Stories From Our Community

The Many Meanings of Mom

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Family with toddler and baby on the couch

Tummy tickler. Patient listener. Advice giver. Motherhood means something a little different to everyone. That's part of the magic.

Every Mother's Day, we celebrate these many meanings of "mom." This year, maybe one above all: unsung hero. Because, more than ever, it was mom's strength that held it all together. The strength to improvise, learn how to Zoom (sorry, Grandma), and work from home-is-a-classroom-yes-I'll-come-help.... the kind of strength that has stories behind it.

Here, we're honored to share some of those stories — words from moms and for moms, shared by our community — glimpses into some of the many meanings of motherhood.


Sarah and Rushie

On Four-Letter Words

Family with two young children laughing as they lay in bed
Photos by @posyquartermanphotography


In our house, Mom is a four-letter word. Moms, as in: two. An epic job, especially in a pandemic. So we laugh. A lot. Gotta laugh, so you don’t cry over little things like spilt milk, dangerously close to the iPad we swore we’d never use so much! Why does milk always spill? Even in a sippy cup? Wow, do we clean up a lot of messes, but we also ask for help so our kids learn it’s NBD — something to laugh about, even. Those days, Mom is an easy breezy word, like sunshine and mini donuts.

Other days, it’s stretched so thin, you can see through it. Those days, we try to breathe. Remind each other to take a chill pill. Throw out the idea of being perfect, alongside those disposable diapers we swore we’d never buy — oh my goddess, our pre-parenting idealism… hilarious!

But hey, those diapers helped our kids sleep through the night. Sleep, the thing that helps us not totally lose our shit. Breathing also helps. It's the thing we needed when we figured out making babies wasn’t going to be easy — it tested our fortitude before you birthed them and they existed outside of our bodies. Breath, the thing we needed as we figured out formula doesn’t make you a bad mom and postpartum is nothing to feel ashamed about. Breaths full of gratitude because we get to do this shitty/amazing job — together. A job we’d never trade. Unless it’s short term, on a couples trip to Mexico. Let’s discuss after the kids are asleep, k?


Family portrait with lush green backdrop
Family with toddler and baby on the couch

In our house, Mom is a four-letter word. Moms, as in: two. An epic job, especially in a pandemic.

Gabby

On the Right Choice

Portrait of mother and young son with Greek city in background


As a young single mother, I actually felt a lot of shame for the decision I made. There was no celebration, because many saw it as an unnecessary burden.

As each year passes, I’m able to see the growth in my child and myself. I remember when I had my son at 21 and felt like I made a 'right mistake.' Years later I realized that maybe I didn’t make the right decision to certain people, but I definitely made the right choice for me. Despite really wanting to give up at times, I pushed through — and it makes me feel as though I can do anything.

I’ve realized the importance of taking a chance on myself even when it feels uncomfortable. This past year, despite the pandemic, we moved across the country and started a new life. I was able to cultivate a village for us by being intentional about meeting other parents with kids. I've immersified him in different activities and made friends of my own in the process.

I would be lying if I said this where I saw myself at 27, but it is exactly where I need to be. Yes I’m a mom, but I’m also so much more. Every piece deserves to be celebrated!


Portrait of mother and little boy on park bench
Portrait of mother and little boy at pumpkin patch

I realized that maybe I didn’t make the right decision to certain people, but I definitely made the right choice for me.

Mia

On Rememberance

Mother holding little girl who is asleep in her arms


My mom was as close to a perfect person as anyone could get. She had a lightness to her. She was calm, friendly, adorable. She smiled more than anyone I’ve ever met. Her default setting was positivity. She always looked on the bright side of everything.

She was incredibly creative. She worked as a logo designer when she was younger. Her taste for decor, architecture, design, and art was sophisticated and beyond her years. She loved transforming furniture she’d find at garage sales or thrift stores. She could see potential in everything around her.

I learned most things from my mom by observing her. She taught me humility, strength, respect, dignity, work ethic, and elegance by just being who she is. The times she did hand out advice, they were powerful, deep, wise one-liners.

They say the best ones go first. It’s been two hard years since she passed, and the thought of living 60 or so years without her is hard to swallow. I spend time with her through four voicemails I saved, pictures, our old texts, and I play out scenarios of us talking over afternoon coffees. I look for her everywhere, for some kind of sign from the other side, to prove that I will hug her again one day. There hasn’t been a day I don’t think about her. She is my favorite person.

I am so lucky, honored, and blessed to have had the most wonderful person ever created as my mom.


portrait of young woman
portrait of young woman with red flowers in the background

I spend time with her through four voicemails I saved, pictures, our old texts, and I play out scenarios of us talking over afternoon coffees.

Juli

On Perseverance

Selfie of grandmother and granddaughter


My grandma and I are very close. We share the same birthday, so I've always felt a special connection with her. Growing up, I spent many weeks of school break at her house, listening to her, watching her, and learning from her. She is one of the biggest influences in my life, but she would probably deny it because she's so humble.

She migrated with eight children from a small Brazilian town to São Paulo, a much bigger city, for a better life. She raised them on her own and went through so much to give them a home — a chance at a better life than she had. Things were difficult for her, but it never stopped her from fighting to support her family. She never complained. She kept her faith and kept going. I can't remember a single lazy day or a morning she slept in.

From her, I’ve learned to never complain about hard work and that, when times get tough, you will find the strength to continue. When I came to the U.S., it was her journey to São Paulo that gave me the strength to leave my family and chase a new life of my own. I’m grateful she paved the way for me to live a life full of opportunities — to pursue my own passions in a way that she never had the chance to.

Even though we now live many countries apart, we talk on the phone every week. I continue to learn so much from her, and she always shares lessons of perseverance. The past year has been difficult not being able to travel back to see her — but that's all about to change. My grandma is going to be 90 years old this summer, and I am so fortunate to celebrate this amazing milestone with her.


Photo of grandma and granddaughter embracing by birthday cake
Vintage photo of grandma with granddaughter on her lap

I’m grateful she paved the way for me to… pursue my own passions in a way that she never had the chance to.

Jess & Sharon

On Surprises

Mothers laughing as they hold up their babies
Photos by @posyquartermanphotography


We tried for years to become mothers. When we finally got pregnant, we got a two for one deal! We were thrilled yet slightly terrified with the idea of two babies at once, and our family and friends reassured us that we would be surrounded by their love and support as we became moms. The pregnancy was smooth until, all of a sudden, it wasn’t. At 31 weeks and 6 days, our boys made their entrance into the world, just as it was closing down around us.

So many of our plans fell away. With stay at home orders, our meal train was cancelled – no baby shower or visits from family and friends. We were left alone with the challenges that come with being NICU parents: feelings of loss, fear, anxiety, on top of being healthcare workers during a global pandemic. We persisted through 46 days in the hospital with the support of our amazing NICU team.

After we were finally home, we found ourselves more isolated. Still no visits from family and friends to meet our boys. The closest contact we had for months were no-contact drop offs of basics like toilet paper and dish soap by friends. But in those months, we had more time together to bond as a family of four than either of us expected. We not only survived; we thrived.

Our love for each other and the boys grows every day, even on days that feel impossibly long. We are both equally mothers of our sons, and each bring our different strengths to their lives. Sharon is relaxed, loves to toss the boys around, and helps keep them on schedule. Jess is calm and careful, always teaching. Motherhood in a pandemic is both not what we envisioned and everything we dreamed it could be.

We can’t wait for everyone to meet our boys!


Portrait of baby laughing
Portrait of mother holding two babies

We are both equally mothers of our sons and each bring our different strengths to their lives.

Melissa

On Blowing Kisses

Portrait of mother with pregnant daughter


We've been very diligent with social distancing and being considerate of family and friends that are more at risk, like my parents who are older. We love doing group family video chats and my mom really gets into the filters! It's been rough for her not being able to be with her grandkids, whom she would see at least once a week prior to the last year. She'll stop by and drop off little surprises for them on the porch and the kids will wave and blow kisses.

Honestly, I think her being respectful of our boundaries has been wonderful. I know how hard it's been for her and my dad not to be able to hug the babies like they used to! We've been lucky that my family, a lot of our extended family, and I have been able to get vaccinated, and we can't wait to see each other again, in person.


Portrait of mother receiving kiss on the cheek from toddler
Split-screen photo of facetime call with grandma

She'll stop by and drop off little surprises for them on the porch and the kids will wave and blow kisses.

Alyson

On Surprises

Mother's hand flipping through album filled with photos of her children
Photos by @alysonsimplygrows


Motherhood in this pressure cooker of a year has truly felt like an expansion of my heart but a contraction of my self. My heart has grown exponentially as I’ve tried to be more for my children: friend, teacher, mother, confidant, and long list of hats I’ve had to wear. But what has come with more of my heart, time, and energy? I’ve felt stretched past the limits of who I thought I could be and what I thought I could do.

I’ve always felt motherhood was this transformative experience, constantly stretching and pulling on your heart strings. That from the very moment motherhood comes knocking you know you will never be the same.

But motherhood is not a singular experience, it is many moments strung together with a primal bond. This past year, I found within a deep well of compassion for myself, for all mothers, for my own mother, for any person who embodies that role because it requires more fortitude, strength, endurance and an open heart than you can ever imagine.

This past year, motherhood has tested me, but with its edge, made me fierce.

Motherhood is not best practiced in isolation, but within a village of kindred souls and helping hands. We are meant to share our stories of late, sleepless nights over cups of hot somethings and folding laundry. We are meant to recite lines that only another mother would understand and to cry on each others shoulders as we do our best to understand each other and ourselves. We are meant to watch from afar as our children play and grow together, to laugh and share frustrations over plates passed across the table and wine poured into glasses. Motherhood is not meant to be a solitary act but one witnessed in community.

I’ve desperately wanted to hold on tighter to the moments of my motherhood as seasons change, and my children outgrow the previous versions of themselves into new and expansive selves. I know I cannot turn back the hands of time and recover these moments, so I stand in my exhaustion, my grief, and my sadness to squeeze every morsel of joy out of these days.

Motherhood requires boundaries of time, space, and compassion for ourselves so we have more to give.


Photo album opened to photo of mother holding young child in her arms
Photo album opened to image of mother and daughter touching noses

This past year, I found within a deep well of compassion for myself, for all mothers, for my own mother, for any person who embodies that role...

What does Mom mean
to you?



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