It is around this time of year that we sit on our beds, with our weak cups of tea, burnt toast, and sweet handmade cards. We pause to recognise our title as Mum. For all the blessings and burdens that come with it, the name Mum is by far my favourite.
It feels nice to be acknowledged for all the work, sleepless nights, dinners, shopping, cleaning and the many different roles including playmate, chauffeur, timekeeper, nurse (the list could go on and on). It’s a warming of the soul. It may only last a moment, as the next need or fight between toddlers is about to start, but for that moment on Mother’s Day we can see just how loved and needed we are.
Complicated emotions of Mother’s Day
But what about the mums who aren’t mothering? The women who have limited access to their children for various reasons? How do we honour and acknowledge them? Should we even share ‘our’ day with those who aren’t putting in the work?
It’s a question that I have pondered in the lead up to this Mother’s Day. As a Foster Mum, I am forever intimately linked to two mothers that I know very little about. Some of their hardest moments have created something (someone!) beautiful.
For nearly 50 000 Australian children, Mother’s Day is a reminder of the interrupted lives they have lived. It is a complicated web of emotions as children, foster families and biological families celebrate and commiserate the role of ‘mum’.
I have been blessed to carry the title of ‘Mum’ for nearly 13 years. Mum to my four babies on earth. Mum to the two little boys who will stay forever and to the dozens of little ones who have only come for a while. It has been fascinating to witness a child coming into my home and within hours calling me ‘Mum’. I will admit that, at first, I didn’t know what to do. It felt undeserving and dishonouring to the one who had given them life.
What makes a ‘Mum’?
What I have learned over a decade as a Foster parent, is that being a ‘mum’ isn’t just being a person. I have come to realise that through (some) children’s eyes, a mum is the one who stands in the space to love, protect and provide for them. It is an undeniably difficult and all-encompassing role. And that role is sometimes shared by many people.
A mum is a part of creating and carrying another human.
A mum goes through hours of labour and pain to birth a child.
A mum feeds and comforts a baby.
A mum wakes up to address the needs of a child.
A mum dresses, feeds and looks for opportunities to learn.
A mum teaches, disciplines and dotes on the children in her home.
Ideally, this role is played out by one woman, with many, many people standing alongside her and supporting her and her children. But in our broken world, and for many reasons, the role of a mum needs to move from one to another.
Mothering as a Foster Mum
While it can be hard not to judge the woman who has lost her child, I wonder what more there is to know about her as a mum. I know very little of the events, decisions or consequences that brought her child into my arms. I don’t know what went through her head on the day she found out she was pregnant. I don’t know how her labour started or how long it lasted. I don’t know the first words that she whispered to the baby in her arms. I don’t know the reason behind the name she gave them.
Adding to the layers of mothering in Foster Care is acknowledging that there may have been one, two, three or more mums before you. Each woman giving a part of their heart to the child to help mend theirs. A collective love, with one aim, to ensure that the child feels loved, protected and provided for.
So this Mother’s Day, I adorn myself with macaroni and straw-made necklaces. I feast on the generous hugs and kisses my 6 little ones dish out for ‘my’ day. I will honour out loud and through my actions the ones who have been ‘mum’ before me. The mums who will forever hold the title, even though I hold their child.
I hope that one day we will all be able to make sense of the web of emotions and reconcile all that has been gained and lost. Until then, I am forever grateful for the best part of themselves that I love and hold, as their mum.