Motherless Mothers – Mothering Without a Mother Figure

I am a motherless mother.

My mother died from breast cancer when  I was 21 and she 52 , 5 years before my firstborn child arrived. My journey as a mother has been bittersweet, I have loved finding a new dimension to myself,  I have loved viewing life with new eyes but I realise now how much I have lost, for it is only now I realise the true depth of feelings my mother had towards me, how much of herself she sacrificed for me and I wish I could say “thank you”.

I wish I could ask her about my birth, I wish I could ask her how I was fed, I wish I could ask her what I was like as a baby, what she enjoyed the most and what she found the hardest. I wish I could share her wisdom, I wish I could share her stories. I wish she could meet my daughter (and of course my sons) and pass down that feminine knowledge another generation. Although I often say I now feel complete since having children,  in many ways I feel far less than a whole, I am a mother now, a wife, a friend and more, but I am no longer a child to anybody (my father died 3yrs after my mother) and only now do I realise the importance of that dynamic and the sharing of parenting wisdom through generations. I guess the saying is often true “you don’t realise what you had until it’s gone”.

Please let me add here though, I am not writing this post for pity –  do not need any, I had 21 years of wonderful closeness and I know I am lucky. I am also not writing this to be about me. I am writing because I realise now how society has lost value in mothers, how we have lost value in Grandmothers, in great grandmothers and in those feminine feet who walked in our footsteps before us, how we have lost value in female knowledge and the family in the raising of a child. Our society now is so masculine, so materialistic, so authoritarian. We have lost our way, we *need* a maternal influence, whatever our age, whoever we are.

I realise that many mothers may feel too that they are motherless in a way, even though their parents still remain alive, as I have said already, I feel incredibly lucky for the close relationship I had with mine when she was still here, I had 21yrs of closeness  and sharing with her, some I know spend their whole life seeking that closeness from a mother, still alive, who is for some reason or other unable to give it.  I have often seriously thought about “adopting a granny” for my children, an older, wiser feminine influence. I feel too their life is not wholely complete without one.

I’m sure many of you have read “The Red Tent” and thought wistfully of a society so masculine and blood thirsty and yet quietly run and steered by a deep feminine and maternal presence. Of such sisterhood and understanding and acceptance. How do we return to this ethos? how do we once again hold the matriarchs dear and close at the head of society? much like this:

The Jamaican matriarch is the center of our society. Women here have long been leaders in their homes, churches, and communities – and now they are becoming the engineers, computer programmers, architects and, yes, prime ministers of our future. It is the natural next step.

~Mercedes Dean

Think how different society could be if we truly valued motherhood once again? think how different our own experiences of parenting could be if we returned to a time with tribal matriarchs, whether they share our DNA or not, who could support a new mother through her own transition. I think in many ways being motherless is what has steered me on my path, in many ways I do act in a maternal way towards new mothers who attend my classes, by passing on what I lack helps me to feel whole and I hope helps them too.

In many ways today in our society we are all “motherless”.

I do hope I live to see the day that it changes, the day modern society realises what they have lost from their past in their quest for the future.


Published by SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.

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