I started my Mother’s Day with a mother’s luxury: a shower by myself, complete with time to shave and use a homemade body scrub. I even blow dried my hair and straightened it afterward, and put on some lotion, and lemon juice to help lighten all the extra freckles I’ve been collecting driving Bug to and from school since we moved to a different city two weeks ago. Because, you know, premature aging is a price worth paying for letting my kid finish the year at her old school, but that doesn’t mean I have to take it lying down.
So. Now that I’m not smelly any more, I want to start my day by saying some stuff before breakfast.
1) If you truly want to honor a person, build them up without tearing down yourself or other people in order to make them look better. It’s not a real thank you for a person to stand up and say, “Thanks, moms, for doing mom stuff, because men are just bad at it.” My husband has a beautiful talent for soothing our children that I will never possess in a thousand years of mothering. He is not too stupid to cook and clean, and he is not too insensitive to understand and nurture our children. No man is, except that he has been taught he has to be that way. Let’s honor our mothers by talking about what is good in them rather than by creating faults in others.
2) If you truly want to honor a person, don’t praise them for overworking themselves. Don’t praise them for putting their health on the line so they can do things that don’t actually need to be done or things you could, with some effort, do yourself. Don’t praise them for putting off their basic needs in order to fulfill the wants of someone else. Don’t encourage them to live a life where the only validation they can get is through sacrifice. Instead, ease the burden. Lend a hand. Give them space. Help everyone, including her, reevaluate their expectations. Make goals together; goals that give you something to look to other than work and home, and let you remember that you are defined by more than your responsibilities.
3) Remember that not every woman is a mother. Not every woman can be, not every woman wants to be. Not every mother feels the same way about being a mother. Can you imagine if we talked to adolescent boys and childless men as if their lives, their sense of purpose, and their strongest desires were all wrapped up in fathering? As if they were not individual in their goals and deep wishes and the things that make them THEM at their very soul, but united in one monolithic craving to bear children and joy in providing an income for them to live off of? Just as a woman with a child should not be swallowed, personality and all, in attending that child’s needs, a woman without a child should not be treated as an egg waiting to hatch.
4) Being a mom is hard. You don’t need to feel guilty about it, but you need to acknowledge it, and you need to let moms acknowledge it without judging them or expecting them to make a joke of it or say that it’s all worth it. Encourage them to be open, to teach their children that parenting entails sacrifice, and to create the network and support they need so that they can know they are not alone in their struggles, their doubts, and their moments where they don’t want to keep going.
5) I could make some joke about moms and chocolate, but women have survived without chocolate for most of human history, so it certainly can’t be the basic need so many insist it is: an animal salve for our animal femininity. A walk in the sunshine or a few minutes breathing deep in the grass while staring up at the stars, a few minutes a day to read that book you’ve had your heart set on, a Saturday away at a convention, with your friends, or just wandering the downtown streets by yourself–these satisfy cravings better than a chemical shot from a bite of sugar mixed with cocoa.
I could probably go on. But shorter is sweeter, my toddler is in the kitchen doing something suspicious (How? a baby gate up at both entrances and she still manages to get in there!), and I’m hungry for breakfast. I was going to end with a picture of something mother-y, but since each mother is different, I thought better of it. I certainly don’t like being associated with flowers all the time. So here is a video of Lindsay Stirling’s Elements. A different element for every kind of mother, and a changing rhythm for each emotion we feel about ourselves and the work we do.