I am not a mother. I am asked at least once a week if I have any kids, though, and I’m never quite sure how to respond. A simple “no” seems curt. “Not yet” implies that I will be, soon. And “I’m not old enough” is perhaps true in the society in which I grew up, but not either biologically or socially in my new environment.. I am 23 years old; by this age, some of my clients have 2, 3, 4, even 7 kids. (I work at a day center for the homeless in Alabama.) One of my roommates, who works with Girl Scouts in the public housing projects, intentionally tries to respond with “I’m not old enough,” to try to influence her pre-teen and teenage girls. In their environment, it is normal to have a child by the time you’re 18 or 19. The idea that a woman in her early to mid-20s isn’t old enough to be a mother is wholly counter-cultural. What else can you do, when that is what you are surrounded by? How do you know otherwise?
My own mother and father are probably the greatest blessings in my life, something I appreciate now more than ever. I grew up in comfort, with parents who loved each other, knowing I was loved. My parents always encouraged me and showed me the value of education, family, and friendships. Without them, I do not know where I would be today. Probably not as well-adjusted and content as I am. I owe everything to them.
Today, mothers of all kinds are on my heart: mothers, grandmothers, young mothers making the best of an unplanned situation, adoptive mothers, single mothers, and all who act as honorary mothers. And most especially, to my mother and my grandmother, and all of the women who helped make me into the person I am.