The Meaning of Mother
By Lynn Branigan
It’s May. In a few short days we will celebrate Mother’s Day, a US holiday that was created in the 19th Century to recognize the sacrifices mothers make for their children. But celebrating the spirit of “mother” dates back to ancient Greek and Roman festivals that honored of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. At one point, Mother’s Day signified a time to return to the “mother church” in the UK and Ireland. The history suggests a much broader application for the idea of Mother and the day we set aside to observe her.
The meaning of mother is vast. It is also inclusive. As an organization dedicated to lifting women, of course we celebrate mothers. With fervor. But we also recognize that “mother” doesn’t apply exclusively to women who have children. Mother earth, mother hen, mother lode … this word embodies the mother of all meanings.
The dictionary will confirm that “mother” means “female parent.” Read further, however, and you will learn that – applied as an adjective – it also means “of, relating to, or characteristic of a mother.”
Embracing the broader meaning of mother, the May 9 celebration takes on a new complexion. It continues to be a day for gatherings, flowers, gifts, cards, and brunches with immediate family members. But it also becomes a day to recognize all who nurture and tend to others. A day to celebrate women who inspire the best in their friends, families and colleagues. To honor those who – through their provoking or prodding or promoting – elevate those around them. To recognize the caring spirit that resides in so many of us, whether or not there is someone in our lives who calls us “Mother” or “Mom” any of the dozens of other monikers reserved for women with children.
Author Cheryl Lacey Donovan who wrote The Ministry of Motherhood said, “Mother is a verb. It’s something you do. Not just who you are.”
With that in mind, I welcome May, and I wish every single woman (and a good number of men), a very happy Mother’s Day.