Mother’s Day and Chosen Families

May 3, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Posted in Chosen Families | Leave a comment
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Ah, Mother’s Day.

The flowers, the jewelry, the spa gift certificates, the Hallmark cards… really, it’s not much different from Valentine’s Day in some ways, I suppose.

And yet it is… because taking a day to put moms everywhere on a pedestal is beautiful. Even though this holiday was essentially created by Hallmark to sell more cards, it’s taken on a deeper meaning in our modern culture. And it’s not just for our “direct” mothers nowadays, either: we also call our grandmothers… and our female friends who have children… and our aunts… and any woman who has ever taken the time to help in our upbringing.

Mother’s Day takes on a whole different meaning when you consider the rapidly increasing different types of families out there. Parents of the same sex; children being raised by grandparents or other extended family members; adopted families; multi-parent households; step-parents; polyamorous families; multi-family homes; co-op communities in which all the adults share responsibility for all the children; and chosen families.

In the queer community, there has been much analysis of our “chosen families.” We may have chosen to bring non-biological relatives into the circle of what we call “family” for many different reasons. Maybe our parents rejected us when we came out, so we had to find comfort elsewhere. Maybe we simply moved far from home and found a circle of friends who became family in a strange city. Maybe we were estranged from our families and then chose to bring them back into our lives after the wounds had healed. Maybe we opened up our biological families to include ¬†others around us who needed a helping hand. Maybe shared grief brought us together. Maybe it was shared joy. Perhaps it was need; perhaps it was desire. Maybe it was circumstance, or maybe it was planned. For whatever reasons, many of us have brought into our lives those who “traditional” society may not call “family,” especially not in the nuclear sense, but who are just as dear to us and who have had just as much impact on our lives as those who birthed us or share our genetic code. (And yet, even in that sense, the DNA of all of humanity varies by less than 1% all across the world — so we’re not as different as we sometimes like to think we are.)

The “coming out” narrative in the queer community has been told and re-told more times than would be possible to count. We’ve all had to grow in some way or another. “Coming out” means stepping outside of the mainstream and that takes a lot of courage, strength — and often a lot of help from others who have been off the beaten path before us.

Mother’s Day is a beautiful time to recognize those who have helped nurture us as we grew. To me, Mother’s Day is all-inclusive of all the women who have helped me grow as a person, who offered comfort when I needed it, who pushed me to do better, who knew when to let me cry, who knew when to push me into the water and force me to learn how to swim. It’s about the women who have chosen to enter my life and be a positive force within it.

It’s about my mother. It’s also about my little sister. And my English teacher in middle school who pushed me to create my first published story. It’s about the therapist at the UMD counseling center who reaffirmed me and comforted me and helped me to heal after I was attacked. It’s about my friend growing up who helped me get out of a very unhealthy relationship in high school. And it’s about the young women who held my hand¬†through the confusion when I had my first crush on a girl. It’s about the writers who have changed my life philosophy and inspired me to do better. It’s about the songleader in NFTY who inspired me to pick up guitar when I was thirteen. It’s about the women who have coached me in ballroom dancing and pushed me to do better. It’s about the girlfriends who have been supportive in my effort to lose weight and achieve a healthier lifestyle. It’s about the women who showed that yes, a girl can grow up to be whoever she wants to be and that the glass ceiling is only put there to be shattered. It’s about the coworker who came into the bathroom when I had a breakdown in the middle of a shift and didn’t judge me at all while she comforted me then covered my tables until I was ready to face the world again. It’s about my boss who has offered me nothing but encouragement and enthusiasm about my goals to attend HUC and become an educator and community organizer in the Jewish community.

It’s about all the women who have entered my life, either by choice or by chance, and who I have chosen to embrace as family, even if only for a short period of time.

Thank you, women everywhere who have nurtured others in some way or another.

Who will have you chosen to be in your family? And who will you be thinking of this Mother’s Day?

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