“Do you have kids?”
It’s a question that can invoke pride, love, or identity for those women who have children. And it’s a question that can invoke pain, longing, suffering-anger even-for those women, and those who identify as women, who have chosen not to, or not been able to, have children of their own.
We were not all destined to be mothers of our own children. I have single girlfriends who longed for their own families but it wasn’t in the plan for them. I know women who have chosen not to have children, own that choice and are happy with it. I know women who terminated pregnancies when they were much younger and then deeply regretted the children that they lost, haunted and tortured over choices they were too young to have to make. And I know married women, gay and straight, who even through expensive and painful IVF treatments were still not able to realize their dream.
But whether we have had biological children or not, as women in the world we are all mothers. In unseen ways every moment of every day we hold the mothering energy of the planet and all its people. We are the collective mother.
I feel like the mother to all children. I feel it in my body. The little boy who just skinned his knee on the pavement. The baby smiling at me from the pram as she drools over her half eaten biscuit. The emaciated child on the television ad for a world hunger charity. The boy standing alone at his locker on the first day of high school, crying as he can’t get the lock open. The refugee children separated from their parents at the border, screaming and traumatized. The joy and tears of a 16 year old from a great performance on a singing show. The boy who died by suicide in the school bathroom wracked with pain we will never know about. The teenage girl shivering with far too few clothes on, trying to find her self-worth in external validation. The children who die in school shootings and the kids who are traumatized by them, because we as adults have failed to protect them.
I feel like the mother to all of them. The pain in my heart, the wrenching in my gut, as I look at sufferings large and small, is palpable. The joy I feel when I see a child or teenager learn something new about themselves and what they are capable of. And I know I am not alone in these feelings.
Mothers come in an innumerable variety. Old, young, single, married, gay, straight, biological, chosen. It’s for all of us to undertake, mothering the children of the world. Mothering the world itself. We are the ones who have the power to nurture, inspire, give, heal. To create a sense of worth and belonging. To connect and nourish and empower. All women. All children. It is our work to do. This is woman’s work.
We are all mothers.