Mother: A Gendered Concept

Mother is a woman who nurtures and cares for her children. Mother is a gendered concept, but can also refer to an older person or the slimy substance that forms during the fermentation of wine or cider.

A biological mother is the person who gave birth to a child, but there are many more types of mothers in our society: foster mothers, stepmothers, and adopted mothers all do “mothering” (taking care of their children) but have different experiences. Mothers are not just women who have children; they’re nurses, teachers, social workers, and countless other people who make the world a better place for everyone.

Although modern society may be more egalitarian than previous generations, there is still a strong expectation that mothers should perform intensive mothering behaviors with their children, especially in the early years of life (Bianchi, Robinson, and Milkie 2018; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] 2014; Hsin and Felfe 2014). This type of motherhood can be physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting and has been linked to higher levels of depression, anxiety, and postpartum distress in some women (Fomby and Musick 2018, Bobel 2004).

Many women have tried to challenge the expectations of intensive mothering and have created alternative parenting practices. For example, some mothers have started co-parenting or shared childcare with partners, which can be challenging because of differences in values and philosophies. Other women have chosen to remain childfree by choice and have found ways to nurture their own mental, physical, and emotional health through hobbies and relationships with friends. This is an important conversation to have because it’s important to recognize that not all women want to be mothers and that’s okay.

Throughout history, women have depicted their own experiences with and thoughts about motherhood in a variety of art forms. For example, painters such as Mary Cassatt and Vera Navarra have made artworks that celebrate maternal beauty and power. More recently, films such as Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! have challenged the way we think about motherhood through their use of symbolism and tone rather than a traditional plot.

In the US, most people say mom or mum when referring to their mothers. However, some countries and cultures have other words for mother, such as amma or ma’am in India, oma or ummi in Africa, and aai, amma, or mata in Thailand.

The definition of mother is constantly changing and evolving, as we strive to create a society that is both fair and just for everyone. In the meantime, it’s up to all of us to honor the diversity of our own motherhood and to support each other through this journey of life. If you have a mother, thank her for all that she does and show her how much you love her with hugs and kisses. If you don’t have a mother, remember that it’s never too late to be one of your own. Just be sure to make the world a better place so it’s a safe and wonderful place for all our future generations.