What Does it Mean to be a Mother and Who Decides?

Marla Rose
6 min readMay 12, 2023
Credit: John Beske

My mother passed away after a long, excruciating decline ten years ago and I still avoid sidewalk cracks as if my life depended on it, because for a time, it sure felt like it did.

“Step on a crack and you break your mother’s back” was a childhood rhyme we taunted one another with old-timey style and it directly formed the basis of my lifelong avoidance of not just sidewalk cracks but any split in the pavement.

When these sing-songy words first bored into my cranium, I had no idea it would echo in there for a lifetime, trapped, contained, going nowhere. The idea of my mother’s poor back being broken because of my Hush Puppies felt like a very real peril, one that kept me always scanning the playground pavement and sidewalks for cracks. Even if a significant part of me recognized that it was irrational, just a collection of words that rhymed in a memorable way, I wasn’t taking any chances. Not only did I love my mother and not want anything harmful to happen to her, my father, the parent who would remain in the event of this cruel prophecy coming true, was not safe. All these years later — my mother having long succumbed to Lewy Body dementia, her spine curved and painful with arthritis but not broken by an errant step of mine — the childhood superstition still holds me in its grip.

I will step on a crack these days but I always plan my stride to avoid it.

I’ve been thinking of mothers lately. What makes a mother? Who decides? Why does this matter?

At a recent hearing before one of her committees, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the human embodiment of an off-the-rails PTO meeting who seemingly never met a manager she didn’t want to fix with her steely glare and shriek at, told Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, that, among other things, Weingarten “wasn’t a mother” because the educator is a mother by marriage, the implication being that people who are not biological parents — which would include not only step-parents but adoptive parents — are inauthentic to Taylor Greene.

This coming from someone who is an avowed Christian, knowing (I assume???) that Joseph was Jesus’s adoptive father, that the draconian forced-birth laws she and her party are inflicting upon the most poor…