Thoughts and ideas to inspire, uplift and affirm the childless and childfree, by circumstance and by choice
I wonder how others feel about the idea that even though we’re not mothers, we might be like mothers in some ways. Perhaps we are artists who ‘give birth’ to our creations like mothers do, or we care for animals and love them like children, or we are big sisters or babysitters or teachers, similar to mothers because of our dedication to children. I’ve read these ideas in books about making peace with non-motherhood, with the likeness presented as a comforting thought for non-mothers to embrace. Sometimes kind people have also said this sort of thing to me, reassuringly, as though to excuse my non-motherhood. I don’t really mind it, but it does seem a strangely loaded suggestion.
The focus on aunthood in some current non-mothering circles is an interesting one and I think it draws on the same kind of thinking, reassuring the non-mother that her identity can still be validated by her relationship with a child, as a savvy auntie or a pank (professional aunt, no kids). Personally, I am completely delighted to be an aunt and am head-over-heels besotted with my niece, but it doesn’t represent anything particularly prominent in my own identity, any more than I imagine aunthood affects the identity of a mother. It’s a really lovely relationship, but I’m curious about the suggestion that it could define me.
I also think it’s interesting that when journalists seek to understand and defend our lifestyles and choices, the two historical non-mothers most regularly cited are Florence Nightingale and Mother Teresa. Why not Rosa Parks and Jane Addams? Why not Katharine Hepburn and Mae West? I think it’s because, as women who dedicated their lives to the hands-on care and nurture of others, Florence Nightingale and Mother Teresa are most easily likened to mothers – and not only to mothers, but to ideal mothers. People find that reassuring.
On the one hand, wherever non-mothers are discontent, of course I wish them peace by whatever means they can find it. If it’s helpful to think of themselves as being like mothers, I’m definitely not going to argue. But on the other hand, for those of us who are content in our non-motherhood, doesn’t the reassurance that we are a bit like mothers seem similar to arguing that a cat is a good pet because it is a bit like a dog? That is, surely the value of women (and cats) lies in what they are, rather than what they’re like?
But in the meantime, how about you? Have you ever been reassured that in some ways you are like a mother? Have you noticed this trend in media for non-mothers? What are your thoughts?
[The lovely image above has been borrowed with permission from Yataro.]