I write to you all this week from my mother’s bedside. She’s in hospice care. These are our last few days together.

Midcoast resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at heather@heatherdmartin.com.

I know. That’s a lot. I’m sorry I sprung that on you.

As you might imagine, though, this is what I am thinking about right now, so this is the conversation.

Well, sort of.

I am actually not quite ready to unpack the full reality of this moment. What I do want to talk about is my mom’s life and how it intersects with a certain national narrative about gender roles I’m watching play out.

My mom has had 90 full and rich years on this beautiful, blue planet of ours. She has been a lot of places, done a lot of things and met a lot of people. She attained an education she was told was not for her and spent most of her working life as an ordained clergy – a career that was not exactly welcoming to women when she chose it. She is a feminist.


And yet, I know for certain that if you asked her, she would tell you that her children are her greatest joy and her greatest accomplishment. Which is nice.

However, to be clear, it isn’t that she “managed to raise her four daughters while also working full time.” It is that the active, daily practice of deliberately forging the life and work she wanted for herself was how she raised and mothered us.

Career and home were not parallel or competing realities. They were two parts of a whole.

We kids were, in effect, apprentices to a master in the art of crafting a deliberate life. Regardless of who someone else tells you to be.

Now, the first thing my mom would want me to say is this: If there is a woman out there who has decided to not work outside the home and instead focus all of her energies on her home and her kids? Great. Go for it.

And if there is a woman out there who has decided to pursue her education or her career while also being a part of raising a family? Great. Go for it.


And if there is a woman who does not want to have a family, or is crafting a life that looks different from what the people around her expected? That’s A-OK, too.

She would also want me to clarify: That goes for all people, regardless of gender expression.

Happy, fulfilled people who have agency over their lives and are in a position to decide for themselves who and how they want to be – that’s the goal. The details of what that looks like? That will depend on the person.

Families, like people, come in all shapes, colors and sizes and it is beyond pointless for anyone else to try to determine who they should be or how their family should run.

A minister for over 40 years, my mom’s  regular coffee meet-up included the local priest, the rabbi and a few other ministers – and she hung with the atheists, too.

She was clear that what mattered to her was not what you said you believed, but how you actually behaved. Kindness was what she looked for.


She was very good at her job. She cared for her community.

She was very good at being my mom. I am going to miss her.

I am going to do my best to live up to her expectations.

Instead of spewing anger about the unfortunate things that have been said about gender roles and where I belong, I’m going to try and offer up some kindness instead.

I’m going to see if we can’t have a more enlightened kind of conversation about who we are going to be going forward, so that everyone has the opportunity to be the fullest and most beautiful version of who they are called to be.

That is how my mom raised me.

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