Roxanne Tellier – The Hardest Job

Happy Mother’s Day to all those who play that role in their family, no matter their gender.

“Being a mother actually has very little to do with birthing a child from your body. That might be the most obvious scenario, but motherhood is so much more than a physical happening. I have known some expert ‘mothers’ who never birthed or raised any children of their own, and I have known some mothers with a brood of children who shouldn’t be allowed to come anywhere near them. I don’t think motherhood can be simply defined by having or not having little people under your care.

A mother is someone who nurtures – someone who cares for the deepest places of your heart. Anyone can throw a meal at you, or give you a bed to sleep on, but a mother makes a place for you. A mother sees the deepest, truest you and treats you like you are already that person. A mother cares about your hurts and fears, but also your dreams and successes. She is a cheerleader, a coach, a trainer, and a fan, all at the same time.”  – Gather and

Every mother is different. The way your mother mothered you, informed your life, for good or ill. We are born dependent on those that care for us, until we are able to care for ourselves. Some mothers are able to be Super Mothers, right out of the gate, and spread before us a buffet of happy days and events. Others struggle with the work. Either way, most mothers try to do what’s right – but not all of them are successful.     

In my Mother’s Day column of 2016, I wrote, “Mothers are not born with an innate ability to withstand pain, and the endless tyranny of childcare.

They do not spring fully formed from labouring through hours of childbirth, ready to shoulder whatever this new being throws at them, physically or emotionally. They are young women with hopes and dreams of their own, that put aside their own lives in the service of families and societies that place very little value on the small things that actually make the world turn – cooking, cleaning, planning, organizing, wiping away tears, and cleaning tiny bottoms.”

After all, some mothers are little more than grown-up children themselves, when they give birth. They’re learning the job on the job, while simultaneously working through the last of their own childhoods. It’s not until we ourselves are in our child bearing years that we can look back at our own childhood in perspective, and consider how much our adulthood is formed and influenced by our mother’s character.

There’s a wonderful new book just released that focuses on the lives of the mothers of three famous men. Anna Malaika Tubbs’s new book is called “The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation.” 

Ms Tubbs makes the point that we tend to gender our parent/child relationships. We hear, “oh, she’s just like her mother!” or “that boy is his father’s son.”

“Coincidentally, I gave birth to a boy, my incredible little boy, and I have already faced others’ attempts to erase my influence on his identity. Phrases like “He’s strong, just like his father!” or “He’s already following in his dad’s footsteps” when he reaches a milestone cause more harm than people think. By choosing three mothers of sons, I do not want to erase daughters or other children. I am instead making the point that no matter our gender, everything starts with our birthing parent.” 

“Louise (Little), Berdis (Baldwin), and Alberta (King) were well aware of the dangers they and their children would be met with as Black people in the United States, and they all strove to equip their children not only to face the world but to change it. With the knowledge that they themselves were seen as “less than” and their children would be, too, the three mothers collected tools to thrive with the hopes of teaching their children how to do the same. They found ways to give life and to humanize themselves, their children, and, in turn, our entire community. As history tells us, all of their sons did indeed make a difference in this world, but they did so at a cost. In all three cases, the mothers’ worst fears became reality: each woman was alive to bury her son. It is an absolute injustice that far too many Black mothers today can say the same thing.

In the face of such tragedy, each mother persisted in her journey to leave this world a better place than when she entered it. Yet their lives continued largely to be ignored. When Malcolm X was assassinated, when Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed shortly after, and even when James Baldwin died from stomach cancer years later, their works were rightly celebrated, but virtually no one stopped to wonder about the grief their mothers were facing. Even more painful to me is the fact that their fathers were mentioned, while their mothers were largely erased.”

The inequities and cruelty that the mothers of these men suffered while continuing to care for their children, informed and molded the men who would go on to have such huge impacts on their own communities, and then America.

Reading about the women that gave Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, and James Baldwin to the world, opens a small window into the hidden lives of mothers everywhere.   

Another interesting read on how mothers shaped historical figures is Mothers of Famous Men, by Archer Wallace, published in 1999. The author states in the introduction, “My purpose in writing this book was not to extol a few mothers but to pay tribute to the countless number of unselfish, devoted mothers everywhere.”

This tome focuses on the loving care, or lack thereof, provided by the mothers of Booker T. Washington, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and J.M. Barrie, amongst others, framed as a look at how the Christian character of these mothers shaped their sons’ lives. 

My own mother has been gone for 29 years now, and still there are days when I reach for the phone, eager to tell her some little tidbit of gossip, or to ask for her opinion on an issue. You never really get over losing your mother.  

In a 2018 column, I wrote about an encounter I had had with a small boy who, along with a few other people, was waiting for the #12 bus. He was holding a plant pot that held one battered pansy, and he told me, with great joy, that he also had a poem he’d written for her, in French! And he’d also drawn her a card! His little face lit up as he told me, “She’s gonna have so many presents!” 

There was such a lot of delight in his expression as he tallied up the riches he’d prepared for his precious mama. We forget, over the years, how good it used to feel to be able to gift our loved ones with something we’d made especially for them. It might have been a paper plate with some glittered macaroni pasted to it, or a wobbly cut out cardboard heart, on which our shaky handwriting proclaimed our love, but it was what we had to give, and we gave it from our hearts.  

And the best mothers accepted those gifts as the precious treasures that they were.

Happy Mothers Day to ALL mothers. May you be showered with love and appreciation, for the job that begins on the day that your child draws it’s first breath, and only ends when you breathe your last, still worryingabout them, and still hoping and praying that you’ve done all that you could to help your child be happy and safe.


Your moment of Zen ….


Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 


Roxanne Tellier has been singing since she was 10 months old … no, really. Not like she’s telling anyone else how to live their lives, because she’s not judgmental, and most 10 month olds need a little more time to figure out how to hold a microphone. She has also been a vocalist with many acts, including Tangents, Lady, Performer, Mambo Jimi, and Delta Tango. In 2013 she co-hosted Bob Segarini’s podcast, The Bobcast, and, along with Bobert, will continue to seek out and destroy the people who cancelled ‘Bunheads’.

5 Responses to “Roxanne Tellier – The Hardest Job”

  1. Damon Hines Says:

    I’ll spend a good part of my remaining evening, perhaps my life, trying to imagine the (myriad possible) expression(s) on the wife’s face in that parting shot, Roxanne…Happy Mothers’ Day, and thanks a freighter full of fajitas and fudge sundaes…(substitutions permitted)


  2. Damon Hines Says:

    Also, I think a couple of j-pegs didn’t materialize where they were supposed to. Great column, otherwise, HMD D

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