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Campus & Community

In honor of mothers, three individuals say mothering includes those who help shape someone into the person they have the potential to become

A woman dressed in a brown top reads a book in a library with a boy wearing a plaid shirt

An aunt. A teacher. A grandma. A church leader. A friend. Mother's Day is for them all, said three local people.

A mother is "someone who loves you unconditionally and wants to help you and wants you to do your best without any thought of reciprocation… They are just helping you because they love you," said Kalli Hobson, a freshman from Utah majoring in psychology.

Hobson said, along with her mother, that she has had many motherly figures who have shaped who she is today - including her grandma, aunt and Young Women’s leaders. She added the moment she realized her Young Women leaders filled that nurturing place in her life was after they were no longer her leaders because they still checked up on her when they were not obligated to do so. She explained this is what it looks like to fill the role of a mother.

Laie YSA 2nd Stake President Keali‘i Haverly, a resident of Hau‘ula, said just as the Lord has helped him raise his children, the community has been crucial to the nurturing and growth of his children through their positive influence.

"Anyone who improves us and helps us become better people, those people are mothers." He continued, "That's why in a ward, in a community, everyone has several different mothers, so their perspective on Mother's Day is extremely valuable."

Kiri Chamberlin, Ph.D., an adjunct faculty for Seasider Sports and Activities, defines motherhood and womanhood through the Samoan word, auga fa'apae. She said this word describes the way women in Samoan culture learn to "put softness first because then that creates a space for you to really observe more clearly everyone that has needs, everything that has needs."

She added that through auga fa'apae, women learn to put others' thoughts and needs before their own, allowing them to be open for others to approach and partake of the love they are sharing.

How to honor mothers year round

Haverly said, "I think it's important to realize how important these women are in our lives, in many different ways. [We can] show them respect not just superficially with a lei, chocolates, gifts and a talk on Sunday, but to recognize them throughout the whole year.”

He added that "nurturing and magnifying" the relationships with the women in their lives is men's primary responsibility as priesthood holders. He said everyone should show this respect to mothers and anyone who fulfills that role every day of the year by serving them and supporting them.

Haverly said that Mother's Day is not a free pass to respect those women on one day of the year to make up for the other 364 days. Instead, "you are trying your best to represent them in an appropriate way 365 days of the year."

Hobson said she notices that mothers often give more than they receive. She said the most important way to give back to those motherly figures in each person's life is to recognize the little things they do each day and try to reciprocate them.

She shared one way she has done this with her Young Women's leaders is to be the one who texts first before they check in on her.

Following a mother's example is how Chamberlin said she honors the motherly figures in her life. She remembers "the teaching times, the teaching moments, the discipline moments, the loving moments" from her mother and aunties.

She shared she learns from those moments and preserves them by practicing the maternal characteristics she has seen to serve those around her and honor those with whom she shared those precious moments.

A woman in a blue print dress holds a toddler in a field of flowers as they look at a flower growing next to them

She said the most essential part of being an aunty is showing and giving "lots of love." Chamberlain said she has learned from her aunties and mother how to show her love through service and being an attentive listener as she continues to grow through their examples.

The meaning of aunty in Polynesian culture

The use of aunty is a way for Polynesian cultures to honor their mother figures year round. Chamberlin explained the title of "aunty" is a sacred name given to all women above the age of 16 as a sign of respect and a way for the younger person speaking to them to show they are ready to serve them in any way possible.

She explained being addressed as aunty "perpetuates the age-old system, not just kind of a nice feeling and a nice loose cultural thing that we continue, but it perpetuates the ancient way of addressing and caring for elders and seniors and people who have lived their lives and have certain experiences that younger ones just don't quite have yet."

Chamberlain added the title aunty gives children a way to recognize the women around them as nurturers, disciplinarians, and caretakers. She said it also helps those women fulfill their responsibility of that motherly role in Samoan culture.

Chamberlain has not had children of her own, but she said she had fulfilled the role of motherhood by being an aunty to her nieces and nephews, her students and anyone else who needs someone to listen to them and be shown love.