I certainly never understood or fully appreciated my own mother and the sacrifices she made until I became one myself. It may be cliché, but it’s true when they say that being a mother is a thankless job: Your “boss” (aka, your child) makes you work long hours without pay or time off (not even in lieu, and forget about “sick” days).
Don’t forget the countless sleepless nights, the pressure to feed, clothe and educate your children; to teach them right from wrong, while still striving to be kind, patient, and loving – even after they flush your car keys down the toilet.
Yet today as I write this, I think of the mothers of innocent schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria; mothers who have lost children in the recent earthquake in Nepal; or closer to home, the mothers who struggle to provide for their children, working two or three jobs just to make ends meet, with no social assistance to fall back on in hard times.
During such tragedies and stresses in life, a big hug, a tender kiss on the forehead, a home-cooked meal made with love, a simple phone call – these are the things that should matter and do to those who know what matters in life.
To me, being a mother means making sacrifices and being selfless. The day your child is born is the day your life changes in the most profound way, and your center of gravity shifts forever more.
When your child hurts, you hurt; when your child fails, you feel the failure in a personal way like a new form of pain. Even watching the daily news involving harm, pain or sickness to a child affects your heart deeply in a way that may not have resonated before becoming a mother. (“What if that was my child?” I often think to myself as my eyes well up.)
Fathers will never comprehend a mother’s instinct; what it is like to carry a baby in their body for nine months, or to breast feed, or to deeply bond in those first precious moments after a baby is brought into this world or brought into a mother’s arms through adoption or surrogacy. And for that I feel sorry that men miss out on these special female perks – although I suspect most men would be happy to forgo some or all of these occurrences.
But many fathers are mothers too, just like many mothers take on the role of fathers. I especially applaud all single mothers out there who must wear all hats while raising their children. They are all unsung heroes in my book.
We can’t forget those who are blessed with the mothering instinct – those selfless people who take in rescue animals; feed “orphan” friends during the holidays; and those who mentor, teach and inspire, making a difference to the lives of children.
After all, it takes a village to raise a child, and for the truly lucky, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers all chip in when a parent is in a bind. Here in Cayman, where there are so many expats who have left their extended families behind, friends and helpers are there to fill the gap. Skype and Facetime help enormously to bridge the distance, but at the end of the day they are poor substitutes.
One thing that really irritates me are the judge-y moms – and there are a lot of them out there. It starts early, almost as soon as you are home from hospital. “Why are you not breast-feeding?” “My baby sleeps through the night already!” And then it progresses to “Junior is already in music lessons, soccer lessons and is getting straight A’s in school!”
One of the biggest pressures on mothers is being labeled a (lazy) “stay-at-home mother” or a (selfish) “working mother,” especially when dealing with such inane questions as: “What do you do all day?” “It must be nice having the luxury of staying at home.” “Why are you working when you should be home with your kids?” “How do you juggle it all?”
Some things are better left unsaid. It’s a deeply personal decision that is nobody’s business. You never know what a family’s financial situation is, nor do you know what the family dynamics are behind closed doors. What works for one family, does not work for another.
The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter if you are a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, the choice you make is the best one for your family and for yourself. And the happier you are, the better mom you will be. So next time you are at a party or social event, think twice before prying.
From my experience, mothers are the hardest on other mothers because they are hardest on themselves and trying to reconcile their own guilt to figure out if they made the “right” decision or not.
Yes, being a mother is the hardest job in the world, but I wouldn’t trade it for a minute. It’s the most rewarding endeavor, even through the drudgery and dozens of menial tasks that can push you to the edge of madness.
But to see my son’s smiling face in the morning; to get a hearty hug every time I walk through the door; to see a new developmental milestone being achieved – that is worth it all, and certainly worth more than any Hallmark card or material gift that he (or his dad) could ever give me. That’s not to say they are off the hook this one special day. (Note to husband: “Hey, where are my flowers and foot rub?”)
I hope that you will take this Mother’s Day to truly appreciate your mother, whether she is still with you or not, and appreciate your children as much as you hope they will appreciate you one day.
Happy Mother’s Day – no matter what form of “mothering” you take on!