to mother is to

“In North America, Mother’s Day founders included abolitionists, suffragettes and pacifists. The day was ‘really not meant to celebrate women’s domestic work within the family as mothers, which is how it’s commonly understood,’ according to Samantha McGavin.. ‘[t]he origin was to celebrate them as political actors and as contributors to their society.'” (read more about the radical roots of mother’s day here)

Today is Mother’s Day. Happiest day to all the moms, and also, to all those who mother. I think we forget often that to mother is also a verb, an action that we all  participate in from time to time. I worry that the whole mothers’ day madness sets up a divisive binary between parents and non-parents that screams “mothers love more, love purer, love better” and “mothers are somehow holier, better, pure-r than the rest of us.” And I totally, wildly, wholeheartedly disagree. I think it’s horribly offensive to tie a woman’s ability to love to her status in relation to children. She was always able to love! We start to get into some really dangerous territory when we tie a woman’s ability to be awesome and to love to her reproductive capacity.

Rather, to mother, maybe, is to contribute in radical, political, acts of love to and for and with society. There is of course my own mother, but there are also so many people who have mothered me, and whom I hope I have mothered from time to time. Mothering sustains us, it brings us comfort, it is that bright hot white love that cannot ever burn out, even when you really want to put a lid on it for a while. Mothering is connection, compassion, warmth- it is that link between people and communities that is firm and flexible and binding. Mothering is a special kind of caring, a looking out for another in a way that is selfless, in a way that holds the other tenderly and even more carefully than we hold our own bodies. What would we do without the mothering?

To mother is to send hundreds of caring vibrations into the world, even when you cannot be there.

To mother is to replace all your daughters pots with cast iron.

To mother is to clean a kitchen that is not your own, and to teach how to make natural soaps and cleaning solutions.

To mother is to bend the rules just a little bit, and only when the rules need bending.

To mother is to knit a wig-hat, a wat or a hig for your old- and now bald- friend.

To mother is to wake up at 5:40am to sit in a hospital waiting room while your friend gets ready for surgery even though they won’t let you in the pre-opp room.

To mother is to love someone so much you wish you could take their shitty lot in life and live it yourself.

To mother is to email back and fourth at the speed of light about yoga and breast cancer.

To mother is to dream big with (not for) someone else, and to use all your mental and emotional prowess to make those dreams come true.

To mother is to gather the supplies for breast-casting, and make a gorgeous breast-cast for your friend.

To mother is to sprinkle sunflower seeds on salads.

To mother is to envision a world without violence and systematically go about eradicating injustice in every corner of the world where you find sorrow.

To mother is to make sure people around you know how very much you love them.

To mother is to believe a Ph.D. can be completed.

To mother is to always bring an extra toothbrush on trips for the someone who will forget theirs.

To mother is ask questions, to pry, to be curious, to wonder about the world and the other for the sake of knowing.

To mother is to notice a sad face and inquire, and act, and hug.

To mother is to feel “I know” in response to the world.

What, pray tell, would we do without the mothers? Without mothering? Without each other to mother over, without each other to receive mothering from? Both sides of mothering- to mother and to be mothered, are critically important in the world, awesomely life-changing, totally necessary. In the cancer world, the mothering is instant, and in spans digital networks and physical miles. Just the other evening, I needed bodies in my home with me the evening before surgery. And people showed up, to mother. So many have mothered me, and I have mothered in turn. I think the Mother’s Day founders, who envisioned mothers as political actors, would agree with mothering as a verb, would be down with mothering, not simply, being a mother. In this formulation, I can think of so many around me who probably were not celebrated and should be celebrated for their awe-inspiring mothering. So as I go about my week, I’ll remember to wish all those who mother a happy mother’s day, a happy day of political action, actions that are politically loving and a day of noticing the vast contributions of love, politics and justice made to the world through mothering.

To my mom, thank you. And to all those who mother, who are mothered, who do mothering, who will mother, thank you. The world turns because we mother each other.So I’m here, celebrating mother’s day, the celebration of the verb to mother. A day of mothering. A day to mother. Love.




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