What It Means To Be A Mother

May 9, 2013 | By | Comments (2)
south towards home m What It Means To Be A Mother

Illustration by Gracia Lam

Motherhood is hard. It is hard in the ways that matter and in the ways that don’t. It can make you feel as powerful as the sea and as useless as a fleck of mud, sometimes in the same moment. To be a mother is to be called to a higher purpose, whether you are equipped for that higher purpose or not. Once the baby comes, it is a done deal. It is no longer about you.

This is right and good. We have all come from something—good, bad, or indifferent—and as parents ourselves we see how meaningless our former pre-occupations were. The house of self burns down. Our past worries, the stuff of sitcoms.

Our new worries—tidal waves filled with prayers. Don’t let my baby take ill. Don’t let my son fail himself. Don’t let my daughter grow fearful. Don’t let any harm come, in any form, on my watch.

The vigilance is without end. To be a mother is to know what you would do to protect your child, to abandon any concern you once held for yourself, to wish with all your might that it be you instead who breaks the arm, who bleeds, whose heart is crushed.

And then there are the moments.

You know the ones. The grace you don’t see coming.

Not long ago, I was in a movie theater with my daughters. It was crowded, so they sat in front of me, their hair curled haphazardly over the seat backs. In need of a shampoo, I remember thinking.

The film featured a young girl with autism and a deaf boy, both lovely but isolated, misunderstood, mistreated. People were cruel. The way people are. Soon enough, I began to cry. (To be a mother is to know better about which movies to see).

I tried to keep my sadness under wraps. I wept quiet, thick tears, blotting them as inconspicuously as I could, pretending to cough to obscure the sniffling.

The film was unrelenting. In one exceptionally devastating scene, the girl is terrified to be touched, and it is only the deaf boy who calms her, who is able to take her arm and lead her to safety.

I stiffened. Labored to hold it together. To not think about the mercilessness of life, the hand dealt to the weakest and softest. Tried harder not to mentally fold my own girls into my alarm.

I want them to see the world as a wondrous place bursting with opportunity and magic. I want them to believe in poetry. But to be a mother is to feel the pain of all mothers. To feel bound to all children. Even ones in silly movies.

At the apex of my melancholy, I felt my youngest touch my hand. She reached behind her head, not turning to look, and gently linked her finger around mine.

To be a mother is to be given gifts beyond imagining.

We sat there like that for a bit, our two fingers hooked, neither of us wanting to let go.

You are not alone, I thought.

For her. For me.

This Mother’s Day Allison Glock plans to eat her weight in peanut butter pie. How will you celebrate? 


  1. Dagmar

    I enjoyed this piece I came across it while waiting for my kids to finish their piano lessons,
    made tear up i tell you. thanks you described all those feelings perfectly.

    October 5, 2014 at 8:15 pm
  2. Dawn

    Thanks! Loved this article! Happy Mother’s Day!

    May 11, 2013 at 8:00 am

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