Motherhood: It Comes in Many Shapes and Sizes

By: Joni Boyd

Key points

  • Sarah: “As a single parent, holidays come with a tinge of sadness.”
  • Kate: “After being told I was infertile, three boys was beyond what I ever imagined.”
  • Tania: “My inability to have a child is because the right man never came along.”

Like all relationships, motherhood can take on different shapes and forms.

Because of this, sometimes there can be pain attached to Mother’s Day. We want every woman to feel celebrated this week – so we’ve chatted with some women from different backgrounds to hear what Mother’s Day means to them – and how they find hope, when holidays bring up painful emotions.

We’ve spoken to mums, women who missed out on being a mum, mothers in law, step mums, grandmothers, aunties and daughters, all of whom deserve to be celebrated.

Sarah: “As a single parent, holidays come with a tinge of sadness.”

Above: Sarah Wiedersehn with her two sons. (Supplied)

News journalist Sarah Wiedersehn is raising two boys on her own.

“As a single parent, holidays and Mother’s Day do come with a tinge of sadness,” she said. “It’s a type of grief that kind of just creeps up on you.

“However, I have been blessed to have a loving mum and sister who always made me feel spoilt when my two boys were very young. I find hope in just enjoying the time I have with my children and watching them grow into the amazing young men they are.”

Motherhood is something Sarah treasures, despite its challenges.

“I love being a mum,” she said. “It brings me so much joy. It can be challenging – however it is such an honour to walk alongside your children as they grow and mature.

“I view motherhood as a calling and a blessing. It also teaches you a lot about yourself.”

What’s the best advice you’ve received from a mum?

“Do not let them see your shock, outrage or disappointment when they first come to you in a moment of vulnerability and share with you a mistake or poor choice they have made. The discipline, if needed, will eventually follow but its critical they can feel they can come to you no matter what. It’s important to keep the lines of communication always open.”

Kate: “After being told I was infertile, three boys was beyond what I ever imagined.”

Above: Kate Ryan (centre) with her family. (Supplied)

For Kate Ryan from Focus on the Family, Mother’s Day is a beautiful reminder that though life’s journey isn’t always easy, she has been blessed.

“After being told early on that I was infertile, having three healthy boys was beyond all that I could have imagined,” she said. “Being a mum is the greatest gift God has ever given me, apart from Jesus and [husband] Brett, of course.

“None of us are immune to disappointment or relationship breakdown. Across the landscape of a family’s life span we are all likely to face some kind of angst, ranging from differences of opinion to alienation – but there is complete hope in Jesus.

“I hold on to the fact that God loves my children more than I ever will and He holds them in His hand. My job is to pray, love unconditionally, and trust that He has a plan and a purpose.”

What’s the best advice you’ve received from a mum?

“I have watched my mum live a life that is totally devoted to knowing and growing in God. I have seen her stand firm in storms that would have absolutely destroyed others, and when asked how she could forgive, in the face of such pain, she said, ‘Jesus revealed to me that my sin was just as awful to the Father and that he has forgiven me. To not forgive would be folly, when I have been forgiven much.’ And so she made the choice to forgive even when her emotions cried out to do otherwise.”

Shammah: “This is the first time I’ll be away from my mum.”

Above: Shammah Mufanechiya with her mum and nephew. Supplied

As a breakfast radio producer, Shammah Mufanechiya recently moved to Australia, so is missing her mum this Mother’s Day.

“This Mother’s Day is a bit strange for me as it is the first time I’ll be away from my mum,” she said. “I think I now fully understand how she feels, being away from my grandma.

“For the first time I’ve sort of had to be introspective about what Mother’s Day means and I understand the gravity of it and why it is celebrated. My view on motherhood has shifted within the last year.

“I became an aunty and, while I know that’s not exactly the same as being a mum, there was an instinct that kicked in the second my nephew was born.

“I don’t know how to explain it, but I was immediately overcome with the sense of responsibility that comes with having someone who looks up to you.”

What’s the best advice you’ve received from a mum?

“One thing my mum has taught me, it is to be strong and unshakable in my faith. My mum is such a prayerful woman; she is diligent in actively pursuing her relationship with God. There is no half effort with her, and she reminds me everyday that I should be praying, reading my bible, spending time with God and just overall living my life in a way that is reflective of my relationship with God.”

Tania: “My inability to have a child is because the right man never came along.”

Above: Tania Harris (Supplied)

Rev. Dr Tania Harris of God Conversations is an author, minister and speaker. As someone who grew up planning her childrens’ names (four – maybe five kids) and had no ‘back up plan’, other than getting married and being a mother, Tania grapples with her ‘social infertility’ and the fact that, in her words, “Now I will never have a child of my own.”

“When what seems the most natural thing in the world is denied us, it’s shocking,” she said. “It feels deeply unjust… My inability to have a child comes under a different label. The type of barrenness I’ve experienced came because the right man never came along at the right time.”

Tania says that the moment she first heard the phrase ‘social infertility’, it filled her with a profound sense of relief.

“There may not have been an easy cure for the condition I was suffering, but at least there was a label – something that gave it the gravitas it deserved,” she said.

“Some of my friends are childless and perfectly okay with it – I’m not one of them. Don’t get me wrong; I love my life. God has blessed me incredibly and I don’t regret any one of my choices – but the pain is real and it never goes away. I know I will carry it with me for the rest of my life.”

When it comes to social infertility, what advice can you give?

“As the church we’re called to carry each other’s burdens and, in this way, fulfil the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). To bear them of course, we must first recognise them. For many, the pain of being unable to bear a child due to the absence of a partner is felt just as deeply as those who are physically unable to bear them. Like the physically infertile woman, the socially infertile woman needs to feel the love and grace of those who care enough to understand. She needs others to stand with her as she takes her grief to God.”

Read more about Tania’s journey with social infertility here.

Kim: “After 15 years I didn’t put the connection of ‘mother’ to what I’d been doing.”

Above: Kim Wilkinson with step daughter Kate. (Supplied)

Kim Wilkinson from CMAA has been a step mum for 16 years, but it wasn’t until last year that she allowed herself to think she might be included in Mother’s Day.

“I had never had the desire for motherhood,” she said. “I can’t explain it, it was just never something that was important to me, and I remained happily single until meeting and marrying Stephen at age 37.”

With two girls from a previous marriage aged 9 and 5, Kim was aware that their time spent together was precious.

“They desperately wanted and needed time with their father, and so any thoughts of me being a ‘mother’ or even a ‘parent’ in the situation were very distant,” she said of the early years. “I was the ‘support adult’ to the three of them in those limited and precious moments.”

When Stephen’s youngest daughter Kate came to live with them at age 14, Kim experienced another side to her role, diving deep into learning what was needed.

“I went to the school enrolling her in year nine saying, ‘Pretend like I’m a Kindergarten parent and tell me everything!’” she says.

And when Stephen’s oldest daughter Megan presented Kim with a bunch of flowers a year later on Mother’s Day, she was, in her own words, like a deer in headlights.

“I can’t even remember what I said, but I hope it was “thank you”. I was stunned all day, but still didn’t put the connection of ‘mother’ to what I had been doing.”

Kim says she has learned to lean on prayer heavily, especially in the lead up to events like Mother’s Day.

“Not just for myself, but for the girls and especially their Mum who must also find these celebration days bittersweet.”

What’s the best advice you’ve received from a mum?

“You’ve been created with purpose and to be in relationship with others, like a family. God will bring those ‘family members’ into your life for a reason, and you are to give them the best of you, without seeking anything in return. The reward is in seeing them being happy and whole, simply because they are loved.”

Laura: “I’m grateful that I have a mum who I like as well as love.”

Above: Laura Bennett with her mum. (Supplied)

For media personality Laura Bennett, Mother’s Day is an opportunity to be grateful for her mum – and the women in her family that she admires.

“I always love Mother’s Day, because while I know it can be a tough day for some, for me it’s a day to be extra grateful for the fact that I have a mum who I like as well as love, and that the women in my family are ones to admire.”

When holidays highlight the absence of certain people, or relationships which may have changed over time, Laura sees it as an opportunity to heal.

“When I’m struck by those moments at various times throughout the year, I’m reminded of the insights of Christian psychologist Debra Fileta that ‘triggers are a sign that there’s more healing to be received’.

“I think it’s important to acknowledge feelings of disappointment, loss or longing as the case may be, and then consider what need for healing they’re pointing you toward.”

What’s the best advice you’ve received from a mum?

“My mum doesn’t really dish out advice, but her manner of encouragement, passion and belief in who I am as a person and what’s possible for my life is really what I take away from our time together. She raised me with a keen awareness of God’s overall involvement in, and care, for my life and that’s been a great gift.”

Heidi: “Even before I had my son, I considered myself a mother.”

Above: Heidi Wysman with her husband and their son Samuel. (Supplied)

For Heidi Wysman, host of the Hopeful Reflections podcast, this Mother’s Day brings a mixture of emotions.

“Though I love every bit of being a mum to my son Samuel, I found myself feeling a bit melancholic [this year],” she said. “I lost my Mum to dementia back in July 2023 – and it’s not just me; I have friends yearning to embrace motherhood, while others are grappling with the loss of their own mums.”

“Mother’s Day used to be particularly tough; it served as a constant reminder of our stillborn daughter and my struggle with infertility for many years. Those were the days when my heart ached, and my arms felt empty. Yet, through those trials, I learned the importance of being kind to myself.

“I continued to extend compassion to all, especially to my mother during her battle with dementia. Witnessing her gradual decline was heartbreaking, but amidst the sadness, there were moments of pure joy—like the times we’d stroll through a garden and her face would light up with delight – or the way she would play the piano and sing when a keyboard was put in front of her.”

Heidi is a firm believer that motherhood extends beyond biological ties and recalls the ‘spiritual’ daughters she has cared for over the years.

What’s the best advice you’ve received from a mum?

“My mum and dad were married for over 50 years until my dad passed away, and throughout their marriage, she never uttered a single negative word directed at him or about him. Even after he died, she maintained this remarkable restraint. Despite my dad’s glaring imperfections, she never spoke ill of his shortcomings. To this day, I deeply respect her for teaching me the value of such loyalty and respect in a marriage.”

Anita: “The day is just like any other as a parent.”

Anita Savage with family
Above: Anita Savage with her mum, husband and children. (Supplied)

News journalist Anita Savage will be especially enjoying time with her 94-year-old mum this Mother’s Day.

“Mother’s Day this year is particularly special because every day that I have where I can honour my 94-year-old mother is precious and a privilege,” she said. “She is a kind, selfless, servant-hearted Godly lady.

“I’m also keenly aware that my mum, herself, is sentimental about Mother’s Day because she lost her mother on the Saturday evening before Mother’s Day many years ago now.”

For Anita, the day seems like any other day as a parent, busy, filled with love and – as always – thinking of her family’s needs.

“Motherhood is a blessing from God,” she said. “Our children are not ours to keep, but to shape and share God’s love with. Motherhood is not something to be taken for granted; we’re called to pray for our children, model faith and character, and train them in wisdom. It can be all consuming but is also just one part of who we are.”

What’s the best advice you’ve received from a mum?

“My mum has always shown unconditional love to her children. She says (and has demonstrated) that every child is different and needs to be treated individually. As the youngest of four children, I can attest to that. My mother also was sensitive to the fact that not everyone has the opportunity to be a parent, wisely advising us to never to presume or inquire if or when someone is going to have children.”

Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.

Feature image: Photo by Dario Valenzuela on Unsplash

About the Author: Joni Boyd is a writer, based in the Hawkesbury Region of NSW. She is passionate about the power of stories shared, to transform lives.

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