I propose that we expand Mother’s Day so that we honor not just our biological mothers but also our spiritual mothers.
Our spiritual mothers are the teachers, neighbors, aunts, family friends and others whose influence made an indelible impression on us. Frequently these women didn’t have their own children but lovingly nurtured and guided the children and young adults in their lives.
My own spiritual mothers include an eccentric, bohemian-garbed 12th grade English teacher who helped me become a better writer by gently prodding me to give more rein to my imagination.
Another spiritual mother entered my life when, as a college student, I wandered into a party my parents were hosting. One of my mother’s friends, a worldly woman, approached me. We talked about books. When she discovered I was unfamiliar with Colette she invited me to her home to see her library. I left with a book by Colette, returning often to borrow more books, lingering over meaningful conversation and relishing in her undivided attention.
More recently I was part of a women’s spiritual retreat center in Tenants Harbor, Maine. A few of the older members became spiritual mothers through their thoughtful attention to my religious confusion, offering direction and providing support. I found solace in their quiet, accepting manner.
Over the years close friends have been my spiritual mothers (as I’ve been to them.) They comforted me when my divorce grew ugly; when my parents died; and more recently when my ex-husband died tragically from drowning. Their support has been invaluable.
Native Americans naturally make room for spiritual mothers. In their culture the childless woman is never shamed or given the label of “childless” because she is welcomed as a “mother” to her siblings’ children and other children in the community.
In a 2015 interview with Salon Kim Catrell, the actress best known for her role in “Sex and The City,” commented on her life as a spiritual mother:
“I’m not a biological parent, but I am a parent. I have young actors and actresses that I mentor. I have nieces and nephews that I am very close to. The thing that I find questionable about being childless or childfree is, are you really? There is a way to become a mother, in this day and age, that doesn’t include your name on the child’s birth certificate. You can express that maternal side of you very, very clearly, very strongly…. So I feel I am a mother, of sorts . . . because I care about the next generation.”
Women’s history has supplied me with a seemingly unending supply of spiritual mothers: women on the vanguard who assume a revered space in my memory bank of remarkable women.
Among these spiritual mothers are the Suffragettes, Simone de Beauvoir, soulful writers like Kathleen Norris, Alice Munro, and social justice champions, like Angela Davis. Their courageous examples and writings never fail to inspire and elevate my own spiritual self.
Why not honor some of your living spiritual mothers this Mother’s Day by sending them a Mother’s Day card, thanking them for their presence in your life? If they’re no longer here, light a candle for them.
Globally all women are called to be spiritual mothers to our troubled planet. We’re called to invoke our compassionate nature to take action for climate justice and world peace.
If you’d like more conversations with like-minded women, we have a Facebook page for you: WOW (Women’s Older Wisdom).