Are we childless mothers?

I was recently invited to join a new online support group called “Childless Mothers Connect.” It’s a colorful site with lots of opportunities to network with other childless women. So far, it’s so new that there isn’t much there yet, but I joined. I can see how it can be valuable in the future. The site includes forums for a variety of interests, including “Adoring Aunties,” “Relationship Rap,” “Savvy Stepmoms” and “Moms to the 4-Legged.” The founder, Dr. Marcy Cole, blogs and comments on childlessness.

Cole’s theory is that we are all mothers in some way, even if we don’t have actual human children. I have toyed with the concept, considering whether we all have an innate need to nurture, to take care of the young and old, to create with what some call our “womb energy.” In the end, I’m just not comfortable with the theory. Something doesn’t feel right about it.

What do you think?  Do you accept the term “childless mother”? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Check out the Childless Mothers Connect website. You might find something you need there.
I had hoped to show you the Childless by  Marriage book cover today, but the artist and I have not reached agreement yet. Stay tuned.

9 thoughts on “Are we childless mothers?

  1. Sue! Your response to this surprises me. I've told you before that I consider you a “mother in faith” – you are a matriarch for those of us who have become “childless by marriage.” By creating this blog, you've given us a place near which “fondly we hover” (to quote a favorite hymn to the Blessed Mother). I would expect you to absolutely see yourself as a maternal entity.

    But before I commented on this post, I spent some time thinking about it, and I signed up for the CMomA site (though I didn't get far, due to internal site bugs). I can see your discomfort with Cole's claim that motherhood “lies within the heart of every woman,” but I don't think the disconnect is with the lack of “womb energy” of those of us who are childless. I think that some (not all) childless women have that internal mother, just as some (not all) women with children lack that internal mother.

    What first drew me to your writing was your love for Fred, specifically during the moment when you shared about his Alzheimer's. In that post, you exuded so much maternal energy; you even said “I wound up caring for him as if he were my child,” and you were so courageous in your love for him that you “…did it alone.” In that moment, I realized that I could love my own husband as if he were my child – not because he suffered from a disease, but because in a way we are all children who are looking for a little more of (or a little more than) the parental love we had as children. In turn, I began to see all people – young and old – as little newborn souls just looking for unconditional mommy love. I began to treat them that way, too.

    I have four amazing stepchildren whom I love dearly and who love me just as much. Their biological mother was enamored with the idea of giving birth, but she seems to have lacked that “internal mother” as they grew beyond the baby-stage. I, on the other hand, love the idea of kissing boo-boos, playing make-believe, listening to their stories and celebrating their accomplishments. Yet despite our connection, I will always only ever be their “step-mom,” and I only get to see them every-other-weekend. In that respect, I also fear being alone during times when it is opportune to have biological children. In the times between my being with them, therefore, and inspired by your writing, I try to mother any other little soul who hovers near me.

    The wound of childlessness is always large in my heart, but I think it helps me to be a better person by giving mommy-love to everyone around me (even if I'm only doing it to ease my own pain). I know this has become a monster of a response to your post. But you should know, Sue, that you are a matriarch – if only by virtue of your yearning to mother; if only by virtue of the wisdom you have imparted to those of us who have felt like your sons and daughters in faith.


  2. Oh Professor, I stand corrected. Thank you for this beautiful comment. We do mother in all kinds of ways. I love what you say about mothering the little newborn souls in all of us. Thank you.Your timing couldn't be better. I've just had company for the first time since Fred died, and now that they're gone, heading back to California, I feel so incredibly alone. Can you believe I actually set a place at the table for Fred? I just automatically figured we were three couples. But no.I'm so glad you all are here, and I'm happy to be your matriarch. Love,Sue


  3. I think it's very much ok not to feel comfortable with this idea of childless mother. After all we try to make a new identity for ourselves after we come to realize that we will not have our own children. Being childless-by-circumstance/marriage instead of female infertility brings its own range of negative emotions and blows to our self-confidence. It's normal that we seek an ALTERNATIVE identity and sense of meaning in life and are not finding it helpful to try and see ourselves as mothers if it's always connected to ideas of “despite” or “instead” or something still lacking. I am a woman without children and I am working on finding out what that means, and the first thing it doesn't mean is “mother.”


  4. Sue, I wonder if you've ever spent any time with the poetry of Anne Bradstreet? She was one of the first (if not THE first) female American poets. She mostly writes to her children and her husband (really beautiful pieces that even the childless can appreciate), but the particular poem I'm thinking of for you is “The Author to Her Book” – In this poem, she speaks to her book as if it were a deformed child – whom she loves no less than her flesh-and-blood babies, but for whom she has special fears about sending it out into the world. When you read that against her poem “Before the Birth of One of her Children,” in which she contemplates her own death and considers her child to be the “remains” she'll leave behind when she dies, it begins to seem as though our stories are our children too, and in that way we authoresses can consider ourselves mothers of our books (which may survive even longer than flesh-and-blood babies could); and that makes authoresses, in a way, mothers of the word (once again, echoes of the Blessed Mother).


  5. Professor, that's a fantastic poem. Thank you for sharing that with us. I can really identify with that. Yes, my books are my babies, and the new one is here, thank God. The pregnancy lasted about 10 years.


  6. Wow….I am behind here and so happy I finally tuned into to this dialogue! Sue…thank you for sharing our new “” website with your community. And thank you for sharing so candidly your discomfort, before our wise and loving professor chilled in, with identifying with the word “mother”. And to you Professor! Oh my…if Sue is one of our matriarchs then you feel like a soul sister girl! I loved so much and can identify with everything you shared here. From the perspective of my heart, using the term “Childless Mothers” is not meant to impose Motherhood in the traditional sense on anyone, but rather to acknowledge part of the human experience … which can, at any time, embody the archetypal spirit of a “mother”. We call it “Mother Nature” because it is universal. From my point of view, there lies the POTENTIAL of mothering energy in all of us through the birthing and nurturing of ideas, the generosity of spirit, and sharing unconditional love for ourselves and those around us. Some women may choose to tap into this innate capacity and others may not. So we are using it here not literally but figuratively of course…articulating it as a “verb” vs. a “noun”…as something that is not limited to biology, or even gender but is more about a consciousness to recognize as sacred and worthy of celebration. I have found on this journey that the word “childless” and “mother” in this context conjures much debate. I think it reflects a highly charged experience for so many of us and that is why it's so wonderful to have these discussions with one another. That is also why I am currently also writing a book and would love to interview you both for it….or anyone else reading this blog and happy to share. Your identity will be kept confidential. If you will accept this invitation, please email me atmarcy@drmarcycole.comMay the sharings continue!


  7. A request for the professor….you had said you tried to sign up for the free membership to our site and that you had some trouble? Since we are still in the early stages of development we would so appreciate receiving more information about your experience. Here is what our web developer is asking? * What browser and operating system were you using? * What was preventing you from proceeding with using the site? He was wondering if it could be that your registration email was caught in your spam folder.Anyway…any feedback would be so useful! You can email me at: marcy@cmoma.orgTHANK YOU!!


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