What is a Mom?

During a debate yesterday, a commenter at Now Is Good suggested that a father’s significant other could “play mom” and therefore invade Mom’s territory or otherwise strain relationships.  I responded in the comment thread, but I thought this might be worthy of a full post, so here it is…

I looked up “mom” on dictionary.com and read “an informal term for mother”.  So I looked up “mother” and found various definitions, many of which might be offensive to a sensitive mom.  Why?  Because “Mom” isn’t simply a mother.  Mom is special, dammit!

“Mom” is not a job description.  While some moms cook breakfast and drive kids to school, other moms hire nannies to take on those duties.  One mom might take her daughter to get a manicure and a different mom will take her daughter camping (did anyone else see the Kate Gosselin episode of Sarah Palin’s show?).  Activity does not equal Mom.  If that were the case, there would be no nannies, no teachers, no family restaurants and no children’s hairdressers.

Mom is about a connection.   Mom signifies an emotional bond.  Anyone can cook, clean, kiss boo-boos, read stories and give hugs.  Yet, everyone knows that sandwiches taste better when Mom cuts the crust off.  It is a fact of life.

The essence of Mom can be neither created nor destroyed by the actions of others.  The relationship between Mom and Child is theirs to nurture or neglect.



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  1. I like how you draw a comparison to the first law of thermodynamics or the law of conservation of energy. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. As you so eloquently stated, “The essence of Mom can be neither created nor destroyed by the actions of others.”
    Perhaps “Mom” is not so much a position to be held as it is a state of being. In that way, it actually correlates quite well with the laws of thermodynamics. At times the state of Mom can be very high, when someone takes on a great deal of responsibility for her children’s needs. And at other times, the state of Mom can be quite low, when she is letting her children spread their wings and fly on their own. Still a Mom, just at a lower state of being.
    Too existential?

    Nice post BTW.

  2. I completely agree. The bond between mother and child is not something that can be duplicated anywhere. And whether it is nurtured or neglected….people spend their lives seeking love and approval from that person. My ex is newly engaged. A couple weeks ago I went to pick up the kids and saw the four of them walking back from an outing – my youngest on his dad’s shoulders, my oldest holding his soon-to-be-stepmom’s hand. Yes, it hurt to see this new person so neatly photoshopped into our family portrait in my place. But I reminded myself that she is nice. She likes my kids and my kids like her. As long as that mutual admiration continues, I’m okay with it. Because I know that no one can replace me in my sons’ lives. It can definitely be uncomfortable, but it’s tolerable.

    • My mom, sister and I speak our own language- literally. It’s evolved over the years… some of it came from words that my sister mispronounced when she was a baby and some of it came from the “voice” we gave to the family dog. It’s ridiculous, and other people don’t understand why we talk to each other in such mangled English. But…as goofy as it is, it’s part of our bond.

  3. I recognize that no one can replace me. It is not yet tolerable to me to share my children, though. It makes a difference that they are so small – just 8 months, 3.5 and 5.5 when they were introduced to someone else. Thinking of my 8 month old being held by some strange woman made me physically nauseous. It was different with my son (5.5), who was a whole person who could already express so much. I hear this statement a lot ‘no one can replace you’ and I know it to be true, but that doesn’t make everything ‘okay’.

    Our pain in a divorce and “new person” is so quickly dismissed “Well, you’re still MOM. You just can’t see them as much. Or be with them as much. And you have to accept that you can’t control the parenting at the other house, or who they’re introduced to.”

    And I am SUPPOSED to control those things for a baby. I protect her and get her walking and talking and teach her about things and THEN I send her out. THEN I send her to school and places where I can’t see her or get a regular report or check up on the people taking care of her.

    So please stop telling me that “I’m still mom, I’ll always be mom” I know that. But I’m operating under duress. Take any baby animal from it’s mother and the mother will become stressed. Don’t argue that my brain should be able to overcome thousands upon thousands of years of instinct by the utterance of a simple phrase “You’re still mom”.

    (And lest you assume that I am not ‘letting go’, indeed I am where I must. I am just tired of these eye-rolling statements in regards to my feelings. The ‘just stop feeling that way, let it go’ as if it were so simple. As if I weren’t working on that.)

  4. I think we often forget that the definition for ‘mom or dad’ isn’t set by the parent but by the recipient. While I would like to let myself feel that my kids have only one ‘dad’ the cold reality is that they have two and that he and I approach our children differently but that they see the benefits from his parenting as a ‘father’ the same as they see mine they are just different outcomes. That is something that I just need to get over and move on with.

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