On My First Mother’s Day Weekend

On Saturday evening a loved friend met my babe for the first time. Perhaps because of this, the conversation turned to children, and whether she hopes to have one some day. The answer was yes: one. I told her the thing you say, that if she chooses to have a baby, and is able to have one, that she “will be a great parent.” I said this thing sincerely–completely, completely sincerely. She said the thing that I have never had anyone say. “Do you think you are a great parent?” For what felt like a long time, I could only pause. I could only be silent.

What was easy to say about her (and countless others) became hard to say about myself, and the actual acts of mothering I perform every day. When I could speak, I think I muttered, “I’m not sure,” or “I don’t know,” or “Maybe sometimes.” And then I told her about how I measure my days. If I have sung to my babe, and spoken to her, and read to her a tiny bit, and fed her, and clothed her, and kept her relatively clean, then we have had a good day. For the most part, they feel possible, and forgiving.

The work of mothering a young infant is work that doesn’t come naturally to me. It is also work that is composed of a million small things, and all of those things together make me tired (and if I am being especially truthful: lonely).

I am thankful for the reminder from fellow Exponent blogger, Emily U. that mother is a verb as well as a noun, because there are a lot of people who have helped mother my daughter already, as there are a lot of people who have helped mother me. For the first, it is every person who has smiled at her or made her laugh, the friends that brought my small family dinner after she was born, or came over just to let me nap or shower. It is the women who tried to teach me how to burp her (I never got very good), and those who told me how to fly with a small child and how to be brave enough to do so. It is. It is. It is.

I have long known that it takes a village to raise a child, but I am learning that it also takes a village to raise a new mother (noun), and I am thankful for the village that is raising me. I am also thankful for Jill Churchill’s quote: “There is no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a good one.”

Aside from my initial pause of inadequacy, I had a delightful Mother’s Day weekend, and delightful Mother’s Day, almost entirely because of the “A Mother Here Art and Poetry Contest” that as Caroline mentioned, just announced its winners. I spent the day with the selected words and images, and I felt filled, remembering the one we share as Mother.

My prayer is that everyone got from the day what they needed, whether that be skipped church, radio silence, a whole lot of chocolate, or a nap.

7 months


Rachel is a PhD student in Philosophy of Religion and Theology at Claremont Graduate University. She co-edited _Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings_ with Joanna Brooks and Hannah Wheelwright. She is also a lover of all things books and bikes.

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7 Responses

  1. Liz says:

    I love this, and especially the idea that it takes a village to raise up a mother as well as a child. It makes me want to be more generous and compassionate towards mothers in any phase – mothering new mothers, mothering old mothers.

  2. spunky says:

    This is so lovely! That is a VERY hard question your friend asked, I think more so for Mormon women. We are *supposed* to be “mothers in Zion,” the best mothers in the world, etc. And in truth, we are mortal, and we try hard, but parenting is hard. Very hard.

    Before I had children, I thought I would be a great mother. In the long stage of infertility, I studied about how to parent. And as soon as I had a child, all of that seemed to be so far from my mind. And I suddenly felt terrible about my parenting skills.

    I think when we look through the unforgiving lens of “manifest patriarchy,” (like “manifest destiny” but for Mormons) wherein we are *supposed* to be *perfected* in motherhood, we can only fail in our own eyes– and make motherhood and womanhood into competitive sports– perhaps this is one of the reasons why cosmetic surgery is so high in Utah? We are in competition to be perfect women through a patriarchal lens?

    I love how you have invited The Mother, to remind us of her empathy, understanding and compassion, so we better see the side of true, unconditional love, and of us, mothering each other as we learn to mother those around us– children, peers, friends and so on, not in the dismissive way that patriarchy assigns us, but in the way that our Heavenly Mother loves in purity.

    Thank you for this thoughtful, loving and poignant post, Rachel. I love your words.

  3. Caroline says:

    I love that quote about how there’s no way to be a perfect mother but a million ways to be a good one. I’ll aim for good, though I’m probably something closer to adequate most days. I’m so glad you’ve found some women around you to help you through this new phase of your life.

  4. EmilyCC says:

    This is lovely. Thank you, Rachel!

  5. naomi says:

    Last year I reunited with a friend I’d always kept in good touch with, but hadn’t seen in person for almost a decade. We’re in completely different life stages and he thought it unreal that I was a mum of three (as do I). He asked me the same question Becca asked you, point blank: did I think I was a good mum. I stuttered a bit but eventually said with surprise that yes, I guess, but just because I did my best, not because I was unequivocally awesome at it. If I’ve learned anything over the last four years, it’s accepting ‘best’ as a nebulous standard of intent. I enjoyed this post, Rachel.

  6. Libby says:

    I have spent many years wondering if I was a good-enough mother (and even a few convinced that I wasn’t). But I have to believe my 9-year-old when she says, “You’re the best mommy in the world.”

  7. Carrie says:

    I love this Rachel. You are a great mother. I miss being moms together!

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