What is a mother?

Ha, that’s a funny question to ask, isn’t it?  A mother can be so very many things, but when it comes right down to it…a mother is only one thing.


Definition of a mother

Oxford Dictionary defines a mother as a woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth.  That seems a little restricted.  We know that’s not the definition of a mother.  A mother can be the woman who raised a child during their formative years, but that’s not right either.  A mother can be a surrogate for a couple who could not conceive another way, a mother could be a woman so involved in your life that she is like a mother (even though your own mother was also there).  A mother can be a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

Typically, we try to define things in our world and in the process of doing so, we tend to generalize.  Sometimes we forget that just because my “mother” is my biological mother, that doesn’t mean that your mother is your biological mother; she could be your aunt or your grandmother or a complete stranger who adopted you as a child.  Often times, those of us that have our biological parents take for granted that they have always been there and that we know where (or who, as the case is) we came from.

All of this rambling…I bet you think my mother adopted me.  She didn’t.  My mother is my biological mother and the only one I’ve ever known.


What is a mother called?

Of course, every language has a word for mother.  In Ireland, you may hear a child calling for his mam, in France perhaps calling for his maman, in the United Kingdom he’ll be looking for his mum.  We call them all sorts of different things, but that kind of makes sense since there are all sorts of different mothers.

In Hebrew the word for mother is em (אם).  In Persian it’s māman.  And in Aramaic it’s a’ma (ܐܡܐ).  Even in English, we have quite a handful of things that we call our mothers; in the U.S. we commonly call her mother, mom, mommy, ma and mama…there are others, the list could go on and on.  So many different things to call just one woman.


So what is a mother?

With all of those things to call her, how can we define a mother with just one definition?  That’s just it, isn’t it?  You can’t define a mother with just one definition.  There are too many ways to define her.

A mother is someone who sacrifices innumerable things for her children.

A mother is someone who forgives.

A mother is someone who, no matter how difficult it can get, continues on for the benefit of her children.

A mother is someone who loves unconditionally.

I could keep going and going and going.  You cannot put “mother” into a box and give it a one to two sentence definition.  She is far too important and far too varied to be put into a box.


So, when it comes right down to it, a mother is only one thing…mom.  Plain and simple.

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As we find ourselves on the precipice of Mother’s Day once again…

William: 1 month old


…I wonder when Mother’s Day became a holiday.  The Google Machine is such a fantastic thing and I’ve decided to share with you my findings on the origins of Mother’s Day.  I hope you like history lessons…as I’ve been known to go off on quite a tangent, teaching people about the most random things that I’ve learned on the internet.


Mother’s Day is centuries old.  The earliest celebrations can be traced to the spring celebrations in ancient Greece in honor of Rhea, the Mother of the Gods.  The early Christians in England celebrated a day to honor Mary, the mother of Christ, in the 1600’s.  Later, by religious order, the celebration was extended to all mothers and was thus named Mothering Sunday.  Mothering Sunday was celebrated on the 4th Sunday after Lent.

As time progressed, the tradition slowly died out.  Eventually, the English colonists settled in America and stopped celebrating Mothering Sunday all together.

Modern Mother’s Day

As a modern holiday in the United States, the first Mother’s Day celebration was in 1908.  Anna Jarvis held a memorial at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia on May 10, 1908 to honor her own mother, Ann Jarvis, who had died in 1905.  and started what would soon after become a day to celebrate mothers.  In 1908, the United States Congress rejected the proposal to make Mother’s Day a holiday.  Anna Jarvis persevered, she continued to campaign for Mother’s Day to be an official holiday and by 1911 all of the states observed the holiday.  Then, in 1914, Anna saw the success she had been working for; President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day a national holiday, to be held on the second Sunday in May.

Anna Jarvis, just a decade after it’s inception, saw the commercialization of this holiday that she held so near to her heart.  It angered her greatly to see this, but she was helpless to do much about it.  She staged boycotts and threatened lawsuits against the companies that she felt had exploited the idea of Mother’s Day.  In 1925, she was arrested for disturbing the peace while protesting at a meeting of the American War Mothers.

Mother’s Day is one of the most commercially successful U.S. occasions.  According to the National Restaurant Association, Mothers Day is the most popular day of the year to dine out in the United States.  My, what would she think if she were still alive today…?  Interesting point to note:  Anna Jarvis never had any children.

What’s in a name?

Anna Jarvis was very particular about how the holiday was spelled.  She didn’t want people to celebrate all mothers; she wanted the day to be a celebration of your own mother.

Mother’s Day, Internationally

Mother’s Day is celebrated at different times throughout the year, for many different reasons by numerous countries worldwide.  In Thailand, Mother’s day is celebrated on the birthday of the Queen of Thailand.  In Panama, Mother’s Day is December 8th, the same day as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  In Ethiopia, Mother’s Day is actually three days at the end of the rainy season.


So, remember to tell your mother Happy Mother’s Day tomorrow.  If you want to make Anna Jarvis’ ghost happy, perhaps you shouldn’t give her that card with a silly knock-knock joke on it and you should cancel those flowers you ordered last night from 1-800flowers.  Or you could embrace the commercialism and add Sherri’s Berries to her Mother’s Day surprise!  Either way, remember to call her tomorrow.  And you should probably apologize for all the crap you put her through when you little…I’m just sayin’.

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