Real mothers

Undefining Motherhood

I found this piece by Katie Phang of MSNBC: She “sounds off on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s suggesting stepmothers aren’t ‘real mothers’ during a House Subcommittee Hearing.

Phang: “MTG may try to redefine what it means to be a mother, but she’s wrong and will fail miserably because being a parent is certainly not what she thinks it is. Being a mother is more than just giving birth to a child. It’s about unconditional love, guidance, patience, listening, and understanding. With Mother’s Day around the corner, maybe MTG needs to take a moment and learn what that special day truly recognizes and honors.”

Of course, MTG used her usual scattershot rhetorical bluster, as she did when calling for a “national divorce” to split the country into two.  This time it was to specifically attack Randi Weingarten, the American Federation of Teachers head.

Still, I know many mothers who became so in myriad ways. And I’m sure that, for instance, Jill Biden was a mother to Beau and Hunter after their birth mother and sister were killed.

Not that

What’s more interesting to me is an article entitled What Is a Mother? Not What You’ve Been Told. It’s on the website Undefining Motherhood. 

notes the pain of reading a book called What Are Moms Made Of?According to this book, a mother offers ‘Full-hearted hugs from two generous arms. Grace under pressure and know-how calm.’ Sorry to break it to you, world, but a mom is not always ‘full-hearted’ and ‘generous,’ nor is she always ‘graceful’ or ‘calm.’

“Nor is she necessarily the selfless angel we want her to be. When I Googled the question, ‘What is a mother?’, the words I saw most were ‘selfless,’ ‘strong,’ ‘loving,’ ‘sacrifice,’ ‘instinct,’ and ‘never complains.’

“But let me be real with you. Do I consider myself a strong woman who loves my child with intensity and will sacrifice abundantly for him? Hell yes!

“Am I selfless, ever trusting in my supposed maternal instinct, and willing to fully sacrifice without complaining? Hell no!

“And I think I’m a great mom.

“#notjustamom exists for a reason, y’all. Moms do a lot for their children, but most of them do a lot for themselves, and I hope the rest of the world, too.

“No one can fit the outlandish definitions our society has constructed for what it means to be a mother.”

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms, however you came to the role.

Generations of mothers

Oneonta is a lot closer than Charlotte

I’ve long been aware of how different my mother, my daughter, and I were raised. My mother grew up with her mother, Gertrude Williams, but also her grandmother Lillian (and her second husband, Maurice Holland), and her mother’s siblings Adina and Edward Yates at 13 Maple Street in Binghamton, NY. She had generations of mothers.

My sisters and I grew up with my parents, Les and Trudy Green, at 5 Gaines Street. But my parental grandparents, Agatha and McKinley resided just upstairs. My maternal grandmother, Gertrude, and her sister Adina lived just six short blocks away from us. In fact, my sisters and I went to 13 Maple Street at lunchtime during the school year and spent much of the summer there as well. It was a fair approximation of having generations of mothers.

The daughter of my wife and me saw her maternal grandparents maybe every six weeks or so. But they were over an hour away. Her maternal aunts and uncles weren’t close by either, though she at least has had a decent chance to know them and their kids, my daughter’s first cousins.

But my birth family was more geographically scattered. My parents moved to Charlotte, NC in 1974. Since my father died in 2000, my father and my father never got to meet each other. My mother and my sisters and niece Alex (daughter of Marcia) came up from Charlotte and San Diego a few times, and I went down to Charlotte with my daughter in 2009, when she was five. She doesn’t really remember my mom, who died in 2011.

So no local familial babysitters on either side except when we dropped her off in Oneonta for a few days.


The first time my daughter saw her cousin Rebecca (daughter of Leslie) was on television. Rebecca and Rico were on some show called Wipeout. My niece actually came in second. The first time my daughter saw her oldest cousin in person was at my mother’s funeral.

The next time was in 2013 when my cousin  Anne invited Rebecca, Rico, and my family to Thanksgiving dinner. (That was also the last time I saw my mother’s first cousins Robert and Donald Yates before they died.) My family did see Rebecca perform in NYC in 2017, but we spent five minutes with RJ afterward. At least we all had dinner together in Syracuse in 2019; thanks to Shela E. for both of these opportunities.

This explained why my daughter was so annoyed with me, after the fact, that I didn’t take her to the Dave Koz Christmas show on Long Island featuring Rebecca. And it’s why she and I are going to see Leslie singing in New York City in June. Leslie’s coming to my daughter’s high school graduation, and maybe Alex can too.

My daughter recognizes that I want her – maybe she also wants for herself – to better know my (tiny) side of the family.

Thinking of other people’s moms

the godparent connection

Mrs BWhen I was growing up in Binghamton back in the 1960s, I often appreciated the grace of other people’s moms.

One of my favorites is the woman to the left in the picture. Of all of my classmates’ moms, Mrs. B was probably my favorite. I don’t remember the particular event, or even if I were there, although that looks like my 6th-grade teacher Mr. Peca in the window.

The thing is that she was always hosting events such as this. And her family owned a cottage on a lake and she hosted a motley crew of us down there.

When I was 19, she told me that I could call her by her first name. No way I was going to do that. She’s still around and I still wouldn’t.

Another mom I was fond of was Mrs. Lia. I wrote about her when she died in 2020. Coincidentally, she and Mrs. B. lived fairly close together on the same street.

Mrs. Hamlin, first name Marcheta, who died in 2015, I wrote about here. Besides her being the organist at my church, she and her sister Pat Jones were quite possibly the only black moms I knew from my K-9 school, Daniel Dickinson. And they lived a block or so from the school.

In fact, my parents were Pat’s son Walter’s godparents. I inherited my newspaper route and my library page job from Walter. And the Whitfields, the parents of Marcheta Hamlin and Pat Jones, were my godparents.

But I was in the Hamlin house much more often, spending a year trying, and failing, to learn piano. Incidentally, Mr. and Mrs. Hamlin are buried in Spring Forest Cemetery, about as close to their home as my grandmother Gertrude Williams is from her home to her plot in that cemetery.


Since my mom died in 2011, it’s been especially nice having a smart and good mother-in-law. We get along well much of the time and agree on most topics, especially theology. Much of the recent Saturday conversations on Zoom involve the family finally planning the funeral of her late husband Richard.

This means us writing the obituary and creating the service, although the pastor has, in Richard’s handwriting, what he had wanted to happen. Undoubtedly, he hadn’t counted on a pandemic. On the other hand, more people may be able to attend virtually, notably his elderly siblings.

And my mother-in-law may be selling her house in Oneonta and moving to the Albany area in the coming months. Which’ll mean she’ll be 15 minutes away, rather than 75. That would be nice.

Sometimes, you just need your mother

balance of justice

Carol and LydiaHere’s a picture of my daughter with her mother in December 2015. My friend Alice took it. Perhaps my daughter was just tired. Or maybe she needed her mother’s shoulder.

It’s interesting how the demarcation of emotional responsibilities in our household lies. I’d like to think of myself as the Cool Dad. Yet it was my wife who managed to remember the names of the seven members of BTS and tell them apart, back when my daughter was into them heavily in the past couple of years. While I catch a greater number of my daughter’s current lingo references – though by no means all – my wife picks up some things from her students that simply was oblivious to.


After my father-in-law died in April 2020, I think her three serving children were worried about their mother. But, in many ways, she’s been surprisingly resilient. And pragmatic. In some ways, my wife is very much like her mother. In the past, when I pointed this out, my wife resisted the comparison. Now, she pretty much owns it.

My mother-in-law and I get along pretty well. She refers to me as her favorite son-in-law. Of course, I’m her ONLY son-in-law. But I’ll take it anyway.


I continue to miss my own mother. This Mother’s Day is a lot easier than the holiday in 2011 when I was dealing with being an Orphaned Adult for the first time. It’s odd, but my recollections of her as my mom when I was growing up are spotty.

Part of that, I suppose, is because she worked outside of the home, primarily in the accounting department of McLean’s department store in downtown Binghamton, NY. In fact, I remember walking downtown and going to her office on the fourth or fifth floor, often enough that her co-workers recognized me after a while.

The one specific “mom” thing I remember involved me playing baseball in Valley Street park. I was pitching, and the batter, Aline, hit the ball back at me and hit me in my left temple. She called the doctor who told her that I might have a concussion. So every couple of hours, she’d come into my room and gently wake me up.

Mother’s Day

The history of Mother’s Day is as Day of Peace. Here’s part of Julia Ward Howe’s proclamation in 1870:

“Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of tears!… We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says “Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”

Sometimes, you just need your mother.

When do we lose our parents?

Parental loss varies by race and socio-economic status.

when do we lose our parentsAs a Census geek and as someone has lost both parents, I was intrigued by a new report about “When do we lose our parents?” It’s called “Parental Mortality is Linked to a Variety of Socio-economic and Demographic Factors.” Here’s the underlying study, Exploring the Link between Socioeconomic Factors and Parental Mortality.

“People lose their fathers earlier in life than their mothers, and the timing of parental loss is linked to factors such as race, educational attainment and poverty status.

“For the first time, the 2014 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) included a series of questions asking respondents whether their parents were still alive.” As you may know, my father died in 2000, my mother in 2011, so my experience is more common.

“For example, among those ages 45 to 49, 26% have lost their mother, while 45% have lost their father. Along these same lines, 7 in 10 of those ages 60 to 64 have a deceased mother, while about 87% have lost their father.” I was 47 when my dad died, 58 when mom passed.

“Among adults ages 25 to 34, about 15% of the white population and Asian population have lost one or both parents. By contrast, about 17% of the Hispanic population and 24% of the black population have experienced the death of a parent.” Fortunately, I am not in this group, but I know many folks who are.

“Among those ages 35 to 44, 43% of those living below the Federal Poverty Level have lost one or both parents, compared to 28% for those living in households with an income-to-poverty ratio of at least 400% of the FPL.

“Parental loss, which varies by race and socio-economic status, is often accompanied by psychological and material consequences. These statistics demonstrate the way these new SIPP data can help assess how socio-economic and demographic characteristics are associated with parental mortality in the United States.”

I suppose this is a bummer of a Mother’s Day post. But my mom always tried to do the right thing by others. My father spent his life addressing inequities. Somehow I don’t think they’d mind.

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