THE NEW DOMESTICITY
By Julianna Lawson
When the snowball bushes bloom in May, I am once again a
5-year-old in long brown braids and a gingham dress. Tucked away in my childhood backyard, I seek the shelter of the flowering bush. Buds explode in a riot of white, each orb faintly tinged with apple green. I crawl under its benevolent branches, spread a blanket, and find the perfect shelter for my doll. She fusses a little, so I hold her close to my heart. I sway and sing, sooth and whisper; my doll falls asleep, pacified beneath the generous branches of the snowball bush. In this vibrant, blossoming month that so fittingly celebrates motherhood, I want to take a few moments to expand the traditional definition, to look at the word “mother,” not as a noun, but as a verb. When I was 5, I was not a noun, “mother,” but I knew how to embrace the action of mothering; I knew how to employ some very basic tools in order to “mother,” even if I was simply singing to and swaying with a doll. Mothering is nurturing, giving, sacrificing. By one definition, it is the act of “bringing forth.” Guess what? This means you don’t have to be a mother in order to mother. Yet even if we find the traditional act of “nurturing” to feel foreign or uncomfortable, we all have special ways in which we can “bring forth” life in those around us, ways that branch out beyond the traditional. Author Shannan Martin writes, We are life givers, each of us, in ways both wild and vast . . . . Mothering is the thing all women do, with the small and big kids under our care, the neighbor boys up the street, our students, our grown nieces . . . . none of us is off the hook here. Humanity is crying out to be nurtured.
If humanity is crying out to be nurtured–and I believe it is—we all have a job to do. This month, let’s seek out ways to mother, both at home and in our community.
In an age when humanity demands instant gratification and often promotes self to the detriment of others, let’s consider the words of Kathleen Norris in her 1911 book, “Mother.” Her old-fashioned wisdom runs rather contrary to the egocentric mentality of our day; yet it holds a wisdom we would do well to heed: “She knew that faithful, self-forgetting service, and the love that spends itself over and over, only to be renewed again and again, are the secret of happiness.” How does love spend itself over and over in the home? It looks for ways to ease the burdens of others; it looks for ways to nurture, for ways to “bring forth.” This kind of mothering commits to reading a bedtime story, even when it’s been an exhausting day. This kind of mothering consistently guides the child who is learning a new task, even when it’s been explained a bazillion times and could be completed much more quickly by a parent. “Honey, let’s fold your laundry together. I won’t do it for you . . . but I will help you.” This kind of mothering may even be flipped upside down: it may be the teen girl bringing her mom or dad a piping hot cup of tea at the end of a long day.
In the Community
Perhaps you are not a mother. Did you know you still have countless ways in which to mother? In fact, you may even have more freedom to step into community roles, blessing those around continued on next page
Go to VancouverFamilyMagazine.com for more inspiration on mothering, and a link to episode 54 of Emily P. Freeman’s podcast, “The Next Right Thing,” titled, “Find Someone to Mother.” 8
Vancouver Family Magazine • www.vancouverfamilymagazine.com • May 2019
The magazine for Southwest Washington families.