On Motherhood and Mother’s Day

I think that Mother’s Day will always be a two-edged sword since my mother passed away two years and nine months ago…God, has it already been that long? On one hand, I will always smile and laugh remembering my wonderfully whacky and loving mom- she was a character in every sense of the word; lion-hearted, generous, silly, dignified (at times), stubborn as a mule, and every ounce a true Southern Lady. 

Our beginning and our ending….always love. 

She sacrificed so much for me, her baby, the one child she raised on her own when my father left her for another woman. I was fifteen months old, she was an untrained-for-the-workforce woman left with a toddler and two teenagers to deal with as she navigated the heavy emotional toll of divorce in the 60s. She made sure I had the education and experiences I needed to build a happy life for myself, and did all that she could to support me every step of the way. She was my cheerleader and greatest ally, and as I grew older, she became my best friend. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss her, though I feel her with me always, deep in my heart. This holiday commemorating mothers will forever be a mixture of joy and gratitude for the mother I had, and deep ache for the mother I lost. 

On the other hand, this holiday never fails to bring up the ‘what if’s‘. What if things had been different and I had had children of my own? What would they be like? What kind of mother would I have been? How would I have handled the challenges of motherhood? I can hear my mother saying the platitude, “Hindsight is twenty-twenty!”  She had a saying for most everything in life. It’s true, though- it’s pretty senseless to do the “what if” game- how can we ever truly know what would have been?

My clarinet children…

I don’t regret not having children. While I have a very strong maternal instinct, I never felt the pull to give birth. I love children, but have poured my heart and soul into teaching and mentoring my students over my career teaching in public school and at the university level. Hopefully I have helped those students in some small way to know that they are special and capable of achieving their dreams and doing great things in the world. I really hope so. 

I’ve often thought at different points in my life that I was a coward for not having children, too afraid that I would screw them up, imparting too many of my own insecurities and neuroses to them. Perhaps I was selfish, throwing myself into my all-consuming career as a performer and teacher at the expense of building a family. For whatever reason, the time was never right; my first husband did not want children, and Dan and I are too old to consider it. We always joke and say, “In our next life we’ll have the cutest children…

I don’t feel less than, though, for not having had children. Oh, it is always a bit strange on Mothers’ Day when a cashier or server will inevitably wish me Happy Mother’s Day! or ask how many children I have. I usually just thank them, smile, and say, “Two dogs.” Some people look at me and smile, others give me a look filled with pity, as if I am somehow incomplete or damaged goods because I did not carry a child in my womb. Not so- instead, I helped to carry many young people across the abyss of self-doubt, believing in them and using music and the clarinet to help them learn to believe in themselves. 

As Mother’s Day approaches this weekend, I again wonder what kind mother I would have been. Probably too soft-hearted to be much of a stern disciplinarian. Too unsure of myself to always make the right decisions. Too busy with my career to give them everything they need. I would have made so many mistakes, I have no doubt. However, I like to think that like my mother, I would love unconditionally, fiercely, be their biggest cheerleader in life, laugh with them, cry with them, be with them through all of the messy beauty that is life. I hope that I would teach them to be good and kind human beings. That’s what I hope. 

Happy Mother’s Day to you!

5 thoughts on “On Motherhood and Mother’s Day

  1. I’m 37 years old and I never had the urge to have kids. I own now two black cats. My grandmother died the 14th in 1999. She was like a mother to me. I used to say I have three mothers. My grandmother, my mother, and my aunt.

    1. Cats make wonderful children :). I also have had ‘other mothers’, women in my life who have very much been like mothers to me. We are so fortunate to have those women in our lives, aren’t we? Thanks so much for your message- and happy Mother’s Day to you!

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