When I was in the water aisle at the grocery store the other day, a mom with two young children passed by me. Rather, the mom and the younger of her children, who was strapped into the cart, passed me. Her daughter, a little bit of a thing who looked to be about three, hung back and was attempting to lug a full gallon of water off the shelf. Just when I was ready to intervene, her mom glanced back and yelled for her to “Put that down and come here!”
Little bit obliged, but on her way to rejoin her mom and brother grabbed a beef jerky off the shelf across from me. When she reached her mom, the weary woman (bless her) said, “Quit grabbing things off the shelf!!”
As for me, I was at the store doing one of my last big grocery shoppings before my last baby leaves for college. My cart was filled with the protein powder she likes to put in smoothies and her favorite cereal and “that one kind of bread I like” and her almond milk.
I am at a completely different stage of life (and grocery shopping) than the mom of that darling imp of a girl. But we are both, equally, still moms.
Then, when I was checking out at the store, there was a woman behind me in line who looked to be ahead of me in life by at least a decade or so. She was buying single-serve meals and a small tray of precut fruit that wouldn’t last 10 minutes in my house. Yet if she has ever had children, she is still a mom, too.
Whatever stage of motherhood (and grocery shopping) we’re at, if we have ever mothered a child, we are all still moms. (And oh, how my heart goes out to those of you aching with every fiber of your being for this to be you.)
That young mom might be firmly entrenched in one season while I am on my way out of an entirely different one and just entering another yet. The mom behind me in line might be ahead of me in years and also in mothering and may be in a season she expects to last a long time. But we are all still equally moms.
Motherhood looks like different things at different times for different moms. But the privilege and calling of being a mother is not a limited-time deal. It does not come with an expiration date.
Mothering, the first instant you do it, makes you a mom forever. It is not a certificate that is good for only a couple of years and then you have to renew it by logging in enough sleepless hours or cleaning off enough sticky hands or driving kids enough places.
If you have ever done it, “mom” is a descriptor that is true of you forever.
And equally true is that no matter how old your children get to be, there is always some way to do the thing that is at the deepest core of all motherhood: loving your children.
Maybe this means letting them go a little. Maybe it means settling them in their first professional-kid apartment hundreds of miles from you. Maybe it means putting back the wayward beef jerky in the grocery store when your toddler isn’t looking. Maybe it means thinking of your grown children and looking forward to the next time you might be together for a holiday or a long weekend or someone’s birthday.
But it is mom love just the same, and in the truest cases, it is forever. Because true moms are moms, forever.
by Elizabeth Spencer