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Not All Moms are Mothers

Not All Moms Are Mothers

By Amalah

We’ve been writing a lot about motherhood lately and encouraged everybody to share your own lessons and tributes to your own mom. However, I’ve been manning the headset at the Advice Smackdown long enough to know that not everybody fits neatly into that box.

Some of us have had to say goodbye to our mothers — recently, or years ago, before we became mothers ourselves. Some of us routinely buy our Mother’s Day cards in the “special situations” section, for grandmothers or stepmothers or aunts who are, essentially, our moms. Some of us, no matter how much we may wish it to be otherwise, simply don’t have the relationship with our mothers that one imagines when one thinks about leaving gushing, loving tributes on the Internet.

A Few Words About My Mother-In-Law

And while, sure, we’ve posted a LOT of questions about mothers-in-law from hell, that’s not always the case either. I’ve gotten multiple questions from moms-to-be who actually WANT their mothers-in-law or other female figure to help out postpartum INSTEAD of their “real” mothers. I may still (almost 12 years later) awkwardly address my in-laws as “you guyssss” because I mishandled their early request/invitation to call them “Mom” and “Dad”…but they have, in many ways, been an amazing complement to my existing parental units. They are my family, and even more importantly, they have become my family’s family.

My mother-in-law brings my mom homemade soups and meals several times a week while my father fights cancer and chemo. She helps with transportation to doctor’s visits and picks my siblings up at the train station when we all descend for an emergency visit. She helped clean the house when my parents put it on the market and arranged for a charity to pick up excess furniture. And without question or hesitation, she relocated the birthday party she planned for my children to my parents’ house once my father became really and truly housebound. She was there to watch my firstborn while I was birthing the second — she made me a big plate of scrambled eggs every morning and, when I got sick right around their planned departure date, I didn’t even have to ask her to stay a bit longer. I know without a doubt that she will be here for us when I have number three. Sure, our relationship isn’t perfect and we disagree about many things and we drive each other a bit crazy from time to time…but. That kind of sounds a lot like I’d describe my relationship with my…mom. Wow.

If you have a mother figure — a grandma, aunt, stepmom, in-law or just a wonderful woman who means the world to you — feel free to leave a tribute to her in the comments.

Published November 10, 2010. Last updated January 23, 2018.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Ang

    November 10, 2010 at 11:33 am

    I am one of those mentioned that doesn’t have a relationship to speak of with my mother. My grandma is the only mom I’ve ever known, and I am glad that’s the case. She’s opinionated, and not afraid to say what she thinks (traits that I seem to have inherited). She lives 9 hours away, and I only get to see her once, maybe twice a year, but I talk to her every week without fail. She always makes my favorite dishes when I come to visit, and always seems to be on my side, no matter the situation. Even though I still call her grandma, she is the best mom I could ask for! Thanks Amalah for giving me the chance to gush about my non-traditional mom.

  • Sylvia

    November 10, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    My mother in law is awesome!! She is the grandmother that every kid deserves to have. My own mother is anything but …so I’m eternally great full to my mother in law. What a wonderful lady. 🙂

  • EB

    November 10, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I feel lucky. Both my mom and my mom-in-law have been great mothers to me. I’ve been with my husband 10 years. My mother-in-law has always invited me into her home, cooked meals, and took us in when our pipes froze mid-work-week. We’ve vacationed together, and it’s always fun. She’s a great mom.
    My own mom is super-great too, always there for me, even leaving work at a moments notice to take me to the ER a couple months ago when I couldn’t reach my husband.
    I know I lucked out in the mom department. Can’t wait to have my own kiddos – they are going to have 2 really excellent grandmas!

  • Bridget

    November 10, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    My mom was a wonderful person, and would have been an incredible grandma, but sadly she died of cancer before she got that opportunity. I am so lucky to have been given my mother in law – she has stepped in for my mother in so many ways and been a huge support system for me and my family. I can sit and chat on the phone with her for hours – something I know not everyone can say about their MILs 🙂

  • Anonymous

    November 10, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    My grandma! She taught me unconditional love, but she always taught me that it was okay to have strict standards, too. I often disappointed her when I was in my 20s and she didn’t coddle me by relaxing her own standards to make me feel better. I intend to do the same with my own kids.

    I am so very, very grateful for her. My parents were divorced with I was 12 and truthfully, my mom should not have had custody of my sister and I. She is an alcoholic and was always too busy having fun or mourning the newest breakup of her newest relationship. My dad tried his best, but didn’t have rights or custody. It was a different era back then. (Also, in his defense, he wanted us to live with him, but really, a kid can’t reasonably make that choice to accept/reject parents)

    My grandma did her best to support me and when I turned 18 and was out of my mom’s house, she swooped in and began really taking charge – making me do regular dentist/doctor visits, reminding me to get my car’s oil changed, things like that. I will never forget how she finished the nurturing that I still so desperately needed.

    When my grandma dies, I will be devastated. The person who has always had my back will be gone forever and a huge hole will be left in my life.

    These are things I wish I could declare publicly with my name attached for all to see because I am so proud of my grandmother, a woman who saw great tragedy in her early life, but rose above it. However, my mom would be so hurt and furious if I did so. Even though my mom knows it is all true and that my grandma had to step in where she so spectacularly failed.

    I am so grateful that I had my grandma in my life and if I am a good mother, I have HER to thank. Which, come to think of it, I actually do. Periodically, I send her random, no-special-occasion, little thank you notes to let her know how much I love and appreciate her. In fact, I am going to publish THIS and send it to her.

  • christine

    November 10, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Great topic! I’d say my mentor/first boss fills that role 15 years after I worked as her assistant.
    Sidenote: the Lincoln ad is completely blocking the first comment….grrr…anything you can do to move it?

    reply: let us look into that. Very sorry and thank you for bringing it to our attention.

  • Mary

    November 11, 2010 at 1:35 am

    I love my mother so much. She drives me crazy, but I love her.

    My mother-in-law welcomed me with open arms, and was so good to me. I am sorry I only knew her as dementia was setting in, I loved her and we would have had so much fun together.

    I adore my future daughter-in-law. She says we are much better together than she is with her mother.

    In laws don’t have to be evil.

  • SR

    November 11, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    I have a great mum with whom i have (now) developed a great relationship. but my aunt has always been like another mum for me- probably a mum-cum-elder sister if i’m honest. she’s got her faults (who doesn’t) but i know that if there’s another woman i need to turn to she’s always there for me.

  • Susan

    November 12, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    My mother figure was actually my father. My mother died when I was 1 and he raised me (and my brother) by himself.  He was both mother and father to me. I always got him both a mother’s day and a father’s  day card.  He took care of me when I was sick, cooked my meals every night, and made my school lunches. I knew I could go to him with any problem.  And he did all of this while suffering from clinical depression. He never gave up. Even when relatives offered to take us, he pushed forward. I’m a new mom, and now appreciate him more than ever. I lost him 3 years ago, but I think of him every day.

  • Cara

    November 14, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    My mother was ‘that Mom.’  She worked full-time and sure wasn’t waiting with cookies fresh from the oven after school. I don’t remember any of the stereotypical stuff, actually, but she was still ‘that Mom’ that everyone wanted for their Mom.  Most especially me.  But, I was doubly lucky, because I also had an aunt that was a second Mom.  Taking me for fun treats when the new baby arrived just as I was turning six, making sure I still knew how special I was to everyone.  Pitching in when I was sick, and part of every holiday tradition – she was integral to our lives and definitely a second Mom.  Nature denied her the opportunity to be a traditional mother, but she made one heck of a second mother and, eventually, step-mother.

  • Kiki

    December 6, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    I love my mother in law very much. Unfortunately, my relationship with my own mother is non existent. My mother has been a very difficult woman to live with all my life and when I turned 22, moved out and my own and now 29 have realized that she is a pathological lying narcissist. Thankfully my mother in law is a blessing. Since the birth of my first son, she has been there for my husband and I consistently. She lives an hour away and will visit as often as possible. She cooks us meals and packs them for us, she even makes baby food for my son when he started solids, she always calls to see how we’re doing and even teaches me her favorite recipes. Because my own parents aren’t interested in baby sitting at all, my mil has offered to help if we are willing to drive out once in a while. She is amazing and I always wish that I can say the same about my own mom.

  • vicki_1992

    November 5, 2014 at 6:35 am

    Yes I do! It’s amazing how things can change so quick in life; a friend of my mum’s, one day offered to help me buy my first car, completely unexpected. Now almost two years on from that point, she has become such a huge part of my life; so much that I consider her to be my second mother (as well as my best friend). She supports me, mentors me and is always there for me when I need someone. I can find it really hard to socialize and talk openly to people, but not with her…something about her makes me feel safe to just be myself, and I feel like she’s helping me to lift my confidence in many areas. I love her to bits x