Mullets and motherhood


I have a beehive with authority issues. Despite my best efforts for management, they absolutely refuse to keep a queen.

For organizational purposes, I name my hives instead of using a typical numerical or alphabetical system. This crew has earned the name Billy Ray, a nod to the number one song in America, “Old Town Road.” In the words of Kentucky boy Billy Ray Cyrus, “
Can't nobody tell me nothin/You can't tell me nothin.” The chorus reminds me of tots who missed nap time, not that I’d let mine listen to the song…

Being queenless is troublesome for Billy Ray (the bees, not Miley’s dad), since she is the only bee vital to the wellbeing of the hive. Without a queen, the colony will not be able to reproduce the necessary workforce for food or protection, and will ultimately not survive. After the effort we’ve put in with this one, I can’t bear the thought of losing the hive. If she goes, just don’t tell my heart, my achy breaky… (sorry!).

Some days, beekeeping feels like parenting a bunch of bees. Each hive tends to have a personality all their own: pleasant, inquisitive, independent, or sensitive. As a mother of two young ones, there are moments I might choose to tackle an angry swarm of bees verses the tantrum of a three-year-old. But that’s about the end of comparisons between the little bugs and the beautiful institution of family.

Motherhood is a blessed vocation of relationship. It’s a mission-field of mercy, sacrifice, and charity. Today, society places daunting expectations on mothers that draws the attention (and perceived shortcomings) to ourselves. You know the labels: Breast-Feeders, Free-Rangers, Homeschoolers, Helicopters, Working Moms, Soccer Moms, Super Moms, etc. When we focus on being Model Mamas, we miss the mission: our families.

Sometimes mission-work gets muddled by the unnecessary details of comparison. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, “Wash the plate not because it is dirty nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.” Do all things with love. Nurturing and developing little minds, bodies, and hearts is best done in (you guessed it!) love. And the reward—time with our family—is sweeter than honey.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mamas out there. May we be as mindful of our mission as we are Billy Ray’s mullet, and I hope you’re treated like a queen!

Neena Gaynor is a Kentucky wife, mother, daughter and beekeeper who does life in Owensboro. She also writes on her blog at and can be reached via email at


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