May 15, 2017
By Jane Bishop Halteman

Moms and their kids, grandkids, and great grandkids

The occasion of our culture’s Mother’s Day reminds me, in the words of Spirituality & Practice website founders Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, that “the most common word association with nurturing is mothering. All of us, male and female, single or married, old or young have the potential to give birth and raise something in the world. In a prayer written for Mother's Day, Pamela Spence Bakker uses the following images...some of us give birth to: children, ideas, art, music. Some of us raise: animals, flowers, or vegetables, our friends, our parents, our brothers and sisters, interest in a cause, money for charity, concerns, our voices against injustice, our eyebrows, Cain. 

Wise folks that they are, the Brussats note that “we are aware that to some people, Mother's Day seems to be a holiday concocted by the greeting card and floral companies, a cultural holiday dominated by consumer pressures. For those whose mothers have died or are distant, and for those who have never been mothers, the day touches other sensitivities. But we think any ‘problem’ with Mother's Day is just because typically it is defined too narrowly. There are many mothers in all our lives and many kinds of mothering experiences.” 

John O’Donohue offers a Blessing for Mother in his book, To Bless the Space Between Us.  He speaks of a mother’s voice, a mother’s eyes, a mother’s nearness as a few of the earliest influences on a child’s life that typically come from a nurturing, mothering figure.  My own mother extended her nurturing, mothering spirit to many outside our family from as far back as I can recall.  She sewed on buttons for neighborhood kids whose moms didn’t know how or couldn’t take the time, she shared meals generously with family and friends and guest speakers at our Sunday dinner table, she gave of herself to offer comfort and care as a nurse in a retirement community, an operating room, a private practice office.   

After my youngest brother died at 18 in a car accident, mom reached out to other women who lost children tragically.  When she moved to a retirement community with my dad in 1992, she began nurturing older residents who needed assistance she was able to provide, volunteered to take wellness blood pressures, and eventually began walking my mother-in-law to dementia day care when it became difficult for my father-in-law to do that.

Jan Richardson suggests that “our mothers are our first landscape, our original terrain, creating us and sheltering us in the space of their own body. When we have mothers who know, or learn along the way, how to keep creating the landscape for us and with us—when they can fashion a terrain that provides both sanctuary and the freedom to find the contours of our own life—that is gift indeed.”

Knowing that not all of us have benefited from living in a household with a naturally nurturing mother, Richardson wisely says, “I offer prayers for those women who, owing to the gaps and fissures in their own landscape, have left pain and emptiness in the space where a mother should have been. For those who choose to enter into the empty, motherless places—the ‘othermothers’ who come in the form of teachers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, neighbors, friends—bless you and thank you for your mothering hearts.”

Richardson shares her Blessing the Mothers prayer at this link.    

Besides the nurturing role model of my own mother, I am grateful for many other mothering figures in my life, some female, some male: the childhood neighbor who scooped me up and held me close after I rolled down a hill into a wagon wheel that had lost its rubber tire; the grade school teachers who recognized the diligence of a shy student; the college prof who believed I could write and continued to inspire many years after graduation; the bosses and managers who offered encouraging words for work well done and strategized new challenges; the authors who blessed with their profound thoughts and life-changing ways of being; the pastors who aroused interest in the contemplative; the family members who noticed and honored and thanked; the old and new friends who applauded what I birthed and raised in the world; the spiritual directors who stood by as advocates no matter what. 

Who are some of the many nurturing mothers in your life? How do you pass on the nurturing experiences with which you have been blessed? How have you experienced the feminine love of the Divine through mothering love?