When we mention the word 'mother', most of us will immediately imagine a traditional maternal figure. Someone who has conceived, delivered and raised a child from birth to adulthood. But the modern world has forced us to reconsider the nuances, complexities and exceptions of what 'motherhood' truly means. The typical dictionary definition of a 'mother' is 'female parent', but that is not the only defining criteria of the term. We as a society are increasingly being more fluid with societal roles and labels. Some say that blood is thicker than water, but more and more people are embracing the concept of 'found family' or 'chosen family'. Whatever your definition of 'mother' may be, there are many who identify with the word despite not fitting its main criteria. For instance, you don\u2019t necessarily have to give birth to another human being to be a mother. Or in some cases, even be a woman. In a world full of 'not-mothers', 'half-mothers' and 'almost-mothers', here are some unconventional mums that we should celebrate regardless of their motherhood status. Adoptive Mums It takes an enormous amount of sacrifice, courage and acceptance to take in a child that isn\u2019t yours and raise them as your own. It is even harder to explain to the child when they grow up that you are not biologically related to them. Even with this in mind, many may still wrongly say that adoptive mums aren\u2019t 'real mothers'. A woman does not have to undergo conception, pregnancy and childbirth to be considered a real mum. They may even have irreversible fertility issues that prevent them from ever experiencing such a process. Adoption is sometimes the only option for many women, and they are still mothers even if they never gave birth to a child in their lifetime. Stepmums Just like adoptive mums, stepmums are often invalidated as not being 'real mums', at least not to their stepkids. But unlike adoptive mums, stepmums get the full brunt of society\u2019s negative perceptions. Thanks to the 'Evil Stepmother' trope that has been popularised by fairy tales, stepmums all over the world have to carry this stereotype with them wherever they go. The truth is there are shades of good and bad in every one of us. Not all stepmothers are evil, and in that same vein, not all birth mothers are necessarily wholly good either. Fairy tales in general are not a good barometer for understanding real-world circumstances. Sibling Mums Sometimes parents cannot be there to take care of their young kids. Death, abandonment, divorce, neglect. These are just some of the reasons why older siblings take on the mantle of the guardian; a process known as parentification. In these cases, the eldest in the family takes it upon themselves to care for the younger members of the family. Sister mums, or sister guardians, assume the role of the mother which comes with its own challenges. No child should ever have to sacrifice their childhood to take care of their younger siblings, and yet it happens. No matter their age at the time, it does not make these unconventional mums any less of a parent to their younger siblings. Rainbow Mums It\u2019s always hard to lose a child, no matter if you managed to carry them to full term or not. Even if you never got to meet, raise, or see them grow up. Whether you have had to terminate a pregnancy due to health concerns or suffer a natural pregnancy loss, it is excruciating pain all the same. Women who get a second chance after having a miscarriage are often called 'Rainbow Mums'. These mums are able to get pregnant after a pregnancy loss, resulting in a 'miracle baby' or 'rainbow baby'. This makes the child extra special and gives new hope to the mum after experiencing so much pain and sadness from the failed pregnancy prior. However, sometimes the feeling of loss can return, reminding the mother of the lost baby. That is why rainbow mums deserve all the love too. \u201cVilomah\u201d While not an official term that exists in the dictionary, 'vilomah' is a Sanskrit word that means 'against the natural order'. And there is no better word to describe a parent who has lost a child. Children are always presumed to outlive their parents, but when a parent loses a child, that 'natural order' is broken. Vilomahs refer to a specific group of people who have lost a child after childbirth. The child could have died as a baby, a toddler, or even later as a full grown adult. While they may no longer have a child, they are still mothers, nonetheless. We never truly stop grieving our loved ones, but it is comforting to know that they are in a better place. Vilomah mums will always be mothers, and their children are watching over them in Heaven. Prospective Mums Women who have tried but failed to conceive a child is still as much a mother as a woman who has carried and delivered a baby, or adopted one. Mothers-to-be have to sacrifice a lot of their time, effort and energy in the process of conceiving. For those with fertility issues, their ordeals are compounded. Hormone shots, fertility consultations, IVF. These things cost money and it is truly heartbreaking when the pregnancy test comes out negative. While not officially a mother yet, prospective mums are the potential guardians to a future child that will be more than lucky to have them as a parent. Almost-mothers are still mothers because they have already committed themselves to the role with their body and soul. Pet Mums Some women never decide to have children and are happy being childless even if they are married. Many of them may still be parents, just in a different way. 'Pet mums' is a term used to refer to women who exercise their parenting skills solely for the care of an animal. Whether that animal is a cat, dog, tortoise, guinea pig, or parrot, they are still considered the legal guardian of said animal. Pet mums may oftentimes be ridiculed for choosing to take care of a pet rather than a human being. But taking care of an animal can actually be just as challenging and expensive as taking care of a human baby. So don\u2019t underestimate the loyalty, love and dedication of a pet mum. They are just as valid as any mother. Single Dads Just like how we\u2019re all slowly dismantling traditional gentle roles, it is therefore not uncommon for men to fill in the role of a mother when the need arises. This will usually include men who have decided to raise children on their own or those who have lost their wives. Just like how single mums have to have to fill in the role of the father, so must a single dad fill in the role of the mum. They will have to be nurturing, comforting, patient, empathetic and all those other maternal qualities that you would associate with motherhood. For some men this can be a challenge, especially if they are raising girls. And oftentimes this involves sacrificing some of their masculinity, which not all men may be willing to do. So, props to all the single dads who go the extra mile for their princesses. Honouring the 'Other Mothers' We each have our very own understanding of the word 'mother'. To some, a 'mother' means a guardian; a force of nature who will do everything to protect their loved ones. To others, a 'mother' means a caretaker; as nourishing and nurturing as the rivers and the earth. Our definition of a 'mother' may be personal, visceral and oftentimes very conventional. But families aren\u2019t conventional, and neither are people. All mothers deserve respect, regardless of whether they are related to their child, or if they even have a child at all. If you identify as a mother, even if you don\u2019t traditionally fit the role, you are no less valid than the mothers out there who do. In honour of Mother\u2019s Month this May, let us celebrate the 'other mothers' in our lives. They deserve all the recognition, validation and love in the world. Mummies, don't miss out on your chance to get limited Motherhood.com.my vouchers today by casting your Motherhood Choice Awards 2022 votes here! For more insightful stories and fun recipes, stay tuned to Motherhood Story!