The Nurturer: Why we all need a mother-figure sometimes

I am not a naturally nurturing person. Motherhood did not come easily to me. And yet, I’ve always respected the place of mothers, and think that sometimes, all of us need a little nurturing, and we often look for this in a mother-like figure. I think for this same reason, the seems to be a common trope and archetype that shows up in post-apocalyptic fiction.

The nurturer. Traditionally, this archetype places the care and welfare of others above her own. She is the epitome of the “giver” – even when she gives too much. She is the one to make sure everyone is fed, clothed, sheltered, and safe.  She probably won’t go out to battle, but literally keeps the home fires burning.

I confess that I had a nurturing character show up in one of my post-apoc stories, and why not? When the world has gone to pieces, everything is destroyed and unfamiliar, the familiarity of a mother-figure – someone who could promise to make everything better – is a comforting notion.

The problem, I think, comes when this figure becomes little more than just a caricature, or never emerges from behind the archetype label. Why not a male nurturer? Traditionally men aren’t necessarily considered nurturing by nature, but you know what? Not all women are either. Likewise, the nurturer stands the danger of either becoming a symbol of inequality, or women always taking this role because somehow we’re more biologically suited to it or something – which I think is a myth. I’m not sure I’d consider myself a feminist (that very much depends on the definition you give feminism), but the nurturer can – and should – be a very powerful role as she takes care and ensures the basic survival of everyone; the danger is if she lets herself be stepped on and becomes little more than a servant.

How, then, can or should we use this role? Unexpectedly, of course, but where else could it go? How could it step out of the shadows and in fact, become the leader?

And why shouldn’t it be a more standard role seen in post-apocalyptic novels? If everyone is searching for a little comfort, a little familiarity, wouldn’t it be likely that in a real world situation, this kind of person could emerge – even if she / he is not naturally given to nurturing? What would be the result – a safe refuge, the possibility of peace, or could this generosity lead to downfall and death?

What do you think?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.


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