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Find another mother to care for

I have written this newspaper column for over 20 years — many Mother’s Day tributes. The words below are adapted from a long-ago column and may help you think about how you want to celebrate the holiday upcoming.

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

The response comes in a matter-of-fact manner and without hesitation, “Find another mother.” There’s a collective gasp in the room. For a few moments, the entire audience sits in disquieting silence.

But the response makes perfect sense. Think about it. Consider the possibility of exchanging mothers. Perhaps you could give some of your caregiving challenges to another person and, temporarily, assume theirs. You might identify a friend or neighbor who has an ailing mother and switch circumstances with them for a few days or weeks. This thought offers an admittedly unique respite (of sorts) as well as an opportunity for a fresh perspective on caregiving obligations. If you are not a caregiver (yet), offering up your willing heart as a gift of self might be worth considering.

The idea of “finding another mother” has stayed with me. 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.

There might be other versions of the “find another mother” concept. My own mother (bless her sweet soul) died over a decade ago. My godmother-aunt died soon after. I miss them, especially so at this time of year. Oh, I have kids and grandkids who will always need mothering and a spouse who requires his fair share (bless them all). But I have an excessive amount of motherly inclination. I need to have it in play somewhere.

I feel sure there are motherless daughters or daughterless moms who would delight in receiving a little more attention. Women whose own mothers, husbands, children are unavailable — or uninterested. Maybe they were once, but the difficult year just past took a heavy toll.

It might be as simple as a “Mother-for-a-Day” approach or as involved as investing time and talent toward a collection of women in nursing care settings who have been cooped up for a year without enough human contact and certainly not enough hugs.

As soon as the all-clear signal is received, perhaps you could reach out and touch. As a side benefit, even planning to do something like that might make you feel better about your own life-situation. It does not even have to be related to Mother’s Day — there are other possibilities. The “reach out and touch” concept is not tied to gender — and for that matter perhaps, not even to age.

Like this thought? I hoped you would. Run with it.

Sharon Johnson is a retired health educator. Reach her at sharjohn99@gmail.com.