In their own words—what it means to be a mom

By Kindra Fehr

As I began with the intent of writing a Mother’s Day piece, I asked myself, “What does it mean to be a mother?” While writing my response to this self-imposed question, I wondered how other moms would answer it. So I sent out an email to other mothers I know. I received an overwhelming response—far more, at much greater length, than we could print. We thank all the moms who wrote back. Here are just some of the intimate, beautiful, poignant comments:
by Kindra Fehr
“Of all the rights of women, the greatest is to be a mother.” — Lin Yutang

mom-and-child_Fehr.jpgAs I began with the intent of writing a Mother’s Day piece, I asked myself, “What does it mean to be a mother?” While writing my response to this self-imposed question, I wondered how other moms would answer it. So I sent out an email to other mothers I know. I received an overwhelming response—far more, at much greater length, than we could print. We thank all the moms who wrote back. Here are just some of the intimate, beautiful, poignant comments:
What it means to be a mom:

“I walk around even more tender-hearted raw than before, stronger, braver too.

Honesty is more imperative. As well as joy, authenticity, art, outside, naked, dancing, sharing, peace.

It means waking up in the middle of the night just to smell her; desperately needing mommy alone time, if only to make together time more delicious; being a member of the club that I didn’t know existed until I became a member.

The simple words ‘mama’s here’—in her silvery soft sincerely sweet voice—release places inside me I had no idea were held tightly.

Every moment is a gift. I have more to lose. And more to learn. Time takes on new texture.

It makes Christmas, the Easter bunny and birthdays alive again.

It means sex is never quite the same. It’s harder to come by, yet more magical (it actually made HER).

It means I am in my body as never before.

It means another relationship so close, I can run away (or cling) or choose to see and be seen, look more courageously and compassionately at my painful and precious parts and continue to work on the narrative.

It means I have been over-run, out of control, reclaimed, connected, awakened, awed, balanced and blessed. It means all the rest now has meaning.”

Kelli Hyland, mom to 3 year-old Scout

“Being a mom is like purchasing an “All-Life” pass for the most exciting and scary roller coaster ever made!!!…”

Kass Wood, mom to grown up Ben

“Being a mother is the most important thing I do in my too busy and hectic life. Raising a son by myself is challenging to say the least, but nothing means more than hearing ‘I love you, mommy’ at the end of a particularly stressful day!”

Leah Steele, mom to 2-year-old Josiah

“This is one of the many things that hit me like a ton of bricks when I became aware of it… survival isn’t a maybe when you become a mother. All of the sudden the desire to live and flourish becomes more powerfully innate than you ever imagined when you have a separate, but cosmically connected life to protect.”

Suzanna Torreano, mom to 20-month-old twin girls

“I’ve always enjoyed being a Mom, but when my girls were small I sometimes felt that anyone could take my place and hold their hand or bandage their scrapes. But as time goes on, I realized my importance of always being there for their questions and concerns no matter how big or small. I’m not here to persuade them on my points of view, but to listen to theirs, sometimes giving personal experiences (yes, sometimes our stupid teenage errors can help our children in the future!) and always be supportive. Watching them grow into beautiful young women with so many amazing thoughts and ideas, and knowing that I helped them to be the best they can be, is the most amazing feeling in the world.

Kelly Grimsley, mom of two teenage girls

“Being a mother means experiencing time differently.

I feel a distinct compression of time these days…time I used to spend languidly sleeping or wandering the aisles at Wild Oats or Barnes and Noble is now punctuated by my awareness of this tiny person. Sometimes she needs me; sometimes I just find myself less able to float in my own world because I now have this little moon in my life.

It also means experiencing that time compression in her growth. As Lowen & Navarro said in one of their songs, “the days go by so slowly, but the years go by so fast.” It’s like that. She’s suddenly a year old and all those long stretches between the end of her afternoon nap and putting her down to bed have crunched right down to a year that’s flashed by in what feels like a minute. My life experiences have become mp3s instead of records.

I’m more aware of lifespan and energy (the get-out-of-bed kind, not the law-of-attraction/reiki kind, though I think about that too). Will my parents know Daisy as a young woman? Will Mark and I be as energetic and enthusiastic and passionate about life as we feel now when she is beginning her adult journey? Will we look old and wrinkly and not cool (or God forbid trying to be too cool)? Will she make it through all the bizarre choices we make as children and teenagers to a healthy grown-up life? Hope doesn’t even come close to describing what I feel here.

I think about how I spend the time I have with Daisy. Am I teaching her enough or the right things? I hope I am making the most of our hours and moments with her at this young age. I hope I will be able to grow with her and offer her the best parts of my Mom’s mothering of me as her birthright. I hope I will somehow avoid the weirdness between mothers and daughters that comes at adolescence, but still remain her parent and protector. I think 50 times a day about how she might be at age 3 or 7 or 10 or 30.

I wonder if I passed away today if she would remember me at all. I wonder at what she may teach me someday.

Being a mother means surrendering to the changing face of time.”

Mary Beth Maziarz, mom of 1-year-old Daisy

“To me, being a mother is to live life amplified. What might otherwise go unnoticed is marveled at, questioned, redefined and shows up a week later squashed beyond recognition in a pocket. Small successes are momentous and slights are devastating. There is an ever-present intensity that makes sleep luscious.”

Polly Plummer Mottonen, mother of Max, 7, and Miles, 9

“I am honored for the opportunity to witness my daughter’s development and expansion of her self each day. As her mother, I have the splendid role of mirroring her beauty and celebrating exciting discoveries as she makes sense of the world around her. She entered the world paradoxically in awe and in knowing. She trusts that I will be insightful of her strengths and will guide her in ways that enhance her own sense of self, rather than guiding her in ways that feed my sense of self. Mothering is about knowing myself well and taking good care of my own soul in order for me to see clearly where I stop and she begins.”

Rebecca Peters, mom to 5-year-old Stella

“(I’m writing this from my blackberry while breastfeeding—always the multi-tasker…)

Being a mother doesn’t define me entirely, but it certainly helps me to put other aspects of my life into perspective. What can compare to helping create a life and being a crucial part of another-person-first experience in a relationship?

I love having a front row seat to the unfolding of other souls.

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’ That pretty much sums up motherhood.”

Julie de Azevedo Hanks, mother of four, ages 2-18

“It means getting weepy when my 2-year-old says ‘I love my family,’ and feeling okay about it.

Having to turn off news stories about abused children because it all seems a lot less abstract now.

My greatest hits are now “I’m a Little Teapot” and “The Wheels on the Bus.”

Having a more intense relationship with my husband when we do get a little time alone together. This can be great and it can be exhausting. Mostly it’s great.”

Sarah Souther, mom of 2-year-old Talley

“To me, the thing about being a (stay at home, especially) mother are the amazing dichotomies and sharp contrasts within each day, or even each hour:

— mind-numbing drudgery, but soul-lighting illumination with that first smile, step, etc.

— long, long days, but a short, short season! (pre-school and kindergarten comes so quickly!)

— mother-bear protectiveness, but equipping them to be on their own as they are able.

Our generation is one of the first to (probably) have had jobs and careers before we became mothers, and this presents a temptation to long for the good old days of the office coffeepot and paycheck. The biggest thing to remember, I think, as we are so tempted to see the grass as greener in someone else’s day, that every job has its ups and downs, it’s good days and bad days, and mothering is no different. Our pay, reviews, and bonuses come in our children’s love for us and in feedback from teachers and other onlookers. We just have to remember to put them in the bank (in our memory) so we can adjust accordingly. We have to call on the wisdom of other moms to creatively respond to the changing needs of each individual child we are blessed to be charged with rearing, just as we would look to a career mentor when presented with new work challenges.” 

Gincy Carrington Plummer, mom to four, ages 9 months-7 years

After reading each reply and acknowledging the same feelings within myself, I again asked “What does it mean to me to be a mother?”

It means that I will never think of myself first in any decision again and yet oddly enough, I don’t resent it, it simply is.

I will never view the world quite the same, forevermore I will not see it from my place in it, but from the perspective of how it affects my children. Little injustices that may not have affected me suddenly have magnitude when I apply them to the next generation of which my offspring are a part.­

When all is said and done, know that there is a woman out there who gave you life and in honor of that, take this Mother’s Day to celebrate her, whether in quietness or extravagance.

Kindra Fehr is a mom and artist. See her current work through May 10 at Michael Berry Gallery on Broadway or visit Extremities/Oil%20on%20Canvas.html.

This article was originally published on May 4, 2008.