Mother is more verb than noun

Published 11:38 pm Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Since I am one, I’ve been giving some thought to the whole Mother’s Day celebration that happens this weekend.

As I sat pondering the recognition of motherhood that takes place on Sunday, something interesting occurred to me. “Mother” is much more of a verb than a noun. (Yes, the word-loving person in me thinks this way).

The first definition of the word is – the woman who gave birth to you. Or, if she brings you up, she is your mother. That’s the noun.

The definition as a transitive verb — If a woman mothers a child, she takes care of it and brings it up. Or, if you mother someone, you treat him or her with great care and attention, as if they were a small child.

When we honor mothers, I think we are celebrating the verb description because that is what we associate with the person who nurtured us as we grew to adulthood. We remember our mother’s care and attention.

Interestingly, mothering doesn’t end when the child grows up. I know this because my 94-year-old mama still likes to mother her children. Visit her and she will try to feed you something, get you something to drink and on occasion rub your back. I guess you never get to an age when you stop feeling like you need to mother your children.

I also find it interesting that it isn’t necessary to give birth to participate in the act of mothering. There are a lot of folks who do a wonderful job of mothering their nieces, nephews, cousins, godchildren, friends’ children etc.

In fact, the object of the mothering doesn’t have to be human. I know people who are wonderful mothers to their fur babies and possess that ability to love unconditionally. (Some I know have feather babies).

Yes, it is possible for a non-female person to mother. There are some amazing guys out there who are raising children. They also possess that mothering instinct.

I will inject here that the words mothered and fathered don’t bring up the same images. Whether that is fair or not, it’s just a fact.

Want proof? When I hear that someone fathered a child, I hear that he made it possible for that child to be born. He participated in getting a human into the world, as in — “He fathered a child.”

Tell me someone mothered a baby and I hear she not only got the kid here, but also put a Band-Aid on every boo-boo and then handed out cookies.  I know daddies do that too, but I just don’t think of it when I hear the word “fathered.”

Mothering isn’t just a human thing either. I’ve watched animals mother their young. My mama cat still on occasion tackles one of her grown babies and gives it a good licking bath. In an even broader sense, this planet on which we live is a mother. It is a living thing that provides us with all we need to live. Humans can’t exist without the support and nurture of Mother Nature. Nature mothers us. So, to our mother earth on this holiday, we will do our best to be better children and take care of you with the same love you give us.

So now we prepare to celebrate another Mother’s Day, and I’m grateful to be a mother and thankful to have enjoyed some great mothering from my own mama. I’m hoping to keep being both the recipient and giver of mothering for a while longer.

And to all of the mothers out there, whether you gave birth to another person and became a mother or never gave birth but share the act of mothering with those you love, thank you. We need you in our lives.

We celebrate and honor and appreciate every act of mothering, every bit of care and attention we get from mothers. Keep it up because you make the world a much better place. Happy Mother’s Day 2019.

Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.