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I read about Nina Keneally’s services on a few sites, and I didn’t know how I felt about it.  She rents herself out as a mum.  You need a good hug?  You need help figuring out what to wear?  You need relationship advice?  You can rent Keneally and have her serve as your temporary mother.

On one hand, what a necessary service.  She cannot replace a missing or estranged or never-known mother, but she can fulfill the needs that stem from being motherless.  Think of her like a painkiller; she can’t cure the illness causing the pain, but she can alleviate the symptoms for a short period of time.

On the other hand, it feels wrong.  It feels wrong for money to change hands in exchange for kindness and comfort.  It’s different from paying for a therapist who goes through years of training in order to help people with emotional situations.  This is someone who has simply lived life.

I guess you are paying for her time.  Which, I know, isn’t a small thing.  Every moment she gives up to a stranger is a moment she takes away from spending on herself.

But… you know what I mean?  Shouldn’t we just reach out to the people around us when we know they are struggling and need a parental-like figure?  Can’t we just send up the bat signal when we’re in need and have our friends and family step in and fulfill the role?  Are we really so starved as a society that we need to pay a stranger to do what any loving, caring person could step in and do?

Perhaps it is all my years as a teacher, for filling in for parents when parents aren’t there from 8 am to 3 pm, for holding hands as kids cried over lost friendships or failing grade, for giving life advice, for offering protection.  I had to act like a mother on 9/11 and act like a mother for girls who got their first period in school and act like a mother by attending their school plays and basketball games and looking at the sculptures they made in art.

It was not hard to act like a mother, which was not in my job description.  My job was to teach English.  The rest of that stuff?  It was just because it was the right thing to do.

It’s Thanksgiving today, and maybe it’s a good time to sit back and reflect on ways we can reach out to one another.  Keneally’s services lay bare the fact that the need is out there.  It’s a matter of figuring out how we can all fill it, not by charging vulnerable people in need of some comfort and advice, but by taking the time to continuously look around you and see where you can give care.  Just because.

Happy Thanksgiving if you’re celebrating today, and if you’re not, you get a head start on thinking up one way you can reach out to another person and offer care by this time next week.  That would make the best Cyber Monday, simply being a listening ear online, offering a comment, virtually holding a hand.


1 KeAnne { 11.26.15 at 9:02 am }

When the Autumn Land’s End catalog arrived last month, it had a smiling, happy extended family celebrating Thanksgiving and I admit that I wanted to rent them for the holidays.

2 a { 11.26.15 at 11:08 am }

I guess if you’re needy enough that your friends or family won’t give you the attention you crave any more, this makes sense. Or if you have a hard time relating to people and you don’t want the hassle of giving to a relationship…

Happy Thanksgiving!

3 Lori Lavender Luz { 11.26.15 at 4:39 pm }

Thinking now of whom I might reach out to…blessings to you, my kind and thoughtful friend.

4 Raven { 11.26.15 at 7:30 pm }

It makes me sad that a service like this is needed, but I agree that it is needed….but not for a fee! Too bad they couldnt create something like ‘big brothers big sisters’ but for parents!

I am already thinking of the kind things I can do for others – thanks for this post!

5 Jenn { 11.26.15 at 9:36 pm }

I can’t imagine wanting to pay someone to give me a hug or advice. Have you heard of professional cuddling? I don’t think I could do that either. I may be pretty deprived on the physical contact front, unless you count being climbed on by my two year old, but I couldn’t get genuine loving hugs etc from a stranger.

6 Justine { 11.26.15 at 10:16 pm }

Sometimes I’ve wanted to rent a mum. (Though I don’t know if I could actually feel the intimacy with a stranger that I’d be looking for anyway, so maybe it wouldn’t work.) Yes, I think the need is out there. But you’re right; it would be wonderful if we were able to fill that need for each other.

You and I: we share a philosophy of pedagogy, which is a pedagogy of love. If only more people did.

7 Jess { 11.27.15 at 12:14 am }

I can get wanting those services, but it does seem kind of odd to have a charge for those services. I understand it’s her business, and it seems people pay for it, but it seems that other people in your life should offer up that comfort without a fee. I totally agree with all the mothering that you do as a teacher — it’s such an essential part of the day to care for that emotional piece, to let each and every one of your students know that they’re loved and cared for in your keeping. I make that a top priority, to always have my students know that they are loved (especially when they make it really, really hard…which usually means they need the love the most). Thanks for a great reminder to be that comfort that others need.

8 deathstar { 11.27.15 at 12:50 am }

I suggest we raise our sons to provide a hot water bottle to their sick and tired wives, bring them dinner cake and take care of the kids so we can nap. Like my mother in law did.

9 JustHeather { 11.28.15 at 6:57 am }

I get the idea of renting a mother…especially being so far away from family and sometimes feeling like friends aren’t always around or at least they are too busy with their own families. Several of my friends have a “spare grandma” that they have met in one situation or another and have struck up a relationship. Everyone around seems to benefit from it. I’m envious of that. For myself and my kids.

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