Redefining What it Means to Be a Mom


As Mother’s Day approaches, I was thinking about what makes a home a sanctuary, not just in furnishings and decor, but in feeling.  I realized that home is not a collection of things, but is the sum of the experiences of the people who live there.  So in that spirit, I wanted to share with you my personal and unconventional journey into motherhood and how I learned the true meaning of the word mom.

Me and my mom

For several years Mother’s Day was a difficult day for me.  Not because I don’t have an amazing mom…I do.  She is everything I could want a mom to be; involved, but not overbearing, loving and kind without judgement and always there when I need her…I lucked out in the mom department!  Maybe that’s why there was never any doubt in my mind that I too wanted to be a mom.  Unfortunately, it was not that simple for me…

 When I met my husband, he already had two young children from his first marriage, but there was no doubt for either of us that we wanted to have a child together.  We tried for almost a year with no luck, beginning a long and exhausting journey of tests, treatments and disappointments.  My dream of having a child were fading as each month passed and I was becoming more and more despondent.  

Simultaneously, because of some tragic circumstances regarding their biological mother, my “new kids” began living with us for a majority of the year. They were four and six at the time, and we became a full time family.  They relied on me for all of their mommy needs and I naturally took on that role.

Unfortunately, being “mom” to these two wonderful children, did not change my underlying sadness and frustration that I could not get pregnant and have a child of “my own”.  Someone who called ME mom.

Instead of a celebration, Mother’s Day  became a painful reminder of what I did not have. 

So you’re probably thinking to yourself, “wait a minute, she said she has an incredible mom and two children who trust and depend on her to be mom to them”…isn’t that reason enough to celebrate on Mother’s Day?  The obvious answer is, YES!

But as is often the case, I was so wrapped up in what I believed was lacking in my life that I was missing what was right in front of me.

The two precious children that had entered my life, not through birth, but through a kind of divine intervention did not call me “mom”, but looked to me to fulfill that role for them.  While they depended on me to do all of the “mom stuff” like packing lunches, driving to soccer practices and reading bedtime stories, fortunately, they also trusted me to create a stable, warm sanctuary for them in our home where they felt secure and loved.     

The fact is, I was already a mom…not in name, but in deed…not through biology, but through love.

It took me a while to fully “inhale” this fact and to redefine my perception of “mom”.  It became clear that the biological relationship is just the smallest piece…just strands of DNA.  The true definition of mom is the person that is consistently there for you, loving you, supporting you creating a sanctuary in which you can grow and thrive.  Once I understood this, it didn’t matter that I was not genetically related to them, I was simply grateful for the opportunity to be a part of their lives.

So ironically, in the spring of 2003, as I was fully accepting my place in our family and embracing and celebrating Mother’s Day, I found out I was pregnant.

The thing that had felt so out of reach for so long, finally happened in the moment that my heart was filled with gratitude for all that I already had. 

 Fast forward fourteen years and many life lessons later, and the two precious children that were my greatest teachers about the meaning of “mom”, are now in college and beginning their adult journeys through life.  And that miracle baby that was born in the spring of 2004, who we named Faith, just turned thirteen.

As we head toward Mother’s Day, this weekend, I cannot help but reflect on that time in my life and the transformation that occurred in my mind and heart that spring.  It was at that time that I fully understood that being a mom is not a matter of biology but of relationships.  It does not matter if they call you “mom” or “Karen”, it only matters what relationship you forge and the love that is given to these precious souls that are in our care for only a short time. 

I also fully accepted the connection between gratitude and happiness and the power of focusing, not on what is missing in our lives but on the blessings that are often right in front of us.

So on this Mother’s Day, I want to celebrate all of you who care for our precious children, regardless of “biology”. I believe there is no greater calling or gift we can give them and ourselves.

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  1. Karen,
    What beautiful “babies” you have. My husband and I have raised two boys, and now have three grandchildren…Meg, Gianna & Luke. What a joy it’s been to be their “mom” and “nana!” The greatest blessing of my life. I so appreciate your story….life is indeed about relationships, not “titles.” There’s no greater contribution a woman can make than to nurture little ones….I grieve over Mothers today who consider caring for their husbands, and children a burden….we should all be so blessed. As for anyone who doesn’t have children of their own…look around, there are alot of neglected ones around just longing for someone to care.

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