Growing up, I knew who my mother was. She was the center of my world, a single parent who never made me wonder why I didn’t have more than one around regularly. She mommed me enough for two or more parents. In fact, to this day I not only wish her a happy mother’s day, I wish her a happy father’s day as well. She covered all the parenting I could have ever wanted and then some.
As my husband Justin and I consider parenthood in the coming years, I have begun to wonder. Even with two of us, will my child have a mother? What is a mother? I think my mom is more than the person who gave birth to me. She is the one who raised me, guided me, protected me, and prepared me to be an adult in the world.
Though, the more I reflect on having a child, the scarier it is to me. Part of my heart already belongs to Justin, with all the risks and wonders that comes with that. To impart more pieces to a child seems to be the most incredible gamble of all. More than that, to have responsibility for raising someone into an adult human being that will make decisions about so many things in their lives based on what I have said or more likely, what I have done in spite of what I’ve said. The idea seems ridiculous to me, and yet, I want to place that bet and see the person we could create.
But, will my child have a mother? Currently we are envisioning the two of us being all the parents involved. I’m not sure I know how to be a mother, nor do I have much idea about how to be a father. My mother was both, and neither. She was a person to be counted on, someone who I trusted and who I believed had my best interests at heart. Except for a few years around the age of 16, in those years I was convinced she was going out of her way to ruin everything and make my world a living hell… but other than those couple of years, I’ve always believed she is on my side and doing all she can for me. Was she my mother? Yes, but I believe she would have been my mother had she adopted me or if she came out to me as male-identified. She would still by my mum.
So it seems to me that motherhood is a relationship, a verb as much as it is a noun. Being a mother is also an identity that is, in part, bestowed by the children in our lives. When they look for the person in the room they call mom. When they come running after a bad dream. When they sing in the school play and look out into the audience. Their actions and their naming you “mom” is what seals the deal.
So, will my child have a mother? I’m not really sure. But I do know my child will have someone they can look for in times of fear as well as joy. I will do all I can to help them find their way through life and they will know unconditional love of not one but two parents. Part of the answer to my question depends on how my child sees both of their parents. Will we be dads? Moms? Rents? Some other name I cannot even imagine? That is an answer I cannot wait to find out.
Delivered as a pre-sermon reflection during the Mother’s Day service at First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis on Sunday, May 8, 2016.