We, the mothers: why this Sunday matters and what we're really asking
This Sunday is Mother's Day and we, the mothers, are quietly wondering: have plans been made on our behalf? Is there a reservation somewhere in this town under the last name we share? Did a flower order happen or have they, the partner or children or both with whom we share our lives, even remembered at all?
I have heard that expectations breed disappointment and there is some part of me that doesn't care because it's one holiday among so many in the year and there are other considerations, bigger more important issues to worry about. Mother's Day is a trivial concern compared to the other looming life situations we help these same family members solve each day.
That, however, is exactly why we need this date, for it to actually be about ourselves one day a year.
Even still, we, the mothers, worry about our own moms and our mothers-in-law and sometimes make the plans, call the restaurant, place the flower order. It's still on us somehow, a kind of overarching responsibility we just can't shrug.
I stare at my sleeping husband and think about this past week, with its shattered school Chromebrook and diaper blowout in the car, Teacher Appreciation Week, end-of-year tests and final projects that require posterboard, all of which paled in comparison to an epic asthma attack our first grader had on Wednesday night. After watching Isaac sleep for hours as his lungs hummed, he turned an odd shade of gray-green and it was time to get help. I carried him to my car and spent Thursday's dawn hours in the emergency room as respiratory therapists, on-call doctors and nurses offered medication and forms to sign.
Seeing your child struggle to breathe puts everything in perspective and it reminded me of other days in other hospitals, first breaths and the constancy of children's needs. So this Mother's Day, I care a little less about the flowers and the brunch. I still want those things but that much-discussed Mother's Day nap is more than a meme right now.
We, the mothers, are the women who worry in the dark. We wipe and Google and take the temperature and make the decision. We fold the laundry and cook the meals and bear all the invisible workload that isn't paid or Instagrammable, as the keepers of schedules, shopping lists and meal plans. Sometimes when I scan a room, I think every woman in there could tell me the current status of what's in her dryer, how much milk is in her fridge and what theme days her kids have to dress for this week. It's exhausting on even the best of days without any additional complications or tragic circumstances. That's in part what we're asking other people to recognize on this date. And we're not even saying it. Women are so often socialized to be quiet and pleasant and pleasing to others, ever cheerful, often meek.
Cyndi Lauper, of "Kinky Boots" and "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" fame, seems like an odd source for maternal comfort. As an 80s baby, I'm too young to remember her heyday but the song "Time After Time" is what comes to mind during complicated weeks like this one with its hum-along chorus that sounds like a parent and child relationship:
"Sometimes you picture me
I'm walking too far ahead
You're calling to me but I can't hear what you've said
Then you say, 'Go slow'
I fall behind
The second hand unwinds
If you're lost, you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall, I will catch you
I will be waiting
Time after time"
We, the mothers, are here for our children and expect nothing in return. I hear that the waiting and the choice to be supportive continues as kids grow into familiar strangers. When they are small, though, it's all us here and I do think of the "Footprints in the Sand" poem with its conclusion from God's point of view, "During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you." That's not in the Bible but it's written on my mama heart. My children have certainly reaffirmed my belief that there's something bigger to which we are all connected, as they are more than the sum of their parts, more amazing than anything I could have created.
Faith that we'll get through what's happening now is also part of motherhood.
Just this once, let others cut the cake. Allow them to honor you. Be the celebrated person. Take them up on their offers of food or chores or sleep. If someone else can change a diaper, that's what should happen.
A Mother's Day Fun Guide is here with event suggestions for someone else to coordinate. Don't fold any laundry. It'll all be there on Monday but take what you can because you, as a mother, are all-things-in-chief 364 days each year. If your family forgets or the day just doesn't go to plan, you'll get through the hurt because that too is something we do. All we have is what we give away. Caffeine and comfort items do help but love is really what keeps us all pushing forward anyway when we think there's nothing left to give. There's not a Hallmark card or bouquet of flowers special enough to smooth over the intensity of the only job that never ends.
I hope your Mother's Day is amazing and surprises you. May you feel loved and recognized. We, the mothers, have earned it.