When do you count as a real mother?

March 2015 marked my first Mother’s Day with offspring of my own – although I didn’t know it at the time. It was only a week or two later that I took a pregnancy test and realised that there was a baby on the way. Sadly, a few weeks later again, I had a miscarriage, and so the following Mother’s Day I was pregnant, for the second time, but without having given birth yet. I found myself wondering – what does Mother’s Day mean when you’re pregnant? When you have miscarried? So I did what any self-respecting millennial would do – I hit Google.

The main thrust of the various articles and blog posts I uncovered was: of course you can celebrate Mother’s Day – if you want to. If you consider yourself to be a mother, then Mother’s Day is for you. I could see where this definition came from – it was an attempt to cater for women like me, who wanted to acknowledge their motherhood of their children who had yet to be born, without imposing on women who wanted to do no such thing. However, this definition raises more questions than it answers. It is, to quote C.S. Lewis, “…in one sense very right, very charitable,…very sensitive. It has every available quality except that of being useful”.

The whole point of days of awareness and appreciation is for society at large to collectively mark a particular set of people, actions or ideas. Think how ridiculous it would be to say that the point of Pride Day is for members of the LGBT community to privately and silently acknowledge that they are LGBT. This is pure nonsense. The point of Pride is for society to acknowledge the LGBT community, not for them to acknowledge themselves. If we define Mother’s Day as a day for mothers to silently and privately acknowledge their motherhood, then every day is Mother’s Day. Whether you’re waking for the sixth time to a teething baby, or rescheduling your work day, again, to accommodate an extracurricular activity, whether you’re driving into town in the rain late at night to pick up your teen who lost their taxi money, or dropping your afternoon activity at a moment’s notice because your grandchild has come down with a temperature in creche but your son just can’t get away from the office for another two hours to pick them up. Once you’re a mother, you spend every day acknowledging that you are a mother, you don’t need a special day once a year to do so, again.

So let’s get something straight. Not every pregnant woman wants to be a mother. Not every pregnant woman considers herself to be a mother. And not every pregnant woman will give birth. However, this doesn’t mean we should fudge the question of whether they are mothers or not. If a mother fails in her duties to her child, we wouldn’t take into consideration whether she personally felt like a mother. We would hold her responsible for her child regardless. Why not apply the same principle to the positive aspects of motherhood, like Mother’s Day? Why not decide to include pregnant women in the set of women we celebrate on Mother’s Day, as a matter of course, rather than on a case-by-case basis? There is no relationship quite like that of a pregnant mother and her child – Mother’s Day is the perfect day to celebrate that relationship.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Muireann

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