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You Don’t Have to Be a Mother to Be a MADRE

My beloved coworkers have a saying: “You don’t have to be a mother to be a MADRE.” They’ll say it lightning-quick, in tones that range from reassuring to affirming to just plain old firm. And certainly we practice what we preach; most of us are not mothers – but we are MADREs.

I’ve been a big sister, a fairy godmother, a cousin, a daughter, a coworker, a friend, a best friend, a partner, a Wife, a Boston Wife, a Job, a teacher, a partner-in-crime and more, but I’ve never been a mother. In the most expansive set of the word, I’ve never mothered a single living creature. I can’t keep a plant alive, I’ve never been pregnant, I refuse to be independently responsible for the well-being of a pet, and my fondness for leather jackets and bacon says I’m not much of an Earth Mother, either. But I’m a MADRE.

If the coworkers, sisters, partners, interns and volunteers who make up our world are what I can measure a MADRE by, here’s what you need in your toolkit if you want to carry the mantle. You’ll need strength and compassion. You’ll need a big, loud voice and a willingness to use it when necessary. You’ll need patience: with systems, with other human beings, with the incredibly, devastatingly slow pace of progress. You’ll need endless reserves of determination and devotion to the overwhelming cause of making the world a better place for everyone who occupies it. You’ll need to believe in collective action and understand that the world is structured to advantage some and disadvantage others, and at the end of the day, you’ll need to believe unflinchingly that this ultimately disadvantages us all. Most of all, you’ll need hope. You’ll need hope when everything else in your toolkit fails, because you’re human, and building things is hard.

And in return for having these things and hanging on tight when it’s hard, which is almost every day, we all get each other. Like a mother, a MADRE is never alone – but unlike a mother, you can enjoy an uninterrupted night of sleep. Happy Mother’s Day, moms. May your breakfast in bed not begin at 6am.

May 12, 2013