What Makes A Mother

by in Family and Faith
Image by Ryan Lilly

Image by Ryan Lilly

As Mother’s Day approaches, I am always a little surprised that I am a mom. I am no longer just the child; I am the mother, too. And even though life without children is such a faint memory that I can hardly remember what I did or who I was before being ushered into this complex and beautiful existence, I still find myself thinking, “When did I become the mother?”

My children ask for help to get their shoes on, cry for me in their sleep, run to me when a stranger tries to talk to them. To them, I am their mother. That is who I am. But what, exactly, makes me the mom?

Is it the sleeplessness? The biology of them being mine? Am I the mom because I make their PB&J? Am I the mom because of reading them books, meeting their needs, transporting them to activities and Dr. appointments? Am I the mom because I am the authority on my children? Am I the mom because they bear my resemblance in flesh and soul? Am I the mom because they call me so?

What makes a mother?

Though all these things indicate my familial role, they don’t make me a mom. What only mothers know is that being a mom is about a total soul shift. I am a mom because my heart lives in them, my brain thinks of them, my hands care for them, my feet walk beside them, my arms carry them.

I am a mother because I am with them, for them. I fight for them, even if it means fighting against them. I cry with them, aching with their small wounds: motherhood is empathy personified. My weariness is pushed aside: I carry them on walks, wake in the night for cups of water and snuggles. I am their mother because they share things with me, privileging me with their honesty and joy and celebration of life. I am their mother because I admire them. I know the worst about them, but I only think of the best. I am their mother because I think of them: what they need, what they want, what they feel, what they think. Just thinking of them creates a swell of emotion inside of me, reminding me of how thoroughly I’m invested, how there is nothing that can stop my love of them.

To be a mother is to be self-sacrificing and to consider it joy. 

Not always though, let’s be honest. God knows my heart grumbles a great deal when they wake me up multiple times a night. Many days I can hardly believe how totally exasperating this business is. Sometimes the joy part of motherhood grows faint, but that just makes me more of a mom.

Motherhood isn’t all roses and butterflies, springtime bliss and snuggles. It is perseverance. It is a depth of love that never runs out. It is a width of grace too wide to comprehend. It is being the person who will always go the distance, however imperfectly, with yelling and crying along the way.

To be a mother is to be the one who is there, always, ready and willing to love, forgive and restore.

What makes a mother? Those tiny little beings reaching up and grabbing your hand, asking for a hug and looking to you for reassurance. Everyday they help refine me, help teach me of a love that passes all understanding, of a gut-level, incomprehensible willingness to keep on keeping on.

They make me a mother.

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