Choosing to be a mother is something that can happen with hope and joy, trepidation and resolve, introspection or surprise. Sometimes it’s a mixture of all of those feelings and everything in between. Some women face that choice with a loving partner, and some face it alone. Some have that desire burning inside and choose to be a mother long before they actually get the opportunity to become one, and some even have to take that choice and determination into situations and realities that are much different than what their expectations had been. Whatever the way that a woman becomes a mother, though, it is always a choice – a choice to give of herself, to sacrifice, to share her time, her space, her talents, and sometimes her body – that returns so much more than it takes.
Celebrating motherhood can feel sickly sweet or even painful to many women in our circles. For a variety of personal reasons, it can be difficult to find a place of comfort when the idealized mother is not who we see in the mirror. That is why I love the power of the Big Ocean Women belief that “every woman who has the best interest of the rising generation at heart, and willingly gives of herself to nourish and protect the rising generation, is a mother.”
As I have considered what it means to choose to be a mother, some strong examples have come to my mind. The inspiration for the creation of our organization happened at and after the funeral of a beloved sister who had never borne children of her own, but who had loved and served the children in her community, creating bonds of love and helping to guide them as they grew to adulthood. Carolina Allen, founder of Big Ocean Women said of this experience: “Here I was witnessing a woman who had completely influenced an entire community because of her goodness and her kindness, her loving heart, and her ‘Aloha Spirit.’ She was a mother to her students and changed their lives. I knew there was something for me to discover in this experience, and the question of true power didn’t leave my heart.”
The true power of love and influence is available to all women, whether or not we choose or are able to bear children. We can choose to do the hard things that will make us the best mothers we can be in whatever situations we may find ourselves. Mothers choose to give young children their time to help them explore the world and find out where they fit in it. Mothers help older children gain and master the skills they will need to be able to live on their own and be productive members of society. Mothers to children to whom they did not give birth show those children that love is the most powerful binding agent. Mothers who are never actually called “mother” do all of this as well, and sometimes without any of the recognition.
There are many in the world today who would contend that for a woman to find real success and have power and influence, she would need to forgo having children, at any cost. This is a sad, false narrative: an argument that fails to give women credit for their capabilities and potential.
Henry Ward Beecher said, “In this world it is not what we take up but what we give up that makes us rich.” Likewise, I believe that it is through truly loving and sacrificing of ourselves for the children in our lives that we find our lives filled with love and the ability to have real influence in the world. It is the choice to be a mother that is the most empowering and rewarding choice a woman can make, because it returns so much more than it takes.