One of the hardest things to watch as I get older is my friends have children while I remain single. As a woman who grew up in an extremely family-oriented church and culture, I understood from a young age that motherhood is an honorable part of life. So, watching most of my friends step into that role while I remain on the sidelines is very painful, to say the least.
Here’s the thing: not all women become mothers. Some can’t, some choose not to, some never have the opportunity to. The amazing thing is that God and Jesus Christ know and understand this more than anyone in our mortal life. Christ knows the pain you feel when you get on social media and see yet another baby announcement. He knows the pain that comes with that prying relative asking, “When are you going to start having children?” He knows the pain, heartache and defeat that accompany another failed fertility treatment, or another miscarriage.
And I’m grateful for this, because these situations are some of the most vulnerable situations women are put in. And these situations are something that we humans just can’t seem to wrap our minds around and understand unless we’ve experienced it ourselves.
I know what it’s like to get on Facebook and see what feels like the fifteenth baby announcement of the week and feel that pang of sadness that I won’t be making that announcement anytime soon. But I don’t know what it’s like to experience a miscarriage, failed fertility treatment, or have a family member pry into my personal life when I’m secretly experiencing fertility issues. I can try my best to empathize with these women and families going through this, but God and Jesus Christ do a much better job than I can.
It hasn’t been until recent years when I’ve seen that motherhood is more than just a mother and her child. I think I always knew that in the back of my mind, but I never really felt it or saw how I was a mother figure to others. To be honest, I still don’t see how I’ve been a mother to others, partially because I’m so young. But I’ve seen how it’s applied to others.
I’ve seen how it’s applied to my single female friends, who watch over, protect and mother their nieces and nephews like nobody else can. I see it in my friends who step up and care for a cousin, friend’s child or even a stranger in the grocery store when the mother is feeling overwhelmed. I’ve seen it in teachers who care for their students who are in desperate need of love, attention, encouragement and someone to believe in them.
I’ve even seen this in my own life with my therapist, who may not have any children of her own, but who watches over, guides, protects, encourages and loves each of her clients individually, despite their flaws. To me, she is the strongest example of someone who isn’t the world’s definition of a mother but is indeed a mother to all those she watches over.
Seeing each of these women gives me hope. No, I may not be what the world defines as a mother. But I can be a mother to others. I can guide, watch over, love, protect and encourage my friends, my family and strangers around me.
And to me, those aspects define motherhood. Those are what will strengthen the world and uplift those around us. That is the strength of motherhood. And that is how you can be a mother without being a mother.