A Mother – Beyond The Measuring Stick

Who defines what it means to be a mother?  How does one learn this?  How do you know you meet all the criteria?  Is there a measuring stick?

When I look at the many definitions of what it is to be a mother, these are some words and phrases that pop up: a way of being, selfless, tireless, a loving human being who makes sacrifices for the needs of their children above theirs, etc.

As a mother of three grown children—18, 20, and 28—this is my story of what it means to be a mother.

Motherhood is not how many define it.  It is not all biological, and it does not mean that once you have a child, you automatically develop that nurturing instinct.  It does not mean you are to be blamed if your child chooses the wrong path or a different direction from what you choose for them or even for yourself. 

To start, I lost my mother early on.  I was cared for by many mothers: adopted mothers, foster mothers, mothers who filled in the gap, including aunts and cousins.

When I was growing up, I watched these mothers take on this role with sacrifice, love, anger and sometimes resentment.  At some point in my life while watching these mothers and seeing the pressure they felt from this measuring stick of others, and the larger society, I decided that

A) I would not have children, and

B) if I do have children, I will take all that I’ve learned and be the perfect mother. 

I was determined to be a mother that measures up to this measuring stick of what it means to be a perfect mother.

When my first child was born to my surprise, (and, yes, he was a surprise) I made the decision that I would not be a statistic, a black single mother.  I lived in this false belief and could not see that I was already a black single mother—a black single mother with all the pains, joys and fears that come with it.

Then I got married, and two more children came along.  Through this role of being a mother with its many breakdowns, tears, laughter, and joy, I learned something else.  I grasped that before becoming a mother, I was an individual with my own story, challenges, and trauma. I gasped that being a mother does not excuse me from being a person and an individual.  

I am aware and continue to be reminded that when my child chooses the wrong path, it is not a reflection of who I am as a mother, but of him being his own person and making his own decisions.  My own history does not dictate that I treat my children as if they belong to me; I understand that they have their own paths and are individuals.

As I continue in this role, I can honestly say it’s a challenging one, but also the most rewarding.  Therefore, I commend the many mothers who choose to stay in this role, but also those who cannot.  I am also thankful for what it brings to my life.

1 Comment

  • Lesa Francis May 12, 2020 - 4:28am

    This is touching and beautiful. I can read the pain and joy intertwined with pride and doubt. But it al makes a healthy meal. Don’t worry, you’re amazing and your children are solid!!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *