Mom, Mommy, Mama, Mum, Mummy, Ma, Madre, Màma, Mère …

These are just some of the names that society assigns to the awe-inspiring women who have bravely risen to the divine calling of Motherhood. While there are countless names and endless languages which could all effectively describe the ladies among us who make the world go round, one universal question remains – that is, what exactly defines a mother?

To even begin to attempt to answer this question – I check society’s norms at the door and dig deeper. I don’t want cliché. I know there’s more to be uncovered.

I think about women around the world. Though we look different from each other, speak varying languages, think diversely, and live completely contrasting lives – I feel a prevailing sense that we share a connection.

It’s as if we don’t know each other, but we could probably understand each other’s highs and lows without a spoken word if placed in a room together and asked to meditate on Motherhood. There seems to be a shared energy between all mothers which offers compassion to one another in each other’s journeys. What I find interesting, though, is that we all wish the mother in front of us more self-compassion, but we struggle to gift ourselves this necessary virtue.

But back to the thought-provoking question of what, in fact, defines a mother? Spoiler alert – there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. 

In its most simple form, a mother is a caretaker. A mama bird nurtures her nest as she preps for her offspring’s arrival. Penguin mothers travel miles to fetch food from the ocean in order to feed their newly hatched chicks. Mama bears protect their cubs from the dangers of nature while teaching necessary survival skills. Kangaroo mothers nurture their offspring by carrying their young in their pouches for several months, providing constant warmth and skin-to-skin contact. There are countless more examples of the biological bond and maternal-instinct role of motherhood in its most simple, innate, basic form.

But again, I dive deeper. I want to swim beyond the surface.

Though we are each mothers in our own rite, we didn’t all arrive in this role or receive our gifts in perfectly wrapped, traditional gift boxes. I must step out of my comfort zone and think outside the box.

Again, I ask myself – what, then, defines a mother?

For some of us, we became mothers in our hearts the moment we first dreamed of the child we planned to have one day. By society’s norms, many consider ourselves to be mothers at the very first glimpse of that faint +. For others, the first ultrasound serves as a defining line-in-the-sand moment. Or there may be other specific moment-markers in one’s journey – like that first adoption appointment or fertility consult. Or maybe, sadly, it’s a loss that defines you as a mother. Although you didn’t get to hold your baby here on earth, you know that your pregnancy is the one that changed your life and officially made you a mum.

Whatever the pages of your own story include, let it be said that when you became a mother – you entered into a contract with yourself … one that looks different for each individual who signs the dotted line.  While the fine print could certainly never include all disclaimers of what is to come, this is Your Contract. Your Life. Your Motherhood.

With that said, as all mamas know, Motherhood is not for the birds. It Takes a Village!

So don’t try to do it alone. Find your people. Hold them close. Set your pride aside. Ask for help. Accept help. Realize there is wisdom to be shared in the hearts of mothers who were doing it before you.

You can write your own story and do it differently, sure. But let’s also honor the experiences of the moms before us. We can all take a bit of someone else’s story and apply what we want to ours. And let us remember, once part of the Village – you will always have mothers to support you, to walk alongside you, and to challenge you to think out the box.