The importance of being a mother

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The importance of being a momFor such a vital and global phenomenon, there is surprisingly little research available on the experience of motherhood – possibly because, as per a statement issued by Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Women’s Mental Health, “motherhood is such a unique and personal experience for each woman”. There’s no easy way to define or classify the experience of motherhood, but there’s no doubt that it’s a momentous task.

“Motherhood is the most important job in the world,” smiles mother-of-two Nina Geraghty, “you’re raising the next generation!”

“It’s the hugest job I’ve ever done in my life!” agrees Deborah Stodel, a speech therapist with a 13-year-old daughter. “And it’s made me look back and understand a lot more about my own childhood, and about life in general, because of that instinctual powerful love and protection parents feel for their children.”

Both Geraghty and Stodel believe the experience of motherhood is tied to providing essential love and care in the formative stages of life. “It’s about someone who depends on you totally – becoming a mother might not even have been a conscious choice, but as soon as you realise that caring for that little being is something that lies in your hands, you can’t walk away.”

“Mothering is about the relationship in that vulnerable and crucial young phase – being the primary caregiver to this tiny being that relies on you for its survival,” says Stodel. Her comment casts a light on an alternative perception of motherhood – if it’s about being a primary caregiver, then is it possible to be a mother without giving birth to a child?

“These days it’s not always practical for birth mothers to be present 24/7 – so others take on the mothering role,” Stodel says. Circumstances and modern life don’t always allow for everyone to experience motherhood, all the time, or sometimes at all. Some couples aren’t able to have children; others simply choose not to. Some are restricted by financial difficulties that require a mother to work and live in another region; some work demanding careers that take up a lot of their time.
The idiom “it takes a village to raise a child” might seem to have been lost in the modern context, but perhaps it has simply been transmuted. Many people can be “mothers” – even fathers. A 2010 survey by the US Census Bureau found that, in two-parent homes with a working mother, 32% of fathers provided regular care for their children under age 15, up from 26% in 2002.

As I write this in a cosy coffee shop, the woman sitting diagonally opposite from me is waxing lyrical about her new puppy – an eight-week old pit-bull / staffie cross who was separated from her own mother too soon and has hence developed a deep attachment to her human surrogate… Another form of motherhood, perhaps?

Ultimately motherhood, and mothering, means so many different things to different people that it’s almost impossible to pin it down. Rather than trying to, perhaps it makes more sense to instead pay tribute to the various mothers in our lives – whoever they may be, and whether they constitute a single individual, or multiple people (or animals!) that make up a “tapestry mother” in our lives.

“(24/7) once you sign on to be a mother, that’s the only shift they offer.”
– Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

“I think that the best thing we can do for our children is to allow them to do things for themselves, allow them to be strong, allow them to experience life on their own terms, allow them to take the subway…let them be better people, let them believe more in themselves.”
– C. JoyBell C.

Written by

After spending most of the last decade working as a journalist and editor in Thailand and travelling the East, Cindy returned to the Mother City in September 2010. She has written for a wide spectrum of online and offline publications in both South Africa and SE Asia and is passionate about reading, writing, food, globe-trotting and cats.

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  1. Aqeela Galvaan

    Being a mother is something no one can prepare you for. It is the hardest, yet most rewarding job.

    4 years ago •

  1. AmyR

    Sometimes its the worlds hardest job other days its exceptionally rewarding and fulfilling. My daughter is the best thing that happened to me. She changed my life literally and figuratively

    4 years ago •

  1. ABeauty

    My daughter is my greatest blessing and I have the second sprog on the way due in another 4 months, my daughter has two moms, me and my mom in law that looks after her during the day. In my case it really is a village looking after my family.

    4 years ago •

  1. Jenna-Lee Pretorius

    I love my mummy so much, the bond between a mother and daughter is unbreakable and it makes me so excited to think that I will one day have that bond too.. They say Mothers are angels sent from heaven because God couldn’t be everywhere.I truly believe mom’s are angels.

    4 years ago •

  1. me

    A topic I am very opinionated on, therefore I will try restrict myself to one sentence. The more we are honest with ourselves, and ‘unprogram’ ourselves from what we are told and sold what motherhood is, the more we can be good to our own family first then to others.

    4 years ago •

  1. Carlene

    Being a mom is the best experience of my life (my son was born just before my 40th birthday) and I have loved every minute of the last 4 years (I thought I’d never have children). I just wish he wouldn’t grow up so FAST! I am truly blessed!

    4 years ago •

  1. Mpoyif

    It’s a job that never ends but is also the most rewarding, albeit frustrating at times

    4 years ago •

  1. Sam

    I am a mom to five wonderful kids and wouldn’t trade it for the world. Just knowing that you are responsible for these precious souls affect your actions and thinking.

    4 years ago •

  1. AndreaM

    It is really a big blessing to be a mom. I would not trade it for anything or wish it away.

    4 years ago •

  1. Tundee

    I can’t wait to be a mother myself

    4 years ago •

  1. Lynne123

    My Little girl is my Biggest most amazing blessing! I never thought I would be a mom, but I am the happiest now that I am one! Nothing beats seeing the stages and the development and to know that you are part of something so much bigger than you could ever imagine.

    5 years ago •

  1. Grove

    My little boy is due any day now and I can’t wait to be a mommy! I do not have a set due date because of complications during my pregnancy so it’s a waiting game for me and my hubby but I’m so happy he’s gonna be here soon!

    5 years ago •

  1. CandidMissT

    I cannot wait to be a mummy! I think being a mother is one of the most amazing things a woman can do with her life.

    5 years ago •

  1. TJK

    I’m not a mother, and I understand what the article talks about – in a theoretical way! But I guess one has to experience it first hand to really understand.

    5 years ago •

  1. diamond

    Motherhood is the most precious gift one an ever receive and also a job that never has an end date.

    5 years ago •

  1. Miss Tee

    Definitely the most important job ever

    5 years ago •

  1. Yvette76

    The love I have for my daughter is like no other love I have ever experienced! I love being a mommy, the most important job I have ever had!

    5 years ago •

  1. Nadia Lucas

    Being a mother has taught me so much. But the most of all the uncoditional love for that little 2 year old of mine.

    5 years ago •

  1. Cat

    Being a mother is a very important job but also a priviledge, there are a lot of woman that cannot conceive and I feel sometimes people take it for granted that they can have children, it is something that should be treasured, the bond between a mother and her son/daughter is the most amazing thing in the world

    5 years ago •

  1. Miss Tee

    Being a mother is the greatest gift from God. I wouldn’t trade it for all the gold in this world.

    5 years ago •

  1. Nadine

    Motherhood is indeed the most impotant job in the world, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other job.

    5 years ago •

  1. RoseAngel

    I am so gratefull for my husband, that he earns enough for us to be comfortable and enable me to be a full time stay at home mom to my kids aged 2 and 5. Lol stay at home mom might not be the right term though…… More like driver, cook, nurse, playmate, swing pusher, pretend pony, and a whole host if other things too! I wouldn’t change it for the world, just a single smile from either of my daughters can turn a bad day right around. Also my kids are happier having ‘Ammy’ available 24/7

    5 years ago •

  1. Carlene

    I love being mom (greatest blessing in my life) and I thank my mom daily for the wonderful role model she has been (and continues to be on a daily basis)!

    5 years ago •

  1. Pseudo_kate

    As important as it is for women to make sure their children come first, there needs to be a balance so that they have time to look after themselves as well.

    5 years ago •

  1. Leana

    A world without mothers is a world without hugs and kisses

    5 years ago •

  1. Larissa B

    being a mom is awesome, love my princesses
    i’m proud to say that my baby was born 6 months ago and i resigned cos i can always find another job but getting their first years back will never come by again!

    5 years ago •

  1. foreverGLAM

    “Motherhood is the most important job in the world,” So true.

    5 years ago •

  1. me

    Strange how what good is said about mothers during May are not lived daily. Other times being only-a-mother is seen as not enough. Worst of it all, it is other mothers not giving the only-a-mother mothers the raised eyebrow look.

    5 years ago •

  1. du Plessis

    I have the best mother to learn from, no doubt!

    5 years ago •

  1. Lauren

    Awesome read! Being a mother is hard work, but its totally worth it at the end of the day.

    5 years ago •

  1. Riekie

    Would love to be a mother, but motherhood is not meant for everyone so have to make peace with that. Too all the mothers out there, enjoy your kids

    5 years ago •

  1. DIVA

    Wow beautiful article, really enjoyed it.

    5 years ago •

  1. SG

    The hardest job in the world… The best perks…

    5 years ago •

  1. Mpoyif

    I think this has got to be the hardest job and one that never ends but also the most rewarding

    5 years ago •

  1. Ladyconfused

    I really enjoyed this article, yes motherhood is very different to each woman, but also the greatest most rewarding challenge.

    5 years ago •

  1. mofokeng

    Being a mother is priceless, really awesome article it was worth reading.

    5 years ago •

  1. Humphreys

    This is so true and beautifull! I wouldn’t exchange being a mother for anything.

    5 years ago •

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