Mother’s Day is one of those days in the year that is loaded with so much intense emotion and expectation. I am a mother of five children who all do their best to remind me of how much work a traditional mother is expected to do on a daily basis. My brood came to me in varying ways, and I thank whatever universal forces pulled us all together (even when forcing two small kids in ski gear while telling my teens to get off their phones). And I thank the universe for my mother, who has done more than she knows to help guide me through the day-to-day of mothering while keeping my selfhood intact.
My mother is not a mother in the most traditional sense. She was a full-time, career-focused woman since before my birth, and she has always maintained a sense of her own identity and boundaries while raising my little brother and me. Sometimes it was difficult — she balanced bills, school, homework and career, but she never let us feel unseen or unheard. My mom would let us see when she had bad days; she never pretended that the world was perfect around us, and she always pushed us to find our own solutions to problems we faced in our small but growing worlds.
She is long since retired and is an amazing grandmother and friend to those lucky enough to have her in their orbit. As I write this, she is sitting with my dying aunt, who is struggling through the painful process of end-of-life decisions. She is mothering her in the way she has always mothered us — empowering her to make her own care orders, informing her of the realities that those decisions will entail, making her feel seen and heard and ultimately just loving her as only a mother can. That, to me, is the ultimate Mother’s Day meaning. I don’t believe there is one specific definition of a mother — to care for others and hold them in a space free of expectation and full of empathy. That is why I lean into this annual holiday — to celebrate the mothering that we all do in many different ways and to many different people.