone who has given you the compassion, love, and nurturing you need,  who can help pain go away, and who will care no matter what.

If you are dealing with psychological wounds related to family, your mother, your father, or other family members, give us a call at Life Skills Resource Group Orlando at 407-355-7378 to set up a free phone consultation. Orlando counseling, including Orlando family counseling, can help heal these wounds. In the meantime, choose to celebrate at least one person who has given you what you needed: whether it was food, shelter, love, guidance, compassion, nurturing, unconditional love, or something else that helped you grow (up). If it helps with the day, feel free to tell them Happy Allomothers’ Day!

~Krista Bringley