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“My mom’s here!” I heard my five-year-old daughter exclaim. I waved to her and her classmate through the chain link fence. The boy standing beside my little girl did not wave back. Instead, he furrowed his brow and turned to my daughter with a question.

“My mom or my dad?” he asked her to clarify. The request amused me. I’m a nonbinary parent, and my gender presentation is remarkably androgynous. It was not the first time one of my children was pressed to identify me as their mother. However, the purpose of the question eluded my child, and she answered her classmate’s query with a shrug. 

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“I don’t know who’s picking you up,” she said and turned to face forward. The little boy tried again. 

“No, did you say my mom or my dad?” The poor fellow never got his answer. My daughter simply repeated herself, failing to comprehend her friend’s inquiry. It never occurred to her that her beloved parent did not fit with the image conjured with the word “motherhood”. I walked to the gate, grabbed my daughter by the hand and took her home with a smile on my face. 

Related: What I did when my 4-year-old told me that he’s transgender

I cannot blame my daughter’s little friend for doubting my validity as a mother. Sometimes, I feel unworthy of the label myself. To many, the title is a badge of feminine identity and pride. As a nonbinary person, I do not resonate completely with the female identity I was assigned at birth. However, while I may not feel comfortable wearing the label of “woman”, I possess no greater title than “mother.”

And most of the people who do not think I deserve to call myself a mother while rejecting womanhood are not adorable, five-year-old boys. Unfortunately, most of them are adult women who cannot fathom someone like me being a parent—much less a mom

From the moment my daughters arrived, I have felt the weight of “mother” on my chest.

There was the elderly woman who took it upon herself to ask my children where their mom was while we were playing at the beach. I was sitting with my youngest on my lap, passing out Goldfish crackers. She offered a half-hearted apology when she realized the “gender-confused young person” she thought was harassing my kids turned out to be their biological parent.

Then there was my eldest daughter’s second-grade teacher, who prevented my daughter from meeting me at the gate because my daughter said her “mom” was there to pick her up. “I don’t see your mom,” she repeated, looking through me at the faces of other parents, trying to find a suitably feminine visage. It took my daughter pointing directly at me and loudly declaring I was her mother for the teacher to release her to me. 

Related: Dad gives moving speech about his transgender daughter: “I was teaching her to deny who she is”

I recognize that I may look different from other moms. My head is shaved, my eyebrows are full and untamed and my clothes are distinctly masculine. But nevertheless, I am my children’s mother, and it breaks my heart when that role is denied by strangers. Like other mothers, I carried my children in my belly for forty weeks. I arrange (most) of the playdates and social events. I spend every waking moment alternating between worry, pride and exasperation directed at my children.

From the moment my daughters arrived, I have felt the weight of “mother” on my chest. There is no other word that could better convey my feelings for my children and my relationship with them. 

I know that not every nonbinary parent assigned female at birth feels this way, and some choose gender-neutral terms like “parent” to express their relationship with their children. Additionally, there are lovely transgender fathers who undergo many of the same experiences I described and still feel that “father” fits them better.

I do not wish to invalidate how they relate to other parents and their children. I simply believe that the working definition of motherhood should encompass multiple identities, biological differences and forms of expression so that those who call themselves “mothers” to their children need not be questioned.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother's journey is unique. By amplifying each mother's experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you're interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.