Years ago a dear friend of mine who had lost her mother at the age of three asked for a referral to therapy. It is truly one of the best parts of my job that I can know many therapist in a community and can direct people to the ones that I think are the most effective and talented. So I happily referred my friend to Zoreena Bolton, LCSW. My friend returned and told me not only did she think Zoreena was great (I think so too) but that she had told my friend about a wonderful concept called “Mother Pie”. This must have been 15 years ago and I owe Zoreena a great debt because for the past 15 years I have shared this concept with my own patients who have either lost a parent as a child or simply did not have parents who were up to the task of being parents.
The concept is this: everyone needs a mom (we will talk about fathers in a minute, everyone needs those too). Moms are there when we scrape our knees to give us a kiss. They are there to help us practice our lines for the school play we want to try out for. They are there to spur us on when it’s late and we’re tired but we have 2 more college applications to fill out. They are our nursemaids, our cheerleaders, our confidents and our advisors. All of these roles are absolutely necessary to raise a happy and healthy human being. But sometimes, as life can be cruel, we don’t have a mom. Or the mom we have isn’t good at doing some or even all of these things. So what can be done?
As Zoreena Bolton explained to my friend, you make a “mother pie”. A Mother Pie is a collection of people who perform all of the essential functions of a mom. But they probably don’t do all of them. So if I have a friend who is a nurse and she can come over and bring me chicken soup when I am sick and take my temperature and fluff my pillows then she is a part of the my mother pie. She may not be especially good at cheerleading me when I am trying to work up the courage to ask my boss for a raise. But I have another friend who owns her own business and she is my work mentor. Through a collection of friends I can create my own “Mother Pie” that has all of the pieces/functions that a good mom would fulfill.
If you need a Mother Pie (or a Father Pie) it’s a good thing to know because you can keep this idea on your radar when you meet people. If you are aware that you need a mentor, or a nursemaid, or a confident, you will be more inclined to notice when a person who is suited to that role enters your life.
And speaking of fathers, of course they are every bit as essential to raising a happy human as moms. Dad’s are there to rough-house with us when we are kids, teaching us about our physical limits, about the thrill of being tossed about or wrestled with, and about keeping our nervous systems in balance when we are highly excited and stimulated. Dad’s also tend to play with children in ways that encourage children to test their limits and tolerate frustration. And since men still earn more money than women do (on average) it is often the father that teaches children about negotiating financial issues such as salary or raises. Men are socialized to be more oriented towards a “win-lose” social dynamic whereas women are more socialized towards a “win-win”. Therefor when it comes time to do hard negotiations in the work place fathers can be a big help teaching us to push for what is good for us without being too deferential to others.
Again if you lost your father in childhood or had a father who was not able to be a good-enough dad you can still find these parts in other people. Collecting pieces of your “Mother/Father Pie” is a life-long endeavor sometimes. But knowing that if you need a shoulder to cry on, or someone to coach you through a touch business negotiation, can be hugely beneficial. I encourage you to keep this construct in mind if you have a need for one (or both!) of these figures in your life. We all needed, and continue to need, parents. And in paying attention to people who enter your life you can create a resource for these needs so you don’t have to go it alone.
Wishing you peace and happiness,