There are people in our lives who make a difference beyond our wildest imagination and who often have no idea. They may be those we are born to, part of our extended blood, simply chosen by us or those we know, or even someone we encountered for a brief time who forever impacts our road in the most positive, meaningful way. These are the minor miracles of our journey through this world and gifts worth celebrating.
Mother’s Day is one of those times to pay homage to the women who are forever an integral part of our lives. Not every one of those who nurtured us is the person who birthed us. Some are “mother figures.” They gave us wings to fly at times that mattered most because of who they are as individuals, not who they are in our family — although, they certainly can be our blood relative. The mother figure is someone we all need, we all gravitate towards, and in this day and age when we find ourselves faced with some of life’s biggest challenges, their import is one we feel deserves a bit of recognition.
Who and what is a “mother figure”?
Being a “mom” to someone isn’t age-based. You probably already know all of that but the word “mother” can get people caught up. That woman who you feel a close relationship to in a way that is mommy-like is most likely one hell of a nurturing, giving person.
A nurturer gives without expectation or thought of what they’ll get in return. They’re encouraging and supportive, recognizing your value and doing what they can to help you be all you can be. They are there for you, listen to you, and their advice is geared to what you need when you need it, not any agenda of their own.
Nurturing people are also those who know how to work within the confines of YOUR needs, YOUR personality. They usually give the best gifts because they’ve paid attention to who you are and they react accordingly. Even how they bestow your present upon you is very personal to you, which has a way of touching us on a level we can’t describe.
Someone who nurtures is also a strong empath, and if they bring themselves into the conversation it’s usually only when they sense it will be beneficial to you. They’re not martyrs, though. Don’t mistake and mix that up. A true nurturing person understands that the only way they can truly do for others is to take good care of themselves. They embrace life and that example is something the people in their circle appreciate and aspire to. Nurturers tend to be excellent role models, usually without their knowing it.
“Stepping” into it
According to statistics, around 40 percent of remarriages involve children, and when someone brings kids to the table, the bond that is built with their little ones can either make or break a new union. But we’re not here to talk about the success rate and factors for making or breaking a second marriage. We want to share the incredible beauty of the connection made when that stepmom fully embraces their role and establishes themselves as a strong mother figure for their new kids.
Whether it’s due to divorce or loss, children go through a hell of a lot when one parent remarries. The change in their family dynamic has already taken its toll on them and adding someone new to fill that void left in the house by the person who is no longer there — even if it’s simply during those times they either stay with or go visit their newly remarried parent — can be overwhelming. The most successful at this are the women who take the time to have their stepkids get to know them before they marry into the family. They never speak ill of the birth mother, respect and appreciate the bond the kids have with both their parents, and treat them as if they were their own even after they may have children in this new marriage.
The stepmom who becomes a welcome and comforting mother figure to her stepkids sees the benefit in building a strong relationship with them, nurtures that bond, and genuinely is there for them. Often, these become integral relationships that enhance the lives of the kids, the stepmom, and the family dynamic as a whole.
The role of the “auntie” and “grandma”
Aunts and grandmothers — whether by blood or choice — play a huge role in the lives of those who call them either. With aunts, we’re the confidantes, the sounding boards, and the ones those important kids in our lives can vent to in ways they don’t always feel comfortable doing with their parents. We’re secret keepers and advice givers. We have enough wisdom that what we bring to the table is sage and dipped in experience, but because we have a uniquely honest relationship with these amazing beings, there tends to be a bit more whimsy and emotional freedom in how we are with each other.
Grandma tends to be a comfortable, warm hug when you need it most. She is all wisdom and security, sometimes the only “mom” you actually have, and as a mother figure, her range of involvement goes from that loving presence who lets you get away with anything to being the surrogate mother who steps in to care for you in your mother’s absence.
In both cases, the aunt and grandma can be seen as the “fun ones” — depending on the depth of their involvement in your life — but as true mom stand-ins, they are the strength and caregivers whose investment in you tends to go beyond most other mother-figures. If they have a hand in raising you, they then feel an immense responsibility for your care and well-being because they are clear that their influence on your life is part of what is going into making you who you will be as you grow.
That one friend
Being viewed as a mother figure has no number, remember? A good nurturer or strong empath can be younger, older, or one of our peers. They can be friends we’ve made along our journey, touching our life in a way we will never forget and who we return to when we need them most. This connection comes down to our relationship and how our personalities mesh.
These compadres are the ones we rely on to gently guide us to our own conclusions, listen when we need an ear, and before offering advice, they will usually ask if that's what we want or if we just need to vent, even when we’re feeling our most lost. We know they hear us and truly see us, and the words they say when they do share their wisdom and the way they live their own lives serve as an example to us.
We are touched by them. Sometimes, they’re women we don’t see very often but no matter how much time passes, they are that “voice in our head,” as they say — the ones whose insights seem to resonate most, and whose hearts always feel open and ready for us and any baggage we may bring along.
A forever moment
“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
The incomparable Fred Rogers shared that and in our humble opinion, it underscores the depth and meaning of the mother figure. These women make all the difference in our worlds, boosting our confidence, serving as shoulders to weep on, making us take hard looks at ourselves, and simply being the ultimate nurturers we turn to when we need and want.
They are not only our friends, our play and extended relatives, and our step- and actual birth mothers, but some are amazing women whose involvement in our lives are temporary, even momentary, and yet, we never forget them, what they said, and how they made us feel about ourselves and life. It could be by just watching how they moved through their own situations that gave us the strength to go on, or lines that were simple throwaways to them but for us were truth bombs that changed us forever. These are nuggets of true beauty and reminders of “how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of.”
Regardless, however, of what your mother figures look like to you, moms come in all shapes and sizes, relationships and experiences, and who they are doesn’t matter. What they are, how they touch us — that’s the gift.
Thank you, Mom. Whoever you are, wherever you are. Thank you for loving us no matter what.