These short stories about mothers have a mother as a main character or have characters who are reflecting on their mothers. The first section has stories that are more generally about mothers and their entire families. There are separate sections for Mothers & Daughters and Mothers & Sons where the emphasis is on those relationships.
Short Stories About Mothers
“Today I Am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker
A Medical Care Android capable of emulation attends to Mildred as she lies ill. She thinks her son Paul is present, so the android emulates him. While emulating, the android is bound by the personality of the person, but can override if Mildred’s health is at risk. Her family has hired staff to help care for her. The android’s emulation net—an expensive add-on—allows Mildred to have her family around even when they aren’t there.
This story can be read in the preview of The Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 1. (15% in)
Short Stories About Mothers & Daughters
“Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid
In this prose/poem hybrid, a mother gives her daughter some advice about how to behave and on becoming a woman. (Summary and analysis of story)
“Girl” is the sixth story in the Amazon preview of The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story.
“Rules of the Game” by Amy Tan
Lindo is a mother and a Chinese immigrant. Her daughter, Waverly, is American born. Their mother/daughter relationship is explored as the daughter learns to play chess and progresses from her first tournament at age eight and continues as she becomes a stronger player. (Summary and analysis)
Read “Rules of the Game”
“Seven Birthdays” by Ken Liu
Mia and her dad are at the park on her seventh birthday. They’ve been waiting, but her mother hasn’t arrived yet. She’s away a lot. Mia flies her kite. Her mother arrives. She was delayed with important work, bringing an ambassador up to speed on a solar management plan. There’s tension between Mia’s parents. She tries to smooth things over. The narrative continues with Mia’s relationship with her mother—and the future of humanity.
This story can be read in the preview of The Year’s Top Hard Science Fiction Stories.
“Zikora” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
When Zikora, a Nigerian lawyer living in DC, gets pregnant, her lover leaves. Her mother comes to town for the birth. Their old dynamic asserts itself. Zikora thinks about her and her mother’s struggles.
The beginning of “Zikora” can be read in the Amazon preview.
“I Stand Here Ironing” by Tillie Olsen
While a remarried mother of five irons, she thinks about how she raised her first child, Emily, and what she would do differently.
Some of this story can be read in the preview of Tell Me a Riddle, Requa I, and Other Works.
“How to Talk to Your Mother (Notes)” by Lorrie Moore
The narrator covers events in the life of the protagonist starting in 1982 and working back to 1939. It relates significant moments with her mother, father, brother, and her interactions with men.
Short Stories About Mothers, Cont’d
“Love Letters” by Patricia Zelver
Emily’s daughter, Rebecca, turns fifteen. Her aunt sends a card saying she’ll send along her mother’s old love letters. Emily doesn’t remember the letters. Her husband is a Social Scientist and her grown sons are moving to a commune.
“My Mother” by Jamaica Kincaid
A girl relates interactions with her mother, and the evolution of their relationship. It includes some unusual experiences and transformations.
“The Kid’s Guide to Divorce” by Lorrie Moore
A young daughter is visiting her mother. They watch movies and have popcorn.
“The Leap” by Louise Erdrich
The narrator’s mother, Anna, is the surviving member of a blindfolded trapeze act. Anna is blind now but still moves with certainty. The narrator relates some of her mother’s life, including a time when her home caught on fire.
“Seventeen Syllables” by Hisaye Yamamoto
Mrs. Hayashi is a Japanese immigrant living in America. She writes haiku, but her daughter, Rosie, can’t read Japanese, so they don’t connect through her poems. Rosie is attracted to Jesús, a Mexican boy at her high school.
“An Amateur’s Guide to the Night” by Mary Robison
Lindy is a high school student about to graduate. She has her own telescope and is an amateur astronomer. She goes on double-dates with her mother, Harriet, who like to pass herself off as Lindy’s sister. She doesn’t provide much guidance for her daughter. Lindy’s grandfather also lives with them, but he’s not the most mature, either.
“Approximations” by Mona Simpson
Melinda, a teenager, relates events from her childhood. She and her mother, Carol, ice-skated regularly. She didn’t know her father until she was seven. He calls and invites her and her mother to go with him to Disneyland. He’s a waiter, and lives with three roommates. Soon after, Carol marries Jerry, a professional skater.
Short Stories About Mothers & Sons
“The Aged Mother” by Matsuo Basho
A local despot proclaims that all aged people are to be put to death. A poor farmer prepares to let his mother die in a humane way—by bringing her to a mountain and leaving her there. (Summary)
“The Old Dictionary” by Lydia Davis
The narrator talks about a very old dictionary she owns which she is very careful with. It occurs to her that she treats it with more care than she does her son.
“The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu
The narrator, Jack, remembers when he was a young boy. His mother folded origami animals for him. She was able to breathe life into them. His mother was a mail-order bride from China. As Jack grows up, he draws away from his mother, preferring American toys and food. He won’t answer her if she speaks Chinese. He’s embarrassed by his mom.
“The Burglar’s Christmas” by Willa Cather
Two shabby young men talk about getting some food. One decides to walk to a saloon where he knows the owner, hoping to get something from him. The other, Crawford, isn’t up for the walk so they split up. Crawford has reached his breaking point; he can see that he’s failed and there’s no hope. He thinks about what has led him to this point. He decides to steal something.
I’ll keep adding short stories about mothers as I find more.