Shmi and Anakin Skywalker, a poor mother and a son with a fateful future.

Anakin: "I care for you too. Only I...miss..."
Padmé: "...You miss your mother."
Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala[src]

A mother was the female parent of a biological organism, whether sentient or not. It was usually used in reference to animals, but there were also sentient plants that used this term.




Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange

A mother is a biological and/or social female parent of an offspring.[1] Because of the complexity and differences of the social, cultural, and religious definitions and roles, it is challenging to define a mother in a universally accepted definition.

Biological motherEdit

In the case of a mammal such as a human, the biological mother gestates a fertilized ovum, which is called first an embryo, and then a fetus. This gestation occurs in the mother's uterus from conception until the fetus is sufficiently developed to be born. The mother then goes into labor and gives birth. Once the child is born, the mother produces milk in a process called lactation to feed the child; often the mother's breast milk is the child's sole nourishment for the first year or more of the child's life.[2][3][4]

Surrogate motherEdit

Template:Main article A surrogate mother is a woman who bears a child for a couple that is unable to have children. Upon the child’s birth, the surrogate mother gives up all rights and responsibilities to the child.[5] She is a woman who gives birth to a child not her own, with the intent to give that child up to at least one of the biological parents once it is born. [6][7]



Monumento a la Madre in Mexico City. The inscription translates "To her who loves us before she meets us."

The title mother is often given to a woman other than the biological parent, if it is she who fulfills the social role. This is most commonly either an adoptive mother or a stepmother (the biologically unrelated wife of a child's father). Also, in lesbian cultures non-biological othermothers exist. Currently, with advances in reproductive technologies, the function of biological motherhood can be split between the genetic mother (who provides the ovum) and the gestational mother (who carries the pregnancy), and it is possible that neither of them might serve as the social mother (the one who brings up the child). A healthy connection between a mother and a child form a secure base, from which the child may later venture forth into the world.[8]

Social roleEdit

Mothers have historically fulfilled the primary role in the raising of children, but since the late 20th century, the role of the father in child care has been given greater prominence in most Western countries.[9][10]

The social role and experience of motherhood varies greatly depending upon location. The organization Save the Children has ranked the countries of the world, and found that Scandinavian countries are the best places to be a mother, whereas countries in sub-Saharan Africa are the worst.[11] A mother in the bottom 10 countries is over 750 times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth, compared to a mother in the top 10 countries, and a mother in the bottom 10 countries is 28 times more likely to see her child die before reaching his or her first birthday.


Assorted and non-inclusive statistics on motherhood from the U.S. Census Bureau.[12]

  • 82.5 million is the estimated number of mothers of all ages in the United States.
  • 68% is the percentage of women in Mississippi, ages 15 to 44, who are mothers, national average is 56%.
  • 82% is the percentage of women 40 to 44 years old who are mothers.
  • 4.0 million is the number of women who have babies each year, and of this number, about 425,000 are teens ages 15 to 19, and more than 100,000 are age 40 or over.
  • 25.1 is the average age of women when they give birth for the first time, a record high. The average has risen by 4 years since 1970.
  • 40% is the percentage of births that are the mother’s first. Another 32 percent are the second-born; 17 percent, third; and 11 percent, fourth or more.
  • 35,000 is the number of births in 2002 attended by physicians, midwives or others that do not occur in hospitals.
  • 55% are mothers with infant children in 2002, the percentage in the labor force, down from a record 59 percent in 1998. This marks the first significant decline in this rate since the Census Bureau began calculating this measure in 1976. In that year, 31% of mothers with infants were in the labor force.
  • 63% are college-educated women with infant children, the percentage in the labor force.
  • Among mothers between ages 15 and 44 who do not have infants, 72% are in the labor force.
  • More than 687,000 is the number of child day-care centers across the country in 2002. These include nearly 69,000 centers employing close to 750,000 workers and another 618,000 self-employed persons or other companies without paid employees. Many mothers turn to these centers to help juggle motherhood and career.


Most of the major world religions define tasks or roles for mothers through either religious law or through the deification or glorification of mothers who served in substantial religious events. There are many examples of religious law relating to mothers and women. Some major world religions which have specific religious law or scriptural canon regarding mothers include Christians,[13] Jews,[14] and Muslims.[15] Some examples of glorification or deification include Mary for Christians, the Hindu Mother Goddess, or Demeter of ancient Greek belief. In Islam, a mother occupies a position three times superior to that of the father. However, while the mother is considered the most important member of the family, she is not the head of the family.[citation needed]

Synonyms and translationsEdit

Template:Main article The proverbial "first word" of an infant often sounds like "ma" or "mama". This strong association of that sound with "mother" has persisted in nearly every language on earth, countering the natural localization of language.

Familiar or colloquial terms for mother in English are:

Parvati Ganesha

The Hindu mother goddess Parvati feeding her son, the elephant-headed wisdom god Ganesha

In many other languages, similar pronunciations apply:

  • mama in Polish and Slovak
  • māma (妈妈/媽媽) in Chinese and Japanese
  • máma in Czech
  • maman in French and Persian
  • mamma in Italian and Icelandic
  • mãe in Portuguese
  • Ami in Punjabi
  • mama in Swahili
  • eema (אמא) in Hebrew
  • or mẹ in Vietnamese
  • mam in Welsh
  • eomma (엄마, IPA: ʌmma) in Korean
  • In many south Asian cultures and the Middle East the mother is known as amma or oma or ammi or "ummi", or variations thereof. Many times these terms denote affection or a maternal role in a child's life.

Famous and mythical mothersEdit

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - Charity (1878)

Charity by Bouguereau 1878

See also Edit



  • "The Evolutionary Biology of Human Female Sexuality", By Randy Thornhill, Steven W. Gangestad [16]
  • "Motherhood - How should we care for our children?", By Anne Manne[17]
  • "Mother nature: maternal instincts and how they shape the human species", By Sarah Blaffer Hrdy [18]


  8. Diane S. Feinberg, M.Ed. The Importance of Mother and Child Attachment
  9. "In most Western countries the family model of a sole male breadwinner is in full retreat." Accessed 19 September 2007.
  10. Why Are Fathers Important? Interview with Dr. Ross Parke, professor of psychology at the University of California at Riverside, author of Fatherhood (1966) and co-author of Throwaway Dads (1999). Accessed 19 September 2007.
  11. Save the Children, State of the World's Mothers Report 2006.
  13. "What The Bible Says About Mother". Retrieved on 2008-11-24. 
  14. Katz, Lisa. "Religious Obligations of Jewish women". Retrieved on 2008-11-24. 
  15. ‘Ali Al-Hashimi, Muhammad. The Ideal Muslimah: The True Islâmic Personality of the Muslim Woman as Defined in the Qur’ân and Sunnah. Retrieved on 2008-11-24. 

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