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Sunday 19 May 2019
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The other women

I was a mother long before I biologically became one, getting in a lot of practise with much-younger cousins and my nephews, sometimes accidentally dropping one or two of them on their heads.

In those days, when my patience was like a seven-day data plan ― unlimited with a cap ― and the aches and pains that come with age was not an issue, I used to enjoy taking my "children" to the movies, Christmas parties, the park and having sleepovers. And in true motherly fashion, it broke my heart when I had to discipline them, but I did what I had to do. Years later, at exactly 7 pm on December 24, 2008, when I gave birth to my very own little boy, I expected to be at pro at it. But, as 18th-century English poet Alexander Pope wisely said, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”

Today on Mother’s Day, we often celebrate the women whose children used their bodies as homes and restaurants for nine months and spent a significant portion of their lives taking care of said children after delivery. And they should be celebrated; after all, they are super heroes in their own rights and can never be thanked enough. But what about all the other non-biological mothers who do everything else but deliver the baby? The step mother who devotes her life to taking care of a child who is not related to her by blood but bonded by heart. The foster mother who makes room in her home and life for a child who, for whatever reason, desperately needs her. A god mother who does what she swore to do before God and man and picks up the slack when bio-mom can't manage it all. That aunt, elder sister or grandmother who are always there when they are needed. The teacher who takes a child under her wing because she senses they are in need of some guidance ― all these women are deserving of recognition for their contribution to the lives of the children to whom they give an important part of themselves.

Growing up I had more mothers than I knew what to do with. My maternal aunts ― Justina, Julie, Elsie and Margaret ― have all played major roles in my upbringing, just as effectively as my own mother, the amazing Norma, had. Then there were the elder cousins and family friends, who, to a lesser extent, also did their part. Fortunately, my son has been afforded the same "village" opportunities I had. He practically grew up in the hands of my aunt Margaret and sister Sharon, who are both early childhood educators and with whom he spent most of his days, from about four-months-old till primary-school age. Up to today the bond he shares with them is inviolable. His other aunts and older cousins, all of whom he respectfully calls "aunty" are also his mothers because of the roles they play in his life. Aunty Kerry who makes him the "best cakes ever"; aunty Lou who apparently is the person from whom he inherited his "super sense of humour"; aunty Rhianna, his TV and movie buddy; aunty Jimmy with whom he shares his passion for hip hop dancing, fashion and everything artistic; no nonsense aunty Nadia with whom he has a relationship that passes all understanding; and aunty Annebelle, the newest addition to my village, a neighbour to whom he has comfortably taken.

I remember when he was still a baby, my friend and former colleague Sandra Chouti marvelled at the population and commitment of my village. "You and your son are so lucky to have so many people on whom you can rely," she had told me. One of her biggest dreams was to herself become a biological mother, a dream that was crushed when she was diagnosed with cancer, the disease that eventually claimed her life. But I'm sure the "mother" mark she had made on the lives of her non-biological children are well appreciated.

Mothers, biological or not, are masters of many things, with their ability to stretch the truth for the greater good frequently topping of the list. I recently came across this poem on social media which captures the essence of the nature of a mother and the sacrifices she so willingly makes for her children. I wish I knew the identity of the author to congratulate him or her on a job well done.

MOTHERS ARE LIARS

Mum says she's sick

But she's lying

If she's sick how comes she ain't lying on the bed?

She's all over; washing, cooking, cleaning, ironing, caring for the baby...

She's lying

Mum says she's broke

But she's lying

If she's broke how comes she went to the shop and came back with food? I saw her whisper something to the shopkeeper who then gave her items from the shop

She's lying

Mum says she's tired

But she's lying

If she's tired why can't she rest more?

How comes she's the last one in the family to go to bed and the first one to wake up even before the cock crows?

She's lying

Mum says she never went to school

But she's lying

If she never went to school how come she knows the value of education and has always ensured we're never sent away from school for lack of school fees, even if it leaves her wearing rags and walking barefoot?

She's lying

Mum says she's only a woman

But she's lying

To me she's a doctor who knows when I'm sick

A pastor who first taught me about God

A teacher who taught me how to wash my body

A judge who settles our sibling squabbles

A singer whose lullabies soothes me to sleep

A friend who listens to my childish stories and laughs at my silly jokes

And a maid who does all the domestic chores but is never paid

Mothers run the world.

Happy Mother's Day!

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