Suzette Martinez Standring: Mother’s Day is not limited to childbirth
Mother’s Day celebrates the maternal, and that is not limited to childbirth. A lavish spring bouquet to all the women who cared for us with no less than a mother’s love.
It’s taken me a lifetime, at age 63, to fathom the preciousness of motherhood, a blessing with my daughter and two granddaughters. Yet for many who lost that opportunity, Mother’s Day is a wistful reminder.
The absence of children does not make any woman “less than,” and countless women lead rich, full lives. But today, I am mindful of my childless friends who bear up silently and reflect on what “could have been.”
The reasons for not having children are varied: Medical reasons, financial constraints, not having the right partner, or changing one’s mind to start a family a little too late.
One friend with a successful career voiced regrets, “I bought into the myth that women can have it all and do it all, but time went by and I missed my chance.”
Yet these very women are significant in raising the children of others and nurturing their community. They should all be enveloped within the warm cocoon of recognition that is Mother’s Day.
For example, my 90-year-old friend, Adriana, is my beacon of wisdom and love since 1987. To talk to her for hours is my joy. She is deep and hilarious and forward-thinking. When she was 66, we took a trip to Amsterdam. “Let’s stop for cake,” she said. We wandered into The Grasshopper, unbeknownst to me to be a then-legal cannabis cafe. We sat down and immediately inhaled the fumes. We looked at each in shock, and she said, “This is one of those places where they smoke the marijuana. Shall we try it?”
There she was, 27 years older than me, wearing a beige, matronly dress, a halo of white hair, and sensible glasses framing her mischievous blue eyes. Flustered and embarrassed, I stammered, “There is no way I’m sitting here and smoking pot with you!” and I ran out of the cafe. We’ve shared so many adventures, and I’m not the only one who loves her like a mom.
Yet Adriana’s inability to have had children years ago cuts her deeply even to this day. To her, Mother’s Day is a membership club, and she’s uncomfortable sneaking in. She adores the holiday flowers, but feels unworthy. “Oh, no, Suzette, it’s your day to get flowers, not mine.”
As if she deserves anything less just because someone’s birth certificate is not in her files.
Many are like her, loving, wise women who lavish care and nurturing upon their “children”: Students, volunteer organizations, the community at large, nieces, nephews, the offspring of others who think of them as a “second mom.”
We hug them tightly in a Mother’s Day embrace. Where would we be without you?
— Email Suzette Martinez Standring at firstname.lastname@example.org.