Featured photo: My mother and I when I was a baby.

I’ve been thinking a lot about motherhood and what it means to be a mother lately. Yes, it’s because Mother’s Day is around the corner but also because my partner and I have been having serious conversations about whether or not we want to become parents, and for me, that means becoming a mother.

So what does it mean?

It remains an unfortunate reality that being a mother and being a father — if you’re in a heterosexual relationship, of course — have different implications. As the mother, if you’re carrying the child, that means you’re literally carrying the burden of creating and birthing the child. And once that child has entered the world, you continue to sacrifice parts of your body to care for them. Then there’s the still-latent expectation for mothers to be the primary caregiver, to breastfeed, to carpool, to schedule appointments. And in talking to many mothers this past week for a story I’m working on, it’s an unending, and at times, thankless job. But it doesn’t have to be.

While all of the mothers I spoke to cited difficult times in their lives when it came to caring for their children, they also pointed to the many times other people — members of their village — stepped in to help lighten that load. The times when friends, neighbors, sisters and colleagues helped pick up kids, showed up to recitals, dropped off meals when they couldn’t do it themselves.

And so I’ve been thinking about the words “mother” and “motherhood” in a more expansive way. It’s obviously not a radical expansion. In fact, many Black, Brown and queer people have been thinking of motherhood and mothering in this way for a long time. But the gist is thus: mothering and motherhood are acts of love that anyone can exhibit. When the older sister has to step up and care for their younger siblings because their parents are busy, that’s mothering. When the neighbor watches their friend’s child for a few hours so the mom can go take care of whatever it is she needs taking care of, that’s mothering. When colleagues look out for the kid when the mother is on calls, that’s mothering.

I like to think, in part, that that’s why the term is “motherhood.” Dictionary.com explains the suffix “-hood” as “denoting state, condition, character, nature, etc., or a body of persons of a particular character or class.” In that way, mothering — and by extension, parenting and parenthood — is an act most fully realized when you expand the definition to include the whole village.

So, ahead of Mother’s Day, I want to thank all of the people who have mothered me over the years, including my mom. But also my sister, my dad, my friends, my colleagues. Because mothering is an act that we all can share in.

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