Radical Responsible Mothering
by Jan Stover
Before offering a definition of Radical Responsible Mothering, I think there is value in reviewing Merriam-Websters’ definitions of the individual words: radical and responsible.
Radical: 1) of, relating to, or proceeding from a root: as of growing from the root of a plant 2) of or relating to the origin: fundamental 3) a: marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional: extreme, b: tending or disposed to make extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions c: of, relating to, or constituting a political group associated with views, practices, and policies of extreme change d: advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a (political) state of affairs.
Responsible: 1) a: liable to be called on to answer or to be called to account as the primary cause, motive, or agent; b: being the cause or explanation, c: liable to legal review or in case of fault to penalties 2) a: able to answer for one’s conduct and obligations: trustworthy b: able to choose for oneself between right and wrong 3) marked by or involving responsibility or accountability
I like these definitions – hearty, encompassing, flavorful – so much more than today’s often limited and skewed interpretations of these two words.
Far too often, the word radical evokes negative connotations – when in fact it clearly defines motherhood at its core. Claiming Webster’s first and second definitions, to be radical means to be at the origin or the root of our children’s lives – their conception, birth and development from infancy to maturity. Claiming the third set of definitions, we see motherhood at its best: ready, willing and able to step outside the norm, to investigate options, to make extreme changes – and to take on traditions, institutions and authorities for the sake of our children.
The word responsible traditionally carries with it positive overtones and its definition is perhaps more often understood than that of the word radical. Again, the practice of being responsible is a core principle of motherhood. Webster’s definition reminds us that we as mothers are the primary agents of our children’s health and well-being. We are also the cause of and explanation for much of the world around them. Clearly our own choices teach them right from wrong. And how we accept our own responsibility and accountability in the raising of our children will be reflected in their own growth and maturity.
Understanding these two words separately, offers a better sense of their joint meaning. As such, Radical Responsible Mothering suggests the importance of passing on personal core values, but with a pliable approach. Radical Responsible Mothering encourages mentoring with an open mind. And ultimately, Radical Responsible Mothering is the ever present awareness that there is no greater responsibility or privilege than to raise one’s children with a devotion and dedication that rises above the needs, impositions and mandates of society. Consequently, when the individual child is cared for, raised in love, allowed to flourish and create, both society and the individual are the benefactors!
Jan Stover is the Founder and Director of The Mothers Institute, a non-profit organization which promotes and supports the concepts of Radical Responsible Mothering. http://www.themothersinstitute.org