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Today, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, I feel keenly aware of the women within my circle of friends for whom this day is a reminder of the imperfect situations they might find themselves in.  Whether they are unmarried, struggling with infertility, single parents, feeling overwhelmed with many children, have wayward children, children they gave up for adoption, children who have passed on before them, have lost their own mothers, or don’t have the relationship with their mother that they desire.  Mother’s Day can be a difficult day for many people.  

,About a year ago one of my friends who had struggled with infertility for a long time, posted that she would go to Relief Society on Mother’s Day and go home with the Mother’s Day treat and cry. She felt like she’d been given something that she didn’t deserve. Rather than feeling included (which I’m sure was the intention), the gesture exacerbated her feelings of inadequacy. This broke my heart to read how a wonderful day for so many is a bitter reminder for others of a blessing which they have been denied.

Particularly for those who are struggling with not having yearned for children I wanted to share this thought from my favorite blog, Women in the Scriptures. One of the first posts of hers that I read was this one about infertility.  I want to share one particular quote used in that post from Sheri Dew –

” …While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve “the mother of all living”—and they did so before she ever bore a child. Like Eve, our motherhood began before we were born. Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality, righteous women were endowed premortally with the privilege of motherhood. Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us…

…Motherhood is not what was left over after our Father blessed His sons with priesthood ordination. It was the most ennobling endowment He could give His daughters, a sacred trust that gave women an unparalleled role in helping His children keep their second estate. As President J. Reuben Clark Jr. declared, motherhood is “as divinely called, as eternally important in its place as the Priesthood itself.” (Are We Not All Mothers, Ensign. Nov. 2001)

I loved this definition of motherhood. While I’ve never struggled with infertility I did have my own experience with not feeling like I fit the definition of “mother”.  When Eric and I were first married we lived in married student housing at BYU. It seemed like a majority of the women in our ward were mothers.  Our plan at the time was to wait to have children until Eric was done with school and I was working full time to support us while we got to that goal.  I felt excluded from the mom club – the circle of women who passed their days in the middle of the quad at the playground chatting.  

I remember the first time my visiting teachers in that ward came to visit me with their toddlers. In the process of getting to know one another I told them that I was working full time.  While they didn’t say anything disparaging, I felt judged, as if they were high society women who saw me merely as ‘one of those working girls’. Whether that sentiment was real or imagined (and let’s be honest, it was probably more imagined), it was a difficult moment for me. 

At the time I felt like I had a hard time defining myself.  I’m the oldest of 5 children and my mom has called me the second mother in our home. I grew up carrying around babies, playing with kids, babysitting, and loving being around children.  However in that season of my life I was without children – far away from my siblings and not yet having children of my own.  At the same time, I still felt the inherent mother-ness in me.  

I had a hard time figuring out how to refer to myself as a married woman without children. I would often try to call myself a single mother – which was ironic since I was completely the opposite . I think I felt similarly displaced to those mothers who find themselves without a father to aid them, which is likely why I would gravitate to that title.  The other title I would come up with was “childless mother” which also felt odd since it seems weird to call someone a mother who doesn’t have her own children.  

In retrospect I think the title of “childless mother” was actually the right term.  Despite not having children, I was a mother.  I liked what Sister Dew stated about our motherhood as women beginning before we were born.  Motherhood is not dependent on 9 months of pregnancy, it is inherent in our calling as women.  Motherhood is the qualities of women that dispose us to teaching, building, and growing not only children but the world around us.  You can fulfill that calling as a sister, daughter, aunt, friend, teacher, office worker, CEO, Relief Society president, yoga instructor or whatever role you find yourself in.  

Just as a man is no less a priesthood holder for not being a bishop, women are no less mothers for not having children.  Motherhood is part of who you are.  I know that might not be much consolation to those who would like to discharge that calling in the conventional way, especially when proffered by one who has been given that more conventional mother role.  However, I hope you know that whatever your contribution to motherhood is I honor you for what you are building and the love you show for those around you.

So take that cookie offered to you with pride, you are a mother.  Happy Mother’s Day to all women, whatever circumstance you find yourself in.  You are a daughter of our Heavenly Mother, and I want to celebrate that divinity within you ❤️