The Differences Between Being A Mother And Being A Parent

I am his mother, but I am not his parent.

Lindsey Olsen February 15, 2017
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Shortly after I placed my son for adoption, I decided that I needed to keep my mind occupied, so I quickly went back to school. While attending my local community college, I took an online writing class. My professor had us read tons of articles he’d written from his other career in investigative journalism. One of those articles was about In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) from a birth father’s perspective. In it, he spoke about how he was part of an IVF conception, as well as the experiences of other families that were blessed by IVF.

I specifically remember a birth father talking about going to see his child, but how he would never overstep his boundaries, saying he was the child’s father, but not the parent. This struck a major chord with me. I had been struggling with many questions and concerns about my relationship with my son, and this put a lot of things into perspective. I would always be my son’s mother, I just wouldn’t be his parent.

I recognize that not being a child’s parent after placement can be part of the struggle birth fathers and mothers go through, but it was comforting to me. It goes right along with a beautiful quote by Desha Woodall, that says, “He is mine in a way that he will never be hers, yet he is hers in a way that he will never be mine, and so together, we are motherhood.” It answered many of my questions about my place in our open adoption. I gave him life, but it is not my responsibility to raise him. I am his mother, but I am not his parent.

Categorizing the responsibilities of being a mother and being a parent help me to recognize my boundaries and my responsibilities. To simplify it, a mother is a woman who is either biologically or legally connected to a child. A parent, or to parent, is to raise a child. However, these personas are so much more.

Since I am not my son’s parent, I do not provide the necessities of life for him. I didn’t wake up with him as a baby when he would cry at night. I don’t make major decisions for him. I didn’t see most of his firsts. I don’t live with him. I don’t see him every day. I’m not the one he comes to when he needs something. To him, I will never be Mom.

However, as his mother, I have a built in, unconditional love for him. I got to spend his first nine months of existence with him. I get to see all the traits we have in common just from sharing my genes. I got to place him in the family I knew was best for him. I still get to see him grow and mature. And I will always get to call him my son.

There are a lot of sacrifices made when deciding to place a child, like giving up parenting. But no matter what, I will always be his mother.

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Lindsey Olsen

Lindsey Olsen is a birth mother from sunny California, where she currently lives with her husband Steve (also referred to as Bud). She loves singing, going for walks in warm weather, looking out the passenger side window on long road trips, and eating. . .everything. Her favorite things are her family, her faith, her cowboy boots, and food. She has aspirations of becoming a marriage and family counselor so she can help other birth mothers find confidence, comfort, and beauty in their identities as the amazing women they are.


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