To the Mothers Who Weren’t Our Mothers

Here’s to you, Moms We Knew Growing Up.

You were the mothers who were not our own, but who were in our lives anyway—the friends of our moms, the moms of our friends, our aunts, neighbors, teachers, and coaches.

You were also so much more than that.

You were the moms we sometimes wished were our own, just for a day. Not because our mothers were lacking overall, but because you each offered some special benefit that our moms didn’t. You were Becky’s mom, who always served Froot Loops or Cocoa Puffs for breakfast after a sleepover. You were Angie’s mom, who always somehow managed to keep a beautiful home. You were Kathy, who let me use her substantial nail polish collection every time I babysat her kids. You were Aunt Nancy, who always seemed to have a smile on her face no matter what.

You were the moms who showed us different kinds of music, different patterns of family life, different traditions, different recipes, different philosophies on the universe, different senses of humor. You broadened our horizons, just by taking care of your own families in our presence.

We saw you, most of the time, at your best. You were funny, patient, and kind—probably even more funny, patient, and kind than you were with your own kids. We almost never saw you lose your cool, though I’m sure you did sometimes when we weren’t around. Now that I’m a mom, I can see how that works. But the pretty picture you painted was appreciated nonetheless.

You were sometimes the moms who provided a safe haven during our angsty years. You were sometimes the moms who talked sense into us—probably by saying the exact same thing our mothers had already said, but in different voice and tone, which for some reason felt more palatable. And sometimes you were the moms who didn’t try to fix anything, but who simply offered a warm smile and a hug, and let us know we were always welcome.

We loved you precisely for what you were and what you weren’t: Mothers, but Not Our Mothers. You had enough distance from us to be cool, yet were close enough for us to trust you completely. You were a nice blend of mom and friend. We loved you and looked up to you.

But at the end of the day, perhaps your greatest gift is that you made us glad and grateful for our own mothers. When we were with you long enough, your smiles and hugs made us long for the smiles and hugs of our own mommies. Staying at your house was novel and fun, but it made coming home to our own mothers a soothing comfort. And though you often seemed close to perfect in our eyes, seeing your occasional flaws slip through made us appreciate our own mothers’ strengths. What we ultimately learned from you is to honor our own mothers, and to marvel at the diverse roles mothers play.

So thank you, Moms Who Weren’t Our Moms, for being part of the village that raised us. May your Mother’s Day be filled with love and gratitude, not only from your own family, but from the wider circle of friends whom you’ve blessed through your motherhood.

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

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