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Maybe it’s time for another mother

Without apology and in tender acknowledgment of mothers everywhere — those who are still present in our lives and those well-remembered — I offer excerpts from a column I wrote many years ago.

Let me start at the beginning. Imagine this. You’re sitting in a room full of people, attending a lecture. The presenter is a well regarded professor from Stanford University who has a doctorate in public health and an international reputation. She’s talking about her research on family health. Someone in the back of the room asks a question. It’s a long and rambling question involving the challenges of caring for an elderly and ailing mother.

The lecturer’s response comes without hesitation, “Find another mother.”

There’s a collective gasp in the room. I was there, I know. For a few moments, the entire audience sits in disquieting silence. But the response makes perfect sense.

What if it was possible to trade caregiving responsibilities, trade mothers, for a while? No matter who is the receiver of your caring ways, perhaps you could give some of the caregiving challenges to another person and temporarily assume theirs? You might identify a friend or neighbor who has an ailing mother and switch circumstances for a few days or weeks. You might ask a friend from church to spend time with your bed-bound husband while you take her disabled sister to the movies?

All of us are, have been or will be caregivers at some time in our lives, so the possibilities abound. The concept offers an admittedly unique respite (of sorts) as well as an opportunity for a fresh perspective on caregiving obligations. It’s an “exchange of value” if you will.

Mother’s Day is closing in on us, so this may be an ideal time to test the “find another mother” concept. Here’s the plan, at least here’s what I intend to do. If you have followed my life as I share it in this column, you know that my own mother died more than a decade ago. And my godmother-aunt died a few years later. I miss them, especially at this time of year. Oh, I have kids and grandkids who will always need mothering and a spouse who requires his fair share. But I have an excessive amount (overflowing actually) of motherly inclination. I need to have it boldly in play. What better time than Mother’s Day?

I feel sure there are motherless daughters or daughterless mothers everywhere who would delight in receiving a little more attention on Mother’s Day. I am sure there are women — and men — who have recently lost a parent and have emotional resources they are ready to share. It could be as simple as an unexpected telephone call or an afternoon visit to a house-bound elder or as extravagant as an overflowing bouquet of spring flowers delivered in person to someone you do not even know. It’s the thought that counts.

The idea of “finding another mother” has stayed with me over the past decade. Have you ever heard the phrase, “There’s no reason to have the same thought more than once, unless you really like that thought?” I really like this thought.

Sharon Johnson is a retired educator and executive director of Rebuilding Together Rogue Valley. Reach her at sharon@rbtrv.org.

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