The Flip Side of Othermothering

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If you’ve read “The Other Mother: a Rememoir,” you already know what I got out of having Byrne Miller as my other mother. But the flip side is what the other mother gets out of the relationship.

Parents don’t get security from their kids. Caregiving, according to the Ericksonian theory, is the primary role in mid-life. But what about those of us who don’t have kids or whose children are older? We still have nurturing qualities that could come out in lots of other relationships.

Being an other mother is a healthy way to express that caregiving role. It can make you feel like you’ve contributed something incredibly important, perhaps the most important thing of all.

On a very personal side – I think othermothering can make us better mothers too. I really think it did with Byrne. Alison – her oldest biological daughter – suffered from schizophrenia.

bellydancing

Before Byrne started “collecting” daughters, she wanted so much to have Alison follow in her footsteps. To dance, to say the right things, meet the right people. But she was able to let Alison be the most independent person she could be because she could transfer some of those ambitions and expectations to “collected” daughters – like me.

She wasn’t a perfect mother — no woman is — and being an othermother gave her a do-over. It was her chance to apply the things she’d learned earlier in life and break out of the bounds she’d set for herself. Don’t we all owe ourselves a do-over once in a while?

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