“What Is a Woman on Mother’s Day? Six Encouragements for Those Who Are Not Moms”
It seems like most of the bickering around this issue has focused on biology, but it might be helpful to remember the non-physical parts of being a woman. I’m thinking about this because of many conversations I’ve heard from women around Mother’s Day.
If a woman is not a mom, when she wants to be one, she gets down on herself. When others are giving and receiving Hallmark cards about being terrific moms, she feels like a failure–or less.
But just as there are non-biological aspects to being a woman, so there are other ways to being a mom than having children. In this sense, even a man can be like a woman, for Jesus Himself called himself a female when he cried, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37). Jesus identifies not just with a female, but with a female bird in order to convey His desire to care for and protect His people, who were like His chicks or ‘children.’
In no way do I claim to be an expert on women, but I have spent the last 25 years observing one, my wife, up close in her own ‘habitat.’ Before that, I lived in a home with three sisters. If you told me you had spent nearly half a century living on the African savanna observing lions, then I would definitely credit you for knowing at least a little about them.
These thoughts were stimulated by the observation that we call a Catholic nun, who chooses not to get married or have children, ‘Mother.’ How do nuns mother? Clearly they do! And what can a woman do, who is not a nun, but who longs to be a mother?
So, I’ll just get right to it. You may not have biological children of your own, for whatever reason, but you can still ‘mother.’ It is still a high and holy calling, which God has especially equipped and enabled women to do, far more than men.
1. Care for someone.
A mother is an expert on care. She nurtures, tirelessly attends to, and gives laser-focused attention to her child. She knows the signs of discomfort or sickness, she knows when her child is satisfied or discontent about something (even if he is a grown man!). A mother comforts, binds wounds, holds, and makes it all ‘better.’ And you can do this, too, by caring for someone in your life who needs it: a family member, a parent, a friend, a neighbor, a stranger.
2. Give someone unconditional love.
Moms love you just because they love you. They accept you, receive your presence, and allow you to be you. Even when you mess up, they still love you. This doesn’t mean they want you to stay in your filth—they do want you to get better—but they will meet you where you are at. Like Jesus, they long to gather the outcasts under their wings. It’s one thing for a mother to give unconditional love to her biological child, but it is a much higher calling for a woman to give unconditional love like a mother to someone who is not her physical child.
3. Protect the vulnerable.
In general, women may be physically the ‘weaker sex,’ but they do not lack courage or ferocity. They will protect their kids from whatever is threatening them. This is something you can choose to do for those who need a lioness in their lives, someone who fights like a mother for them.
4. Create, give life, and cause growth.
To be a woman is to have the ability to create. Sometimes it’s a baby, but sometimes it could be a business. While women don’t have the ability to create ‘ex nihilo’ (out of nothing), they can create something using very little (just think of the size of the egg and sperm!). They can make the most out of the few resources they have and cause them to grow into something beautiful. Again, they attend to, nurture, and cause growth. They blow on the tiny sparks of potential until they reach a roaring fire. Women ‘give body’ to small, seed-like ideas or longings. If your child has an idea, the mom helps him make it happen, make it grow.
In fact, the idea of mothers giving ‘body’ to things is so ingrained in us that psychologists tell us obese people sometimes prefer to have more ‘body’ because it reminds them of their mother—as if she still surrounds them and is with them. They carry around with themselves the ‘hug’ of their mother. This may also be the reason why some adult men never grow out of the bottle.
5. Show hospitality and maintain a place.
Women can build, maintain, and offer good, true, and beautiful spaces. They offer the warm gift of home and rest. They welcome and love the stranger, which is what ‘hospitality’ means. They sacrifice their resources for the betterment of the other. They can plan and build a beautiful table to refresh weary travelers—or overstimulated, exhausted kids at the end of a school day. People find rejuvenation when they are around her. She is hearth and home, where we often turn in our nostalgic moments. You, as a woman, can offer this to those in your life.
6. Make this world a beautiful place.
Finally, women make things more beautiful. There’s a reason why women wear make-up and like to dress up. Women tend to like to make things more beautiful. By just being in a room, a woman lights it up as if the sun came indoors. She can organize, order, and decorate. She can create beautiful gifts, lovely music, and turn discord into harmony. The world can be an ugly place and people can have very ugly days, for sure, but a woman is able to contribute beauty at just the right moment–sometimes through her skill and sometimes just through her presence.
To be a mother is to care, give unconditional love, protect, give life, offer a place of rest and recovery, and beautify. If you do not have kids of your own, you can still offer these gifts to others. You can still be a mother. And in some sense, doing these things for those who are not your biological kids is even more shocking and difficult, for it is more natural to do it for your own kids, which means it’s a supernatural ability to do it for others.
You might not have the ability or the opportunity to have children of your own, but if you are a woman, then you still have these other God-given abilities. Cultivate them, use them, protect them, and offer them.
Someone may roll their eyes at my descriptions, as if I’m ‘dumbing down’ what it means to be a woman. But, just ask yourself how long you would survive without these six gifts? I wouldn’t want to live a day without them, in fact, nobody could live a day without them. These gifts are essential to humanity.
Here’s my two cents: our culture is so far removed from knowing and appreciating what it is to be a mother, because we’re so intoxicated by toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity doesn’t accept reality, doesn’t nurture, doesn’t listen, and doesn’t rest. It is a pharisaical, maniacal, self-righteous, self-deterministic, constantly vying, narcissistic identity project. It’s the tower of Babel, trying to reach the heavens, trying to escape ‘mother earth,’ in order to usurp God. And it’s not the sweet, warm, accepting, comforting rest that only a woman–or a mother–can give.
But that’s just me.