May 12, 2012 by SheBeJack
I will be celebrating my first Mother’s Day this weekend, but I’m actually thinking about every woman who is not a mother. In fact, I’m much more qualified to write about not being a mother, when you line up my 35 years of childlessness against my seven months of motherhood. So I can tell you that for some women, Mother’s Day kind of stinks.
The opposite of Mother
While thinking about this post, I was curious to learn the antonym of mother. Turns out, it wasn’t that easy to find, which is why the title of this post reads with the not-so-clever term, non-mother. Catchy, right? The oppostive of mother, according to thesaurus.com, is father. I thought that was strange. I tried to think of a word on my own for a woman with no children. Maybe I just need some vocabulary practice, but the first word that came to mind was infertile. Now, I know that’s not a great option, but try this excercise yourself. It’s not easy. Anyway, I looked up the synonyms for infertile in hopes of finding a fitting term for a woman without children, the results were just plain depressing; barren, lonely, uninhabited, waste, unproductive. If that’s not crappy enough, the antonyms are productive, fertile and cultivated.
Now do you see why Mother’s Day can stink for the childless?
Second Place Status
It’s not just about the women who wish to have children but cannot. It’s about the deeply-rooted ideas and insufficiencies ingrained in our language, and the larger, unspoken expectations we have of women. It’s as if being an aunt is only a role for young women or women “in waiting” for a child. It’s as if being a teacher without children is only a way to curb your maternal instincts, while you wait in hopes of your own. It’s as if being a sitter or daycare worker is only a temporary or second place.
The Auntie Brigade
Elizabeth Gilbert, wrote a book after her wildly successful hit, Eat, Pray, Love. It’s called Committed: A Love Story. In this book, Elizabeth speaks frankly about her struggles in deciding whether or not to marry a second time, as well as her very purposeful decision to not have children. Her term for all the women out there that touch a child’s life without being a mother is “the Auntie Brigade.”
She writes, “Childless women have always been particularly essential in human society because they often take upon themselves the task of nurturing those who are not their official biological responsibility – and no other group does this to such a degree. Childless women have always run orphanages and schools and hospitals. They are midwives and nuns and providers of charity. They heal the sick and teach the arts and often they become indispensable on the battlefield of life.”
The Childless on Mother’s Day
These words encouraged me as I reflected upon all those adult years when I was not a mother and didn’t really know what to do or think when this day arrived (besides celebrating my own mother, of course). For many of those years, I simply did not want a child and didn’t know if I would ever be interested. Even as a girl, I preferred playing “office,” instead of “house.”For some of those adult years, it was a day of contemplating. Perhaps, maybe someday I’d like a child. For a few years, it was a day for quiet sadness, because I indeed wanted a child.
So today I celebrate every woman, with child or without, who has taught, cared for, hugged and encouraged a child. Happy Mother’s Day.
Book image credit.