From one mother to you
I’m not sure what I’ve loved more: being a mother or being able to call myself a mother. But I’m sure I was a better mother before I became a mother. In my pre-kid ignorance, I pictured I’d be an aspirational version of myself with unshakeable ideals, infinite patience and newborn craftiness. I’d use cloth diapers. Sew costumes. Calmly redirect whiny theatrics.
Isn’t that cute?
I’d fill our days with art projects, museum visits, nature walks. Our kids would happily do chores, prefer cardboard boxes to electronics, wouldn’t have meltdowns.
How’d that work out?
I’d see mothers bribe their kids with sugary snacks and TV trances and click my snotty tongue and roll my righteous eyes. Until I became a mother.
And then I became even more judgmental. I was so love-sick with my identity as a mother, it became a little toxic, putting me on a high rocking horse. I judged and misjudged not only other mothers, but people who didn’t have kids. And people who considered their dogs their children. And mothers who went back to work soon after their kids were born. And women who didn’t breastfeed.
What a jerk I was.
That holier-than-thou perspective was fueled by a self-centered lack of awareness, understanding and compassion. My experience as a mother was a bubble of privilege: three healthy children with their engaged, involved father by my side. Family nearby who helped with the kids for free, on demand. Financial, social and emotional resources to provide not just food and shelter, but also enrichment and what I now know are keys to social mobility. I had a job I could do on a freelance basis, from home, while the kids napped or were in school. Heck, I could even nurse a baby while working. All in all, a pretty darn lucky, cushy experience of motherhood.
Yet I still only stuck with cloth diapers a few months before cratering to the ease of plastic. It wasn’t long before I found out I could take a shower while network TV or videos babysat. (Teletubbies and Pokémon are educational, right?) And that candy was an effective, lazy incentive for pro-social behavior.
So who am I to judge?
And I sneezed and guess what: I’m going to be an empty nester within the year when our youngest goes to college. For the first time in 25 runs around the sun, my husband Luke and I will live alone together, without a kid in the house. But now we’re caring for our aging parents. And someday, hopefully not too soon, we’ll help care for our grandchildren. Meantime, I’m now a proud dog mom of a sweet rescue.
So what’s my identity? A working woman without kids who treats her hound like a child? A hypocrite?
Throw it back a few decades to my first ad agency job, before kids. A coworker and I were expected to work over the holidays because we didn’t have children, while those who had kids could take off. That was my family’s last Christmas with my terminally ill dad. The gathering where my now-husband proposed to me with Dad on one side and the sparkling tree on the other.
Of course, my manager didn’t know. And that’s the point. We don’t know. But we should learn.
Because we’re all mothers in different, often hidden, unrecognized ways. Mother is a verb. It’s what we do when we care, and love. Whether we identify as a mother or society identifies us as a mother, our lived experience is ours alone. When we project it onto others, we see shadows of ourselves, not them.
As friends and colleagues, leaders and managers, marketers and communicators, we need to see our people, our audiences, in their light, not ours. We need to listen, learn and support each other’s ability to mother however, whomever and whatever we love, fully. Our identity may evolve, as it should, but being a mother isn’t our identity. It’s what we do. And we should celebrate it.
Wishing you all a mother of all Mother’s Days!
Robin Merrill Lorenzo
Robin Merrill Lorenzo is DS+CO’s content supervisor who creates copy and messaging with a deep understanding of her clients’ brands.