Female strawberry poison frogs are less than an inch in length. Yet, like working moms, who come in all different sizes, temperaments, and styles, these amazing little frog women lay up to 5 eggs when they give birth, watch every one of them hatch, and then carry each one by one on her back from the rainforest floor up into trees 100 feet tall. And, as if that isn’t enough, she then finds individual pools of water in bromeliad leaves for each tadpole and sets up a mini nursery to protect them from predators. Still not done with her super mom-ness, these tireless frog women feed each of the tadpoles with her own unfertilized eggs for the next 6 to 8 weeks allowing them to grow into young frogs without having to eat each other (I know that’s a surprising ending).
Alligator moms too, despite their reputation for biting human extremities at will, carry their babies in their jaws for protection. The lesson here would be if you are ever near an alligator make sure it’s one who just gave birth because chances are they have a baby in their jaws and can’t bite you.
And then there is my favorite animal – the elephant. These beautiful and majestic moms endure 22 months of pregnancy only to give birth to a 200 pound baby who is blind. And in “it takes a village to raise a child” female solidarity aplomb, the female members of the herd, including grandmas, sisters, aunts and even cousins, all raise the babies until they can see.
These are just a few stories from the wild kingdom that I think exemplify the fierce and inexhaustible love, commitment and willingness to sacrifice that the moms I know and love have for their children. I could ponder with you the innate versus learned origins of this drive to protect, guide and care for our children, but I won’t.
As a working mom of older children, however, I will say the ability to protect my daughters is the most endangered and it’s really scary. Having spent my entire mom-life thinking I could protect them from everything, I am now finding their will to grow and experience the world along with their emotional/physical changes and challenges, are rapidly and astronomically trumping my need to protect them. And I thought I had it all figured out….