I am not a mother. I have no children, either those I have born or those I have adopted or fostered. I don’t have any spiritual or emotional children either. There is no one in my life who calls me Mom for any reason.
That is by choice.
I can tell you the two times in my life I have considered the idea of having children: the first was listening to one romantic partner’s wondering what it would be like to raise a child with two moms; the second was recognizing the admirable parental attributes of another romantic partner and thinking briefly that if I were 20 years younger, I might have considered having children with him. I thought about being a mother for maybe five minutes total.
I am, in fact, intentionally child free. I have really never had the mothering instinct, I have never felt that biological clock ticking, have never gone wistful seeing a baby, never thought how important it would be for me to be a mother.
But that’s only half the story. Most people are willing and eager, in fact, to emphasize how I give birth to creative projects and mother in other ways. It’s as though I have to replace having actual children with metaphorical children. It’s as though I am incomplete as a woman if I don’t have some sort of children. And it’s not just some friends and acquaintances who say this, offering this heartfelt replacement for what has to be a hole in my life. Our entire culture is centered around mothers and mothering, and on Mother’s Day, we are bombarded with images of mothers and exhortations to call your mom, send her flowers, do something nice for her.
In our congregations, there is a Mother’s Day celebration, usually with flowers and women standing up – and usually, the well-meaning worship leader includes as an afterthought “those who mother in other ways” – as though I am not enough of a woman if I am not considered a mother. Now it is true that other kinds of mothers are indeed left out of Mother’s Day – and I am grateful that the Unitarian Universalist Association is taking steps to celebrate Mama’s Day. As they write on their website,
With “Mamas Day,” we hear a call to honor all those who mother, especially those who bear the brunt of hurtful policies or who are weighed down by stigma in our culture. We celebrate trans mamas, immigrant mamas, single mamas, lesbian mamas, young mamas, and others. It’s opportunity to take action to create the conditions so that all families can thrive.
Yes, this is vitally important. We don’t see enough mamas of non-white, non-heteronormative identities and abilities in the Mother’s Day exhortations. We need this Mama’s Day celebration to check privilege and honor all kinds of mothers.
But we do not need to include all women in this celebration.
We do not need to include me.
I am glad there are mamas of many shapes and sizes, colors and actions. I am grateful for those who have mothered me. I am grateful for those who have mothered others. But I am not a mama, nor do I want to be.
What I DO want is to be recognized as whole, as a complete human being with inherent worth and dignity, without needing to take on a role – physically or metaphorically – that is not mine. Now this isn’t to say I’m not nurturing; I believe I am. And it’s not to say I haven’t created some big projects and set some intriguing things in motion. I have. But men do that all the time, and they’re not considered less than whole. Why should I be? Why does my gender require me to be recognized as a mother if I don’t identify as such?
I don’t want to be recognized for something I am not. Don’t make me stand up on May 11th to accept pity and a last minute nod to my existence.
I am not a mama.