These terms are much in use these days. In a recent dis­cus­sion with a friend we men­tioned ‘at home moth­er­s’. The phrase implies that the moth­er is not only ‘at home’ but that she is spend­ing much of her time inter­act­ing with her child/ren.

Like­wise with the word ‘nanny’; com­mon­ly bandied about to describe the per­son who comes to your home to care for your child/ren; usu­al­ly used boast­ful­ly as in “My nan­ny is the best” etc. It’s ‘nanny’ with a small ‘n’ since ‘Nanny’ with a cap­i­tal ‘N’ is a qual­i­fied per­son – there is no US qual­i­fi­ca­tion to be a ‘Nanny’.

Per­haps we should have ‘mother’ with a small ‘m’ and ‘Mother’ with a cap­i­tal ‘M’. Those with a small ‘m’ are prob­a­bly those who gave birth either nat­u­ral­ly or by planned C‑section or they adopt­ed. It is unlike­ly in this day and age that they nursed their chil­dren or if they did it would not be for an extend­ed peri­od of time – 6 months or more.

Those with a cap­i­tal ‘M’ are those I would prob­a­bly con­sid­er very good at ‘Mothering’. ‘Mothering’ is an art form I’ve come to rec­og­nize. Some do it nat­u­ral­ly from the begin­ning, oth­ers, like me, learn on the job and are thank­ful for the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do so. I con­sid­er myself to have had the ulti­mate choic­es when it comes to women’s lib­er­a­tion. I have absolute­ly been able to choose the life I love and grow and learn from it.

My friends include those I con­sid­er experts at ‘Mothering’ – those moth­ers are in all age groups — their chil­dren may be theirs by birth, by fos­ter­ing or by adop­tion – some are sin­gle moth­ers. Some of my friends nev­er want­ed to be moth­ers and are hap­py with their lives with­out chil­dren – they may have made the wis­est choice of all – for them.

‘Mother’ and ‘Mothering’ need cap­i­tal ‘M’s. Some of these women in their 20’s,30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s are ‘Mothers’ in the best sense of word. The prod­ucts of their life’s work are excep­tion­al chil­dren from infants on up. They and their chil­dren are a wide mix­ture of cul­tures includ­ing Asian Indi­ans, Swedish, British, Amer­i­can or some­times a com­bi­na­tion thereof.

Those who chose not to be moth­ers at all are often very good at nur­tur­ing lit­tle things – like plants for instance! An old friend of mine always has a myr­i­ad of seedling plants in her green­house, they grow healthy with her TLC and then she can set them free to oth­er gar­den­ers — just as we ought to be able to do with healthy children.

There are ‘mothers’ (there’s that small ‘m’) who are just ade­quate or in some cas­es inad­e­quate. Their chil­dren – most­ly by birth – aren’t devel­op­ing so well. It doesn’t mean the moth­ers are bad peo­ple. They prob­a­bly weren’t ‘Mothered’ them­selves or they’ve got caught up in the pseu­do women’s lib­er­a­tion world of ‘freedom to go out to work’ or ‘I’m an at home moth­er’. True women’s lib­er­a­tion is to do the work you love, free from being demeaned by the world for your choice of lifestyle.

The chil­dren of ‘mothers’ (small ‘m’) are prob­a­bly bet­ter off being raised by oth­er care­givers. I am very con­cerned about the many infants and young chil­dren who aren’t devel­op­ing nor­mal­ly, usu­al­ly lack­ing in the appro­pri­ate speech, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and cog­ni­tive skills, social­ly very anx­ious and gen­er­al­ly hard for their ‘mothers’ to man­age. It doesn’t seem to mat­ter whether the ‘mother’ works or is at home all the time.

When in the care of a ‘Mother’ (cap­i­tal ‘M’) or ‘Nanny’ (cap­i­tal ‘N’) fig­ure such chil­dren sel­dom have behav­iour or speech prob­lems and soon show signs of improve­ment in their development.

If the preva­lence of autism spec­trum dis­or­der is now at 1:150 that means that 149 of those 150 chil­dren are doing very well. What is the thing that makes the dif­fer­ence, whether or not they are the chil­dren of at home moth­ers or work­ing mothers? 

A ‘Nanny’ has a British qual­i­fi­ca­tion; as I said, there is no such qual­i­fi­ca­tion in the US. I am a British teacher who has cho­sen to spe­cial­ize in teach­ing infants and chil­dren under age 5 years. I am not a ‘Nanny’ since I do not have the qualification. 

But a true ‘Nanny’ of an infant is unlike­ly to raise that child to age 2+ and not have the child talk­ing and devel­op­ing at a nor­mal rate. On the oth­er hand I have known of twins raised by a ‘nanny’ (small ‘n’) who show devel­op­men­tal delays in at least speech and social areas.

I helped raise the younger sib­ling of an undi­ag­nosed devel­op­men­tal­ly delayed child (we first met when she was 15 months old, to my hor­ror ner­vous and utter­ing no sounds, and she made excel­lent progress in the 3+ years I cared for her and her younger sis­ter togeth­er). I made a con­cert­ed effort to ensure that the sec­ond child didn’t have the delays of the first based on my the­o­ries. The only delays I now see in the sec­ond child aren’t based on social or cog­ni­tive devel­op­ment but are based on fam­i­ly neglect of the child’s speech patterns.

Numer­ous mem­bers of the fam­i­ly claim they can’t under­stand a word she’s say­ing and yet I can com­mu­ni­cate with her very well even after we are many months apart. She has excel­lent brain func­tion and yet no mem­ber of her fam­i­ly is fos­ter­ing her speech or brain devel­op­ment. She will nev­er be diag­nosed as devel­op­men­tal­ly delayed because she isn’t but her ‘mother’ (small ‘m’) and oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers pro­found­ly men­tal­ly neglect her. That ‘mother’ has gone from full time ‘working moth­er’ to ‘at home moth­er’ and none of her tech­niques have changed. Her chil­dren now only make progress when in a school setting.

As an aside, vir­tu­al­ly the last words said to me by the old­er of the two girls before the fam­i­ly moved out of town was “Will you be my Mommy?”!! I was shocked and of course imme­di­ate­ly said “No, you have a love­ly Mom­my” and launched into how much she was loved & etc., which just caused the child to sob and sob in so much pain.

She just knew she didn’t have a ‘Mother’ (cap­i­tal ‘M’)!! The lit­tle one at age 3 said “I’m nev­er going to see you again” – such per­cep­tion on both their parts.

Just as La Leche League has a pub­li­ca­tion called “The Wom­an­ly Art of Breast­feed­ing”, now in its umpteenth print­ing, I think per­haps we are ready for “The Wom­an­ly Art of Moth­er­ing” and/or “The Wom­an­ly Art of Nannying”.

There is much for the ‘mothers’ and ‘nannies’ in this world to learn from ‘Mothers’ and ‘Nannies’. You only need to ask us for some of our trade secrets!

Those trade secrets are actu­al­ly not very secret but I think we do hold the secret to break­ing the spell of the cur­rent increase in a myr­i­ad of devel­op­men­tal delays.

Give a ‘Mother’ a call.