What is motherhood?

What is motherhood?

I love being a mom.

Every Mother’s Day this thought goes through my head: What is motherhood?

Is it bearing children? Rearing children? Can you be childless and be considered a mother? And where do birth mothers come in? Surrogates? Women who have lost children? It can get tricky.

It’s the “obvious” answers to the above, those “definitions”, that lead to hurt feelings. I cringe every time I hear that motherhood is bearing children. It isn’t that to me. In fact, motherhood is the opposite of that for me.

This motherhood label isn’t as black and white as you may think (have children = mother), I think motherhood is more a list than it is tally count of little humans.

A list of attributes with “meaning after meaning after meaning.” This list should bind us together as women instead of pit us against each other in categories of mommy wars. Unify. Empower. Enrich.


Eve was given the identity of “the mother of all living”—years, decades, perhaps centuries before she ever bore a child. It would appear that her motherhood preceded her maternity, just as surely as the perfection of the Garden preceded the struggles of mortality. I believe mother is one of those very carefully chosen words, one of those rich words—with meaning after meaning after meaning. We must not, at all costs, let that word divide us. I believe with all my heart that it is first and foremost a statement about our nature, not a head count of our children.”

-Patricia Holland, One Thing Needful: Becoming Women of Greater Faith in Christ


Thus, I started a new project.

For the next few months, possibly longer, I am going to post a photograph of motherhood with accompanying attributes. Let’s explore together the “meaning after meaning after meaning” of motherhood.

Care to join me? Email me a photograph of what motherhood looks like to you and a sentence or two to go along with it. I will do the rest. And it will be beautiful.


Motherhood? What does it mean to you?



  1. says

    I am going to love this project.

    This past Sunday I mused about the definition a bit. Someone assumed that because I’m pregnant this year that this Mother’s Day felt different to me than past ones. But it didn’t. I didn’t feel any more a mother this year with an active baby inside me than I did last year when I spent the day on the couch after an IVF transfer, than I did the previous year when we had just started infertility treatments, than I did the year before when we had no idea the journey ahead of us. My husband has honored my motherhood throughout our marriage. We just didn’t know our children yet.

  2. Jenn says

    Wow, this really is going to require some thought. I hate to admit it, but I’ve got to sift thru some serious stuff and push thru a lot of pain and self doubt, if I’m going to answer this question.
    I’ve spent 15+ years trying to achieve the goal of motherhood in a physical sense, and I’ve allowed myself to loose sight of the spiritual meaning.

  3. says

    I love this. My sister is in her 40’s and has never been married. I know that Mother’s Day is always hard for her. I’m going to give this some thought because she has so many ‘mothering’ attributes.

  4. Erika says

    Well, on the cusp of my tenth wedding anniversary, motherhood is so many things. However, thankfully, it is no longer something I pine and yearn for. I no longer NEED to bear or rear children. If it happens somehow, it will be wonderful and miraculous. And if it doesn’t, my life will be full and complete, anyway. There was a time when I Felt guilty for being “ok” without children. Now, I feel peaceful and thankful I have so many little lives I get to touch every day. I’m thankful for all of our friends and family that allow us to love on their kids, too. I’m also extremely thankful that this Mother’s Day, didn’t leave my heart torn out like so many have in the past. How thankful I am for the atonement!

    I can’t wait to ‘see’ motherhood as defined by women in various places in their lives.

  5. Cheryl W. says

    I love and appreciate my friends and sisters who are blessed to be called mother and share their children with me, but that is something I won’t be called – Mother. It hurts to the bone and deepest depths of my sole. Some Mother’s Days are easier than others, but this one felt like the rug was pulled out from under my feet all day. Motherhood is a term of anguish for me. Maybe one day it won’t be, but it is for the forseeable future.