Despite Mother’s Day being a time to reflect and celebrate our mothers, perhaps it should also be regarded as a day to celebrate the person, the woman, behind the mother and acknowledge that while they may be marvellous mothers, they are first and foremost wonderful women who were selfless enough to give up a facet of their identity to adopt another.
In an article posted on the Daily Mail earlier this month, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were said to have incurred great public backlash over their decision to go on a second honeymoon without seven-month old George. According to the article, a number of bloggers and Twitter users labelled Kate as being selfish and uncaring, while also criticising their choice to leave their baby for such a substantial period of time.
But, why? Such backlash and public fervour causes us to question our own challenging definition of what it means to be a mother, while taking into account what it means to also to be woman. Are these two roles really so mutually exclusive?
As a noun “mother” is understood to mean “a woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth,” and such a definition naturally proposes that to be a mother you must be a women, yet the abovementioned backlash seems to suggest that to be a mother means to lose or relinquish one’s sense of self and identity as an entity distinct from her child.
In essence “mother”, “mum”, “mummy”, and other such derivatives and variations come to replace a woman’s first name upon giving birth. We can assume that such a referral one of the first words we want to hear our child say, and in the mouth of an infant it has a transformative power, yet in the minds of others it comes to hold a wealth of expectations and norms. To give your child a full sense of self and their own identity, does a mother not also need to have an identity separate from her child?