This is a genuine question.  I’m looking for audience participation here. But let me tell you why I’m thinking about it.

I’m a working mom.  If you’ve read my blog you may have noticed.  Being away from my daughter 40+ hours per week has caused me weekly existential crises of the mom-nature.  My own mother worked from home the vast majority of my childhood and so, to me (to a degree) what makes a mother is presence.  The fact that a mother is there, after everyone else leaves and when you need her most.  When I had summers off I was at home with my parents (they both worked out of the home, but my father frequently traveled as well).  I always knew my mom would be at home, available, present.  My relationship with my daughter can’t revolve around presence though.  That’s not something I can offer as much as I would like to.  So, I’m here trying to step far enough away from my existential crises to understand what makes me a mother.

I keep asking myself, if someone else is with my child during the workweek, what makes me Mom?  I know that in this modern time when the gender and family roles aren’t so strictly defined as they used to, I’m not the only mom asking myself this question.  What makes a mother?   I think some of the answers must be as old as the existence of mammals, but some of them might surprise us too.

So, I want to hear from you.  Have a mom?  Are a mom?  Know a mom?  Tell me in the comments below, tell me on my Facebook page, tell me on twitter.


3 thoughts on “What Makes a Mother?

  1. What makes a mom a mom? Pardon the cliche, but I think it’s different for everyone! Here are a few things that make my mom, my mom:

    -She gives me the best hugs. Even though she is tiny and petite. They are obviously not bear hugs, but they somehow still manage to be the best hugs. And she is my favorite person to hug.
    -She experienced a whole lot of life before I even existed! It’s wild! Must have been so drab!
    -She wanted me even though she had no idea what I’d be like.
    -She always knows what to say when I’m crying. She can even make me laugh when it seems impossible for me to feel happy. And my mom is no comedian, let me tell you! It’s just one of those special mom powers.
    -She can get my suitcase closed even when I’ve packed it with stuff that totals to twice the volume of the suitcase. It completely defies the laws of physics (more special mom powers).
    -She is THE BEST at reading aloud. I wish she could read me to sleep every night. I want her to do books on tape.
    -One day while we are driving to a hike, she squints her eyes trying to remember a name she can’t think of and asks, “Who’s that cute actor?”, and I nonchalantly respond “James Franco”. No context clues necessary. I just KNOW.
    -She can frustrate me more than any human on the planet.
    -She has 5000 terms of endearment for me: Erintoria (a combination of my first and middle name), Erin-bo-berin, chicky, chick-a-dee, petunia, little one, sweetheart, and so on. That last one can get confusing because everyone in the house responds when she says something like “Sweetheart, did you want another brownie?” but I know that she is addressing me.
    -When she is aggravated with me, she smiles and says “I love you.” I have pondered whether she is actually reminding herself that she loves me when this happens. Nah! That’s just ridiculous!
    -She can ruin my life in the subtle ways that only a mother can.
    -She also can make me feel better from 3000 miles away.
    -I love holding hands with her, even though I’m 28 years old.
    -When I tell her my ideas, she rolls her eyes. Then 5 years later, she recommends me a book about those very same ideas.
    -When I was a kid, I would wave good-bye to her from the living room window as she pulled out of the driveway to go to work. And we would make the sign language sign for “I love you” to each other.
    -When I tell her I want to show her something, she looks like someone who has suffered a very strenuous and difficult life and is being asked to undergo yet another unimaginable hardship. And often responds with, “Do I have to?”
    -I have an irrational fear of her dying in a car accident.
    -She would always bring me a huge pile of books from the library when I was sick. I remember one time while I was sick, I think I read the entire Cam Jansen series. It’s a series about a girl with a photographic memory. After that, I was convinced that I too had a photographic memory.
    -She can never remember what foods I don’t like (or she chooses not to).
    -I can never remember that she is allergic to strawberries. I’ve been offering them to her for 28 years now.
    -She feels like a bad mother when she is sick or tired and can’t “be there” for me (aka she’s completely bonkers, she suffers from a very advanced case of mom syndrome–a condition that only mothers suffer from where they hold themselves to superhuman standards that no one else expects of them or even notices).
    -She thinks I was the problem during my teenage years. I think she was the problem.
    -I like to follow her around everywhere when I’m at her house, even though I’m 28 years old.
    -She used to give me a book on almost every minor holiday (Valentine’s day, Halloween, Earth day) and write a little note inside the front cover. She was always good at making little things special.
    -She has a totally selective memory when it comes to my childhood.
    -She knows me better than I know myself. When I was in high school, I was signed up to take the Chemistry and Physics SAT2s junior year. Or maybe it was senior year. It was scheduled early on a Saturday morning. Each test was one hour long. I had studied for them, but I didn’t feel prepared. I told her I couldn’t go. She was extremely exasperated I’m sure but patiently said, why don’t I just go and try it. She thought I was ready. She suggested I just get it over with, and when I was done, she would have a nice warm breakfast of waffles waiting for me at home. Like waffles could solve my problems!?!?! She never understands!! I’m pretty sure I cried the whole way there. And then possibly a little more when she picked me up 2 hours later. And guess what? I got an 800 on the Chemistry and a 730 on the Physics. And those waffles did make everything better. Moral of the story: Listen to your mother! (Sometimes. Honestly, you really have to be careful about this one, so actually you’re probably better off not listening to your mother. At all. Ever. Except about SAT2s.)
    -She used to leave me notes in my lunch bag. All the way through high school. They made me feel so loved :).
    -She used to send me fresh homemade brownies in the mail in college. My roommates loved that tradition.
    -She watched me grow up.
    -She and I NEVER talk during a movie. We think people who have this heinous habit deserve the death penalty. And yet she married my stepdad. So weird. It’s like they say, love is blind. And deaf apparently.
    -I (and my brother) made her a mother.
    -Petite and nonviolent though she is, I feel confident she would probably kill anyone who hurt me. Barehanded.
    -We both love efficiency and minimalism.
    -Birthdays spent with her are the best birthdays.
    -She has yelled at me well over a 1000 times.
    -We like going to yoga together.
    -We both think my brother is the funniest person in the world.
    -She probably couldn’t list her favorite songs. But I could.
    -I can call her even when I have nothing to talk about. Just to be with her. (Not sure how crazy she is about this one, but that has never stopped me.)
    -I give her scalp massages when she has migraines.
    -I secretly miss her when she’s taking a nap.
    -She will be my mother long after she is gone from this earth (not because she is traveling to space but because I’m probably going to outlive her by like a hundred years or so, the future of technology and all that.)
    -Sometimes I call her 3 times in the same day. No exaggeration. She is often “not home.”

    I had honestly never thought about how much time I spend with her. Or spent with her as a child. I don’t think it matters that much to me. I’m sure there were important moments in my life that she had to miss. But that’s what dads and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends are for. At this point in my life, I spend very little time with my mother – and I like it that way! But if it’s part of what made your mother your mother, then that’s valid too!! However, I don’t think you need to be the same mother to your daughter that your mother was to you! There really are all different kinds of mothers (more cliches, sorry!). And they are all wonderful. What a mother is is one of those completely irrational, illogical, totally emotional things that defies definition. Like “love” or “joy”. All you can do is give lots of examples. But they are impossible to sum up.


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