This guest post is a part of the ongoing series, “What Motherhood Means to Me”, where I seek to highlight various perspectives on motherhood.
On My Definition of Motherhood
By: Nadirah Angail
It took me a while to sit down and actually write this. It isn’t that I didn’t want to do it—I did—but I was having trouble coming up with something concrete to write. I’ve been a mother for almost 2 years now, so I’ve got at least a little experience to draw from, but still, this is hard. I guess I’ll just have to walk you through my though process. Here goes…
Initially, when I think of motherhood, I think of having children. Simple enough, but no, that’s not what it means to me. There are tons of people that have children and are NOT mothers. Dig deeper, Nad.
Okay, so then I think about the fact that the word “motherhood” has the root word “mother,” which means we’re talking specifically about women here. That means there must be some difference between motherhood and fatherhood, but what is it? What is it that a mother does and a father doesn’t, and vice versa? No, I’m not talking about giving birth and breastfeeding (though I do think that has something to do with it). I mean beyond that, what makes a mother? Okay, Nad, you’re thinking and raising questions, but still no answers. You gotta do better than this. To the dictionary.
I clicked the trusty dictionary app and entered the words “mother” and “father.” The main definitions were pretty similar: “A woman/man in relation to a child she birthed/his natural child.” The second definitions were pretty close too, except for some small, but important, distinctions.
“Mother- a person who provides the care and affection normally associated with a female parent.”
“Father- a man who gives care or protection to someone or something.”
Both definitions mention giving or providing care, but one mentions affection while the other mentions protection. So, is that where my husband and I differ? He handles the practical aspects of parenting while I handle the relational ones? Well, yes and no. He is very protective and I am very affectionate, but I’m also protective and he is also affectionate. Thanks a lot, dictionary. You still didn’t give me an answer. Okay fine, looks like I’m on my own with this one.
What I know for sure, without a doubt, is that I am the primary woman in my daughter’s life. Later, she’ll be influenced by female friends, teachers and even celebs (hate to think about that part) but for now, it’s pretty much me (and her grandmother). So, as the main female in this little female’s life, I have an obligation to guide her toward certain things and away from others.
Toward self-love and away from self-loathing.
Toward critical thinking and away from blind following.
Toward embracing and acceptance and away from judgment and disregard.
Toward accepting her beauty and away from trying to fit into someone else’s.
Toward valuing inner and away from fixating on outer.
Of course her father will help with these things as well, but not in the way that I will. I will model for her how to be a woman. He will model for her how to treat one. He cannot step into my shoes and do my part, and I cannot step into his. When we have a son (God willing), he will show him how to be a man and I will show him how to treat one. So, that’s what it means to me to be a mother. It’s not so much about the cooking, cleaning, feeding and playing. It’s more about the guiding and providing an example of a confident, well-adjusted woman. Unfortunately, she will be assaulted by a barrage of messages about women and womanhood that only involve sex and superficiality. It is my job to steer her away from that. With me pulling from the front and her dad pushing from the back, hopefully we have a pretty good chance of keeping her on the right track.
Nadirah Angail is a Kansas City-based author and blogger. She has published two books and written many articles and blogs that speak to her interpretation of the female experience. Find more information about her at www.nadirahangail.com