Mother’s Day is an interesting holiday–really because I’m not sure it’s actually ever a holiday for mom. Even assuming there’s breakfast in bed and another person around to help with clean up of the breakfast battle and the children caught in the crossfire, even if someone else handles the day-to-day chores of the house that everyone just assumes to be magically done, she’s likely not having a blissful day of rest like we associate with Father’s Day. On Father’s Day, the rule in most American households at least is “don’t bother Dad!” On Mother’s Day, there are brunches and excursions…with the family.
And maybe she loves that! Maybe taking everyone to the zoo is exactly what mom likes best. Maybe reminding the other adult or oldest child of a thousand little things that need to be done for a successful trip (don’t forget the blanket, make sure your phone’s charged, wear sunscreen, can’t stay too long, Junior’s got homework to finish…) is something she relishes.
But likely, some of that is not her favorite part. Probably, like with all super-powered people, what she likes most isn’t remembering who can and cannot sit next to whom to stop bickering, or how someone else will have a meltdown if there are seeds on their hamburger bun, but she has the ability to keep up with this all, and so feels compelled to help keep peace for mankind.
And there’s a lot we can do to make sure that she’s not stuck with that, and her daughters aren’t condemned to that same loop.
First, admit it’s flippin’ work to do all this. It’s real work. It’s not chatting on the phone when she calls family members, it’s the ambassador of your home calling allies to mend bridges and arrange terms for future support. It’s not dithering when she agonizes over gift options, it’s a calculated strategic maneuver in a long game of thrones. It’s not worrying too much about the kids, it’s trying to stop war from breaking out. Listen, if y’all ain’t ready for the frontlines, don’t tell the general to stop the war councils. This takes a lot of effort to do. It comes naturally to very few people, and is enjoyed by even fewer. So don’t just thank mom with some flowers she now has to try to keep alive. See the work.
Your mother’s birthday is next weekend, Susie’s play is Friday, the dry cleaning needs to be picked up tomorrow before soccer and the PTA is on Tuesday. Here’s the plan.
And then take some of the burden. Not good at gift-giving? Set reminders in your phone. Unsure what pattern your mom uses in the whirlwind that is her passing through the house? Ask. I did not do this well enough when I was young, and perhaps no young people are equipped to understand things like having all the clean dishes back in the cupboards and the sink empty of dirty dishes by the time she comes home isn’t an arbitrary or half-hearted attempt at achieving perfection–it’s a service that shows love and respect. It says that we know she’ll have to prepare food here next, that she comes in from work ready to begin another round of skirmishes over matching socks, missed assignments and who wants what for dinner, and that the least we can do is give her room to fight. So let me tell you, support system of moms. Help instill this, and when adolescence proves too great a foe, back her up, and pitch in.
Finally, remind her that it’s fucking impossible to do it all. It is not possible, unless you’re extremely blessed, to have a perfect home, and perfect kids and a perfect career. Trust that a home that knows love will always be viewed with kind eyes. Believe that children are a process, not a moment, and that through love, they will be successful in ways that are important to them. Remember that motherhood is a job, too, and that the balance between what brings money and what creates value is fragile, but obtainable if you are honest about your ambitions, energy, and priorities–so love yourself while you figure out how to get there.
So, thanks, moms. Thanks for holding the world together. They say gravity is a theory, but even if it’s proven to be completely false, we know the world will keep spinning because of you!
As an additional note, everyone please remember that Mother’s Day is especially difficult for those mourning loss or estranged from their families. Mothers are often magical, but that doesn’t always mean they’re invincible or kind. It’s okay to mourn a relationship cut short or that never existed. You are still seen, you are still valid.
A special thanks to my mom, my mother-in-law, my aunts and mentors, and my friends who make parenting look so easy. You are strong in ways I cannot comprehend, and I admire the hell out of you!