On Mothers and Non-mothers

This open letter about mother’s day has been floating around on the internet this week. It’s a really great letter written to pastors about celebrating mother’s in church. I love her second point especially. She writes that pastors shouldn’t just celebrate women who have given birth and parenting children but
“to those who gave birth this year to their first child–we celebrate with you

to those who lost a child this year– we mourn with you
to those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains–we appreciate you
to those who experienced loss this year, through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away–we mourn with you
to those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prodes, tears, and disappointment– we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is
To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms– we need you
To those who lost their mothers this year– we grieve with you
To those who have warm and close relationships with your children– we celebrate with you
To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your chidren– we sit with you
To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother– we acknowledge your experience
To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood–we are better for having you in our midst
To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year– we grieve and rejoice with you
And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising– we anticipate with you”
What a beautiful sentiment! I love this mostly  because it thanks ALL women for their mothering role. There are two things this post really addresses that both iritate and bum me out to no end. 1- that women feel like as a mother, you have to do everything and be everything to your children and 2- that non parent caretakers are underrated, undervalued, and under acknowledged.
 Alloparenting is one of the more important roles in any society, in any time period, in any geographical place. The fact that we want to deny and devalue the importance of alloparenting is clear in the kind of child care the United States has, in how we pay our teachers, in how we view librarians or pediatricians or any other kind of child care occupation. They are treated as “oh that’s a nice, cute job, working with children,” instead of treating them as they really are: the creators of our country’s future. There is no mother out there, no matter what she thinks, who is not completely indebted to alloparents, and the thing is, there is nothing wrong with other’s parenting your children. That’s the real kicker of all of this. Mother’s for whatever reason, seem to want to resist alloparents. We want to stay home with our babies, teach them every thing ourselves, homeschool them, fix all theircolds and coughs, be their best friends, etc etc. And we drive ourselves absolutely crazy trying to do it all. Our marriages fall apart, we lose contact with all friends, we alienate our family for not doing things our way. And I’m just as guilty as any one else in this. But alloparents often can teach our children things we couldn’t dream of teaching them. Different people will give our children different experiences, and that is not a bad thing at all! In many primate societies mothers literally cannot raise their children without the help of friends, sisters, and older children to help. My daughter is six and can do just about everything for her little brother except change his diaper. When I’m busy she feeds him, helps him get dressed, picks up his toys, and (thank goodness) does it all with a happy heart. And someday she is going to grow up to be a wonderful, nurturing mother, wife, friend, whatever. Alloparenting is not just good for mothers, it’s good for every body. It gives  children experience to use with their own children, it gives non-parents a vested interest in the community, and allows former parents to share their experienced advice.
I hate hearing about people wanting to ban children from restaurants or airplanes, which, I get that some parents are not “good parents” and let their children be incredibly obnoxious, but when did public sentiment for good will become so low that we are wanting to ban children from common activities? Alloparenting fosters a sense of communitity. Raising children isn’t just the job of the parents…that child the next table over is bothering you? Do something about it. Of course, that isn’t always going to be acceptable (especially if your idea of doing something about it is spanking them) but that’s just the point. When parents and society thinks that parents and only parents have the right and responsibility to raise children, children are not going to turn out as well as they could. In many other countries, it is not odd for other people to tell a child they need to shut up and behave, or to help a parent get a quiet meal by entertaining the child. For our country, I think simply celebrating alloparents, giving all “mothers” credit for helping to raise children, not just those that give birth, is a great starting point.

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