Mother’s Day – Musings on the Meaning of Mothering

image source: flickr: Peggy2012CREATIVELENZ

image source: flickr

As a child (and an only child, at that) I was frequently jealous of the attention, love and mothering my mom would give to other children in our community.

Working individually with kids at my elementary school (and later on in her long career in the juvenile justice system), my mom focused intently on helping children with special needs. She treated them all with love, kindness and respect, which is the very best way to teach those qualities. She did everything as a volunteer—from large-scale organizing to providing childcare and tutoring, and even raising awareness about diversity and body positivity—issues that continue to be important to me to this day.

Truly a mother to anyone who needed one, my mom was a lifelong nurturer. At home, she never said no to me . . .  even when I brought in a foundling stray kitten, or once, a pair of miniature aquatic crabs we found inexplicably crawling up Fillmore Street in San Francisco. In addition to the cat I have now adopted, her social justice work and her extensive networks of friends and family, my mom left behind a large number of rather brilliant abstract paintings, a sassy assertiveness I strive to emulate every day, and a deep respect for treating all living things with kindness and care that’s instilled in me.

When my mother passed away unexpectedly on April first of this year, I created a charity registry in her name, to raise funds for animal rescue and nonprofit veterinary organizations ASPCA and Pets Unlimited, plus our local Make-a-Wish chapter. And you know something? Each heartfelt donation and sympathy message that came through my registry made me feel incredibly cared for and loved. It’s amazing that even someone who might not be related to me, or know me very well, can give me that kind of love, strength and support with a simple gesture. It’s certainly made this time a lot easier.

alex_mom

Source: Alex Mechanic

I honor my mother by striving to carry on her legacy of compassion, in the warm, giving spirit remembered by all who knew her. And the best feeling lately has been having that same warmth and generosity offered to me by all the various people in my life who I know in so many different ways. They have all been caring for me like one of their own.

Anyone can nurture like a mother does. It doesn’t depend on gender. It doesn’t even have to entail raising children. Caring and compassion are universal: Every one of us can give love and nurturing to anyone else – a child, adult, plant, or animal.

My good friend Sara can’t help but rescue a dying houseplant whenever she comes across one. It doesn’t matter what type of plant it is, she revives them back to health with a little work and TLC. That’s a perfect example of someone taking time to nurture the world around us in just the way a mother might.

So while it’s in my mother’s honor that I remember to smile and say hello to my neighbors and their kids, offer a listening ear to anyone I see having a bad day, and will continue to adopt as many animals as fit in my house, my models of mothering extend beyond her personal example.

I will never have children of my own, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to be mothering, and nurture everyone I share this earth with for some finite time. We can all do it. All we need to do is care for each other.

—Alex Mechanic, Service Team Manager

JustGive’s Top 5 Most Thoughtful Mother’s Day Gifts

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For the first 27 years of my life, Mother’s Day was about giving gifts. Artwork when I was very little, handmade cards when I was a little older, and a nice pair of earrings as an adult.

I’m now a mom myself, and as I’m sure many new mothers can attest, giving birth often comes with a sudden sense of “OMG Mom, I totally understand every single thing you ever said to me.” We mothers truly feel every bit of the pain (and the joy) our children experience, in addition to a near-constant worry. This is both exhausting and an incredible blessing.

Here’s what I realized during my first Mother’s Day as a mom: while I’m sure my mom loved the earrings I got her, Mother’s Day is about appreciation, not about gifts. Motherhood is an amazing but often-thankless journey that involves a lot of sacrifice . . . and Mother’s Day is one specific day a year set aside to show her how much we appreciate all she has done for us.

A small gift and a big gesture

The best gifts for Mom show you care – so get her a small gift, and make it part of a bigger way your express your appreciation. To inspire you, here’s our countdown to a few of the Best Mother’s Day Gifts for 2012:

5. Offer a helping hand

Has your mom been asking you to help her with the computer, paint the house, or organize the garage? If so, Mother’s Day is a great occasion to actually do it. Making her life easier is a great gift. If your mom isn’t the type to ask for help, think of things in her life that are giving her grief. Can you remove the spyware on her PC? Teach her how to Skype? Send the family photos to be digitized? There’s a whole world of ways to make Mom’s life a little brighter.

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4. DIY a special book of memories

My friend Mary recently put together a book of photos and memories for her mother. What a great idea! Two thoughtful options: A book capturing her life (photos of childhood to current day) or a book of your history together (your birth to today). You don’t have to be crafty to make something special – use Blurb.com to easily create a custom photo book (just allow a couple of weeks to receive it from Blurb). Then sit down and go through it with her on Mother’s Day. She’ll love the trip down memory lane.

3. A spa day and nice family dinner

For a mom that doesn’t have time to herself very often, give the gift of a massage or a facial. While she’s out getting pampered, get in the kitchen and cook her a delicious  meal (and I mean cook – the effort you put into it means a lot more than a dinner out, even if you’re no gourmet chef!). Have a beautiful table set to enjoy it with her when she returns.

2. Show your support for what she cares about

What causes are close to your mom’s heart? If she loves animals, make a donation to an organization she cares about and take her to play with the pups at your local humane society. Is she passionate about the environment? Why not create a charity “gift basket” of four charities that work for her cause, and organize a beach cleanup of her favorite spot? What Mom doesn’t love seeing evidence that you’ve actually been listening when she’s lectured you about what truly matters? 😉

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1. Quality time

For people like Anneka (a friend of ours on Facebook), the best gift for Mom is time – her mom always asks to go on a hike with her kids. Making memories and having a close relationship – isn’t that what most mothers want most? Make a date to spend time with your mother doing something she loves this Mother’s Day – organize a hike, take her out for lunch, or go to a movie she’s been wanting to see.

Unfortunately, my mom lives in another state (just for now, though, right Mom?), but this Mother’s Day she’ll be receiving something extra special to show just how much her daughter and her granddaughter both love her and appreciate all she’s done for us–especially in the past few months.

What are you giving your mom this year? What’s the most thoughtful gift you’ve ever given or received? Share it in the comments below, or post it on our Facebook page!


– Sara Olsher, Marketing Manager