Being ‘Motherly’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

Because "caring, protective and kind" doesn't begin to scratch the surface on what and who this woman is today.

Being ‘Motherly’ doesn’t mean what you think it means

What does it mean to be Motherly? A quick google search reveals, "of, resembling, or characteristic of a mother, especially in being caring, protective and kind."

For a new generation of women—the most educated, digitally-savvy generation in history—the time has come to redefine what Motherly means. Because "caring, protective and kind" doesn't begin to scratch the surface on what and who this woman is today.

Motherly is running an online business from home to have more flexibility for family life.

Motherly is choosing to stay at home, giving up alone time, adult time, anything time, to gain years with your children.

Motherly is continuing your education after an unplanned pregnancy.

Motherly is taking care of yourself, eating well and exercising to feel your strongest and be active with your children.

Motherly is waking before the sun rises to start work early, in order to make time for a quiet, smartphone-free evening with your family.

Motherly is holding on to your core identity and being true to yourself as you evolve with motherhood.

Motherly is digging deep to live up to what's demanded of you—and what you demand of yourself.

Being Motherly means being a modern woman—and a mom.

You are Motherly.

You—the mom Googling how to handle your 9-month-old's sleep regression.

You—the mother posting hilarious anecdotes from the front lines of toddler life.

You—the mama tweeting articles advocating for paid maternity leave.

You, the working mom.

You, the stay-at-home mom.

You, the don't-label-me mom.

We mamas are Motherly, together.

And yet, despite our digital connectivity, so many modern mothers talk about feeling isolated and overrun by debates over what it means to "have it all."

The same was true for me. Before having children I had an illustrious career in consulting advising senior government officials and impacting strategy as the highest level. I was confident in who I was and the value I brought to my profession. When I met someone new, they always asked what I did as my career and I was proud to share my work.

But that all changed when I became a mother.

While I continued to work, I found that the world no longer saw me as an accomplished professional—before anything, I was a mom. Now I was asked what my husband did as his profession, not me.

I felt lost—as if I was missing a core piece of my identity and had been put in a box that just didn't fit.

Why was it that society saw the characteristics of motherhood as nurturing, loving and caring, without acknowledging that women who are mothers can also be ambitious, driven and confident?

These attributes appeared to be viewed as contradictory but that didn't align with my truth.

And through co-founding Motherly with Liz Tenety I've seen that beyond the fight over women and work and life, we are a new generation of women who don't want to argue but simply desire support to help us live the lives we've imagined.

And so, the time has come to redefine motherhood and with it, Motherly. Being Motherly today is about recognizing that motherhood is an opportunity to nurture—not lose—one's true sense of self.

As modern women and mothers, we can be caring and powerful, protective and ambitious, kind and strong. That's Motherly.

Portions of the article are excerpts from the intro of This is Motherhood: A Motherly Collection of Reflections + Practices.

You might also like:

In This Article