From Noun to Verb

From Noun to Verb

The Duty Free shop at Don Muang Airport will always carry a memory for me.

We were walking past it, down toward gate 72 where our plane waited. After a week-long service trip to a border town with a group of students, we were ready to board our 90-minute flight to take us home. We were tired, happy, full, and feeling all the feels after a week together pursuing a common goal. 

“Do you want to have kids one day, P’Maria?” The question was a bit out of the blue, coming from my student friend walking beside me.

I’m a bit surprised by the question, but I answer honestly that yes, I do. I really hope one day I can be a mom. Then I turn the question to her. 

My question makes her smile.

“Of course I want to be a mom, but sometimes I feel bad for my mom. I think having kids has made her really tired. She tells me that she’s starting to feel old.”

“How old is your mom?” I ask

Her answer makes my jaw drop. 

My friend’s mom is the same age as I am. 

I felt 100 years old at that moment. Something was so wrong with this picture. I am literally the age of the mothers of the students I’m working with. How did the clock spin that many times and change me from the energetic, fun big sister stage to actually the same age as the mom who self-identifies as feeling old?

While this has become a joke and now lives on in team folklore as a way to make a quick joke about Maria not being a twenty-something anymore, it also has stirred some thought in me.

I kinda like that I get to be the same age as her mom, because that kinda means I get to be a mom. 

In her book Captivating, Stacy Eldridge blew my mind wide open about the word mother, when she asked her readers to consider it as a verb rather than a noun.  Merriam-Webster defines this verb as “to care for or protect like a mother.” Maybe it’s because I am the outsider looking in when the term mother is used as a noun, but something about changing the part of speech really resonated with me. This goes far beyond a blood connection or having a great labor room story. While mother as noun categorizes, mother as verb unites. We all mother and are mothered. The question is how well we’re doing at giving and receiving. 

Think of Naomi and Ruth. Naomi is the maternal figure, but in many parts of the story Ruth is the one doing the mothering. She’s providing, protecting, caring, guiding. And then in preparation for that scandalous night on the threshing floor, Naomi rises up and mothers Ruth. It’s a giving and receiving. A mothering and daughtering (can we make that a verb too?). A switching of roles even within one relationship. 

This is a new thought to me this year: mothering is a two-way street. We both mother and are mothered. Sometimes by the very same people.

It’s true, I’m the same age as my friend’s mom. And there were times when I had the privilege of mothering her. When she’d stop by our house after a long day of classes or a hard exam, I could mother her by meeting her physical and emotional needs. 

But she also mothered me. She taught me the appropriate words to say and those to avoid, and modeled the polite ways to behave in public places. I remember one morning in particular, she and I were tasked with hitting the market to buy breakfast for the crew before we headed off for a service day. Although she was far younger than me (as evidenced by the earlier story), she led me through that market, acting as provider and protector for the lone American wandering amidst the carts of street food. 

It’s a give and take, this mothering world. 

Some seasons, we give more, other times we’re receiving. Both can be really hard. 

What if we’d all take some time this week to consider who in our lives has stepped in to mother us? Or mother our children? What if we said the affirming words of thanks to them, telling them that their actions spurred us on to love and good deeds? 

What if we thought awhile about who we could intentionally mother? Who we would protect, provide for, nurture? What if we also remembered those who mother us, and look for ways we could return the love?

What if this would be the year we could celebrate Mother’s Day by honoring the mothers in our lives while intentionally flexing our muscles of mother as verb? 

Let’s mother well, my friends. Whether it be our children, our neighbors, our teammates, our families, our friends. Let’s allow this Mother’s Day to be an invitation to deepen our abilities to mother and be mothered. 

And I’ll try to be more ok with the startling wake-up calls about my age. 

What does it look like to intentionally mother and be mothered in your context?

5 Comments

  1. Michele May 14, 2020

    Maria, I relate to this so much! It’s been a few years since my first shocking realization that I was the same age as my friends’ moms, and more recently I’ve been shocked all over again to find the moms of some of my friends are several years YOUNGER than me! That one still throws me off sometimes. But my younger sister and most of my college friends are grandparents, so I should probably get used to it. And I’m finding I also like it. In the last couple of years, I’ve found myself “mothering” more and more naturally and loving the investment. It comes to out as a desire to comfort, to listen, to encourage and to counsel, and even to protect sometimes. (This can include strangers if I see a guy messing with a girl who is clearly uncomfortable with it, or when I get on a plane full of young guys on their first flight ever to work in country known for abuse of migrant workers). I’m officially past the age of ever becoming a mom in the official sense, but I think it’s true you can’t really stop a woman from ‘mothering’. It seems to be built in!

    1. Maria Mullet May 15, 2020

      Michelle – I love what you’re saying. I love that you’re still mothering and actually leaning more and more deeply into that role in this season. I can really relate that it comes more and more naturally, and brings greater joy, too! When I think on my own life, there are so many women who have mothered me well, not only my own mother. I’m so glad that they did, and boy am I glad I get to do it.
      So true, it’s like it’s a part of our DNA.
      Keep it up!

  2. Sarah Hilkemann May 15, 2020

    Maria, I love this so much! It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, as I grieve the fact I probably won’t birth my own babies. But the Father is opening my eyes to ways I can still be intentional about mothering, and your post has helped shaped some of my thoughts! 🙂 So thank you!! I love your heart and wisdom.

    1. Maria Mullet May 15, 2020

      Sarah – it is a grief, thinking of not birthing our own. It for sure is a grief. I want it a lot, a little life to claim and to mold and to hold.
      But I love how good God is to give even those of us who can’t claim the noun so many opportunities to live the verb. I think you do that really well – even here in this VA space. Way to go, and keep it up.

  3. Donna May 18, 2020

    Thanks for sharing, Maria! As I myself get closer to the age I could be my friends’ mother, it’s encouraging to realize that God is still using me to mother my students, my neighbors’ kids, and others he brings into my path. This past year, my home was a favorite place for the 4 to 6 kids in the compound to come in, do puzzles, read books, and color. Usually I could only take the chaos for about an hour a couple times a week. But my neighbor told me, “You love children. May God give you 20!” I secretly hoped that God wasn’t listening to THAT prayer! But it was encouraging to know that I was being a mother just by inviting these children into my home occasionally and loving them.

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