In most cultures, the definition of ‘mothering’ is to love, protect and raise a child with care and affection. Either by birth, adoption or other circumstances, a child requires the person doing the mothering to be older, wiser and hopefully more stable than they are.
What about those of us who were chosen by our mothers to mother them? Without blaming anyone in my family tree, the legacy of mothering on my maternal side was reluctant at best. Raised with poverty and hardship, those women struggled in the hell of the lives they had been given, not necessarily chosen, with little or no support. During the Depression years, when my mother was born, the value of a child was barely equal to the animals on their farm. My mom use to say, “Even animals take care of their young.”
In the mid 1930’s, when my mother was three years old, she and her four siblings were abandoned by their mother and placed into an orphanage when their father could not care for them. How could my mother know what mothering meant? She did not.
When I was six, my mom gave birth to a set of twins, a year later a boy and seven years later a girl. I companioned along side her to mother my siblings as best we could.
Many children, male or female, are put in the position of responsibility at far too young an age. Developmentally and emotionally, very young children barely have the ability to handle the stress of who to pay with next. As a child I worried if my parents and siblings were going to be okay. Their problems were my problems.
As Mother’s Day approaches I remember my mother with love, fondness and sadness. Emotionally, she remained that abandoned three year old who barely knew the love of her own mother.
How far back can you trace the legacy of the women in your life? What were those women like? How did they give of themselves in order that their children would have a better life?
The legacy of the mothers in your family tree may have shared special knowledge, certain survival skills, and, a language of love that would leave a mark on those to follow.
The ancestors and women in my family tree gave of themselves as best they could so when it came time to raise my own children, what they did give and did share was there to support me.