As Edith Stein once said, “The woman’s soul is fashioned as a shelter in which other souls may unfold.” MaryFaith Ulery, a junior history major set to enter law school after graduation, has taken this quote to heart.
Ulery is known among her peers as being the “mom friend.” While this role is often a source of teasing and fun, she also sees herself as a kind of spiritual mother to those closest to her, taking inspiration from both her own mother as well as Stein.
“We’re meant to be a safe haven,” she said. “A lot of people just naturally feel like they can open up to me, and know that I’m trustworthy and I won’t say anything. They know that if they need comfort, I’m a shoulder to cry on … and that’s a very mom-like thing.”
Jocelyn Buford, a junior psychology major, also sees Ulery as a spiritual mother.
“I feel so comfortable sharing my feelings with her, and she really guides me towards God. She’s so unique and I’ve never met anybody like her,” said Buford.
Ulery also draws inspiration from her own mother. “My mom always carries herself with a lot of grace and a lot of poise. She’s very peaceful all the time, and it’s very hard to make her angry, especially when it comes to her kids. I always feel safe, and she’s the person I go to for most everything. I think being raised by a woman like that, I just naturally became that way. That peace is not something I naturally have, but it’s something I try to emulate from her. I’m a little more hot-headed and have a little bit of a shorter temper than she does. That’s something I strive to get from her.”
Ulery also has a “mama bear” side to her, wanting to ensure her friends always feel safe.
“I think I get some of the protective instincts from my dad. There’s the very sweet mama side of me, but you don’t mess with my friends. I don’t take kindly to people messing with them. Physically, I like people to feel safe with me. When I’m with a group of my girlfriends, my head is on the swivel and I’m watching out for them. I’ve walked people back to their dorms, and I’ve had friends call me if they’re in a situation where they feel physically unsafe and I’ll go get them.”
Ulery’s “mom friend” role started in high school once her friends began jokingly calling her “mom” due to her caring nature.
“It started with my friends in high school, specifically one who is a senior in high school right now. I’m in church choir with her. She caught on to the fact that I’m very much a mom friend, you know, I was watching out for her, loving her, checking in on her. So, she started calling me her ‘church mom’ jokingly. From there it just spiraled and now I’m the mom of the group.”
She continued: “When I got to UD, I told some people about that. The more people got to know me, specifically my friends, the more they caught on.”
Last year, when Ulery went to the Texas State Fair with a group of friends, she ended up counting everyone to make sure nobody was lost.
“The way we were getting there was the DART, which is kind of sketchy, and since we had to transfer trains and because of the State Fair, there were a lot of people. I was counting people to make sure we had everybody. So I would just turn around and I’m pointing my fingers at people, doing a head-count.” Her friends said it was one of the most “mom” things she had ever done.
Ulery also has some fun with her “mom friend” stereotype.
“My friend Ivy is very good at makeup. I have a football shirt from my siblings’ high school, and I had worn that with some leggings and tennis shoes. I had friends comment ‘you look like a mom cheering on her kid at a football game.’ All I had to do was put my hair in a really messy bun and put bruises under my eyes to make me look like I’m very tired and haven’t slept. I think she also made a little bruise where my child had supposedly thrown a sippy cup at my head. And that was a really fun and easy costume to do, and my friends said, ‘this suits you perfectly.’”
One does not need to be a biological mother to have a mother-like role in somebody’s life. Motherhood is about ensuring those closest to you are happy and well-cared for. In college, with many students living far away from their parents, it is good to have friends who can care for eachother with mother-like love, ensuring that they are mentally, physically and spiritually cared for.