Redefining What It Means To Be A Mother
It’s time to rethink our default definition of motherhood.
In the past, if you asked someone what a mother is, you probably would have received a very traditional response: A woman with biological children.
Fast-forward to modern day and the answer isn’t that simple. What it means to be a mother has evolved. Women from all walks are choosing to express their maternal side in ways that build communities, reach children in need, or hug the little ones in their lives a bit tighter.
Actress Kim Cattrall reinforced this shifting definition in an interview with BBC Radio this fall. During her chat with Woman’s Hour Host Jane Garvey, Cattrall said she still thought of herself as a mother, despite never having biological children, because she served as a parental figure to the young actors and actresses she mentors, as well as her nieces and nephews.
Many women rejoiced in this fresh and enlightened perspective, saying Cattrall’s comments echoed their own lives.
Statistically, women are waiting longer to have children. It’s a concept very familiar to Marcy Cole, Ph.D. After earning her doctorate, going through a divorce in her 20s, meeting her current husband at age 40 and attempting to get pregnant, she discovered she wasn’t able to have children.
But Dr. Cole, a holistic psychotherapist, found she wasn’t alone – far from it. As she connected with women like herself who also longed to be mothers, she found that she could still fulfill her dream of becoming a parent.
Cole birthed Childless Mothers Connect, an online community of women without children (by circumstance or choice) who want to celebrate their internal mother, and a nonprofit, Childless Mothers Adopt, for women wanting to channel their maternal instinct toward mentoring kids in need.
“My maternal instinct is embracing this platform, having a conversation, building a community and connecting with children,” says Cole. “This is my bigger calling.”
Arizona real estate agent Kirsten Johnson chose to get involved with child-focused nonprofit The JohnJay & Rich Care for Kids Foundation, which helps foster children throughout the state.
By channeling her maternal instincts toward children in need, Johnson has time to help a cause about which she’s truly passionate.
“If I’ve impacted just one life in foster care, then I’ve done a great thing,” she says. “I have the opportunity and the time to give to kids and help them through tough times.”
“Sometimes we’re meant to mother in different ways. I was meant to mother the 17,000 kids in foster care in Arizona and give them a voice.”
Graphic designer Melissa Balkon never dreamed about having biological children but she’s always been curious about adoption or becoming a foster parent. She’s always loved children and felt a strong desire to be involved in her friends’ children’s lives.
When an ovarian cancer diagnosis led to a full hysterectomy at age 34, having children biologically was taken off the table.
Balkon is still considering adoption or foster parenting and in the meantime she’s spending time with her friends’ kids – her unofficial nieces and nephews – even handcrafting creative gifts for them and attending dance recitals and soccer games.
“In my singleness, I have more bandwidth to care for other people in my life,” she says. “You can be a warm, loving and nurturing person without having your own child.”
In a world where traditional roles are constantly being redefined, there’s no reason why the concept of motherhood should be limited to only women with biological children, says Dr. Cole.
“It’s a new generation of women. We’re bringing it out in the open. We’ll validate it. We’ll normalize it. We’ll create a mindfulness.”
With a dual background in journalism and public relations, Jennifer has a penchant for storytelling. A lifelong writer, Jennifer excels in helping others find their voice, discover their unique and compelling stories, and share them with the world. Her work has been featured in a number of local and regional publications throughout Arizona. Follow her on Twitter @jenlawhead.