A mother’s love – Mother’s Day musings

Happy Mother’s Day to all mamas! 💜 Including mamas to be, grandmas & all women who offer nurturing and mama love to those who may not be their children. 💕

I know many remarkable moms of all ages and I am in awe of them all, especially those of my peers who I’ve watched go from young, often bewildered, overwhelmed (and tired!) moms with babes, facing the endless challenges of self-growth while growing children. Whose mothering has been driven by tender hearts and fierce determination to protect, nurture and steer their “kids” down their own unique paths of growth & independence. I’ve watched these women discover who they are as women and mothers as they mastered the most challenging and rewarding calling.

As a social worker I’ve also seen so called “bad” moms, women who could not find in themselves the strength or spirit to fulfill the job. As a counselor, I’ve heard many stories of women whose mothering fell short of what their children, now grown, needed. I’ve heard these stories from their grown children.

Motherhood is not all or nothing, it has many gradients. Some women’s lives take a turn down a different path after they become mothers and they are not able to be the moms they wanted to be.

There are all sorts of studies made and books written about what mothering is, defining motherhood, attempting to answer questions such as: is it learned or instinctual? I recently read some touching articles about women who, due to the circumstances of their lives, gave their new born, or yet to be born, babies up for adoption. In these stories it is clear their decision to do so was a decision of the heart, a decision guided by love.

When I listen to a woman talk with concern about her children, now old enough to make their own life choices, and wonder, as their mother, if she guided them right and taught them all they needed to know, the worry I hear is coming from the heart.

An older friend who has three children, all rather eccentric, with physical or emotional challenges, has said to me “at least none of my kids are in jail or doing drugs.” She had many challenges in her life while trying to be a mom, and wasn’t always “there” for them, but she always cared about them, loved them, and though their lives now are not easy, and this brings her sorrow, they are all good people. No one failed. Love was present.

With his permission I share my husband Mike’s story, at least a summary of it. When he was 9, the oldest of three kids, Mike’s mother was hospitalized for psychiatric reasons. (Given the time period this happened, it is unclear whether her hospitalization was appropriate).  Mike and his younger siblings were simply told was she was sick and in the hospital. During this time his father divorced his mom, eventually remarrying. When, after three years, his mom was released from the hospital, she was allowed to spend Sundays with Mike, his brother and sister.  These days together often involved time in Nature, perhaps on picnics together.  Later, as a young man, Mike lived with his Mom for 6 months when she moved to the east coast for a few years. They talked a lot about that time in her life, her thoughts about motherhood, her concerns for her children during and after her hospitalization. She felt guilt and had concerns about how her children were raised. Mike assured her they were all good people. (I can vouch for that!) As adults, and in time, they each established their own relationship with her. She was a woman whose life took her down an unexpected path, she was not the mother she, or others, expected her to be, but she never stopped caring about, and loving, in her own way, her children.  Mike attributes much of his own sensitivities, love and appreciation for Nature to his mom. He remembers the picnics with her and her love of the ocean.  Like all moms, she influenced who he became, in spite of her own struggles, of not ‘being there’ for her kids, and perhaps being seen by others as an unfit mother.  She loved her children, they all loved her in return. That is motherhood.
I’ve come to believe that unless there is deep mental pathology making mothering impossible due to disconnection and cruelty, most women who become mothers do the best they can, in whatever way they can, to care for their children. For some that may be sacrificing being in their children’s lives, but continuing to love them. Maybe the mind, or the body, does not fully sign up for the job, but the heart is always present.

Love to all mom’s for loving.

Related posts: Moms & herbs, Mother’s Garden, Mother’s Day & Cowbirds

Because my mom was a lover of flowers I chose some quintessential May flowers to post with this. Below is the Japanese Garden in Seattle.  Mom loved everything Japanese, the food, the art, and especially the gardens.

Mother’s Garden Love Affair

IMG_6842In her tiny yard on Queen Anne Hill, Mom tended many flowers & a few veggies. (Pardon the redundancy to those who read my fb page. This is the ‘long’ version).  She was particularly fond of her roses, but loved all flowers and tended and fussed over lilacs, rhododendrons, Gerber daisies, pansies, tulips, daffodils and many more. A black-bearded iris was a favorite, she wanted me to dig it and take it when she knew she would not be living in her house much longer. DSC02162If you took her to a nursery she’d inevitably buy something and squeeze it in somewhere. If a plant died she asked to stop at a nursery so she could buy a replacement. A planter on the porch changed with the seasons. A spring ritual was the purchasing and planting of twin red geraniums along with little blue flowers in two planters on each side of the entrance to the basement stairs. Little lavender, pink and white flowers whose names I’ve forgotten (but she remembered!) re-seeded each year to her delight. IMG_1296 (1)Late in life she had to hire someone to keep up the yard up. Initially he replaced some of her flowers with more practical bushes and low maintenance plants, including lavender. Mom was not a lavender person, she had never grown it. With resolve she accepted it in the garden, but did not care for the scent in the house. The yard began to look raggedy, in the last year she lived in her home a neighbor complained to me about it. To me her yard was like those you see in every neighborhood, the yards of the aging, frail or ill, once tended with love, now aging with their owners. But years of planting and caring paid off as the perennials, old friends, returned each year for her to enjoy. IMG_1259 (1)

DSC08014 When she would visit us she always brought something from her yard, a rose, a sprig of lilac. Even when walking became difficult, her body hunched, she would walk her yard and pick a tiny nosegay for her table and one for the small vase I gave her that hung on her refrigerator door on a magnet. A huge dusty miller plant provided the ‘filler’ in every bouquet.

Inside, in the atrium off the living room, which was warm and bright on sunny days, there were more plants.  Multiple Christmas caucuses, a large hibiscus in the corner, the family Hoya, root bound and blooming at least once a year, spider plants, and various misc. plants. Plants also resided in the living room, where a gorgeous red prayer plant cascaded down off her marble table. In the dining room she attended to her African violets. She had a special fondness for orchids and grew a few.

IMG_0661.JPGTwo yrs. ago was our last trip to Volunteer Park Botanical Gardens where she loved to see the orchids.   Mom was not a plant aficionado, but she had her own quaint ways of making things grow, she read the newspaper articles about roses and other plants, watched Gardening with Cisco on TV, and she knew there was always room for one more plant to nurture. My wise cousin wrote to me today “All women are mothers — of someone they love. We can’t help it, we learned from the best!”  I don’t remember ‘learning’ it from my mom, but loving and appreciating plants have always been part of my life, from her encouragement of my childhood pansy beds to our trips in recent years to Whitney Rhododendron Gardens and Bloedel Reserve. Yes, I learned from my mom to love and nurture plants, and like her, I find there is always room for one more.

On this Mother’s Day I’m sure mom is puttering around a heavenly cottage garden, delighting in the vivid, colorful blossoms! Happy Mother’s Day to all the remarkable mother’s I know. I hope your day is filled with blossoms of love and appreciation.

(Mom was proud of her tulip tree, which she thought both beautiful and a bother when it blocked the view of the renter downstairs or dropped its petals & leaves on other plants. Every few years it was cut to the quick, but always came back with even more blooms!) DSC06278

Mother’s Day Ruminations & Cowbirds

“Every woman is to me a representative of the Mother.  I see the Cosmic Mother in all.  That which I find most admirable in woman is her mother love.” 

Paramahansa Yogananda

This quote is a reminder to all my women friends, including those who do not have children, that most of us spend our lives nurturing, caring for, loving many to whom we did not give birth.  There has long been the discussion of  ‘nature’  or ‘nurture’ ~ are women innately ‘pre-programed’ to nurture, is it instinctual, triggered by hormones when giving birth?  Or are we taught through social conditioning and expectation.  I know many a ‘tom-boy’ who, though dolls were not their choice of toys, became wonderful moms, and many ‘childless’ women who lovingly raised adopted children, became exceptional teachers, mentors, aunts, cared for ailing friends, husbands, parents, women whose hearts are brimming with unconditional love.

But of course on Mother’s Day I reflect on the amazing women I know who have raised, or are raising, remarkable children.  It is cliché to say, but it is the most difficult job, and hopefully the most rewarding.  There are a dozen or so women I have had the honor of knowing throughout their motherhood ‘career’, from the beginning to the present, for there is no end, no matter how ‘grown-up’ and independent children become, even when they have grandchildren of their own, the role of mother is too personal, too deep in the heart and soul to ‘retire’ from, though there are moments when every mom I know was ready to change jobs!

As in the animal world, there are those for whom motherhood is not easy, those who have had to work a little harder.  A mother hen or dog, or cow or goat, who seems to take their role of mothering lightly or abandons the idea all together is not that way through poor upbringing or not having a good role model mom themselves! It is an unsolved mystery why the instinct to nurture is stronger in some, no matter what the species.  And of course good role models for mothering in the human species can impact how women carry out the job themselves, yet some of the best mom’s I know lacked that advantage.

As I write this a flock of cow birds land in the tree outside my window. A great example of giving ‘birth’ but not providing the nurturing!  Cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. Their young usually hatch first, get fed first, grow the largest, and at the expense of the off-spring of their ‘adopted’ mom, thrive while their nest mates die.  Cow birds are despised for this seemingly neglectful behavior, abandoning their eggs, seeming to have no mothering instincts at all.  But is that fair?  Perhaps in a way that is difficult to understand, they do provide, their young do survive.  Another of nature’s mysteries.  We all know stories, or have first hand knowledge, of animal mom’s raising, even nursing, babes of other species.  I had a male collie who knew exactly how to care for a tiny kitten, only days old, raising it, licking it after it was fed to stimulate its digestive system.  Another mystery of nature and nurturing.

But there is no mystery to the wonder of motherhood!

My own role model for unconditional love & nurturing, Mom at 91, having a night out at the Ajax Cafe, enjoying one of their many hats!

Happy Mom’s Day and much gratitude to all the moms I know for choosing a job with no pay but many benefits! Thank you!