This May 11th marks the 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day in the United States, a holiday responsible for $16 billion dollars worth of flowers, chocolate, spa treatments and restaurant dinners spent on moms each year by grateful children.
But the woman who started the holiday a century ago, Anna Jarvis, had no children of her own, making her what I consider the quintessential other mother.
I wrote in “The Other Mother: a rememoir” that I couldn’t have pinpointed the exact time when Byrne became my other mother any more than when I became aware of my own name. You just know what an other mother is when you’re lucky enough have one. She’s that special aunt, coach or older friend who doesn’t have any genetic ties so you can talk to her about things you’d never tell the woman who changed your diapers.
All I know for sure is that the term other-mothering dates back long my book or Anna Jarvis’ Mother’s Day campaign.
“You have to remember nuclear families are pretty new in all of human history,” says Dr. Hedman, professor emeritus of the University of Wisconsin. “We can’t be everything to everyone. Having other mothers helps relieve the tension and make parents happier.”
I think he’s onto something. I met my other mother when I was 22 and she was 82. My biological mother lived across the continent and was grateful that another wise, caring woman was there to offer me advice and love.
She’s be the first one to agree with the opening of the flap copy of my book: “Sometimes it takes a complete stranger to show us who we were meant to be.”
I remember every Mother’s Day I spent with my other mother. The florist in Beaufort, South Carolina – Bitty’s Flowers — could barely keep up with bouquets for Byrne Miller. They came from her collected children around the country: proof of how we all need and cherish the love of other mothers.