“Thanks, Mom for all you have done.”
Mothers everywhere can recognize the feeling that comes to our hearts with that short sentence. With Mother’s Day this Sunday, May 9, some perspective on motherhood is in order.
Early motherhood can be thankless; an endless round of feedings and diaper changes, and when you’re about to lose it — the smiles and giggles begin so you can keep on keeping on. Then the cuteness and the ‘first this’ and ‘first that’ save you.
Through the terrible twos, the pre-school eagerness, the middle-school meltdowns, the endless soccer matches, and Little League, the swim meets and dance recitals, the tutoring, and braces and high school anxiety. For many of us, it continues through college and moves to their first jobs, through losses and breakups and innumerable trials and tribulations, until they are settled.
Some say that only mothers can take joy from the tireless efforts necessary to raise a child to adulthood. Others say “Clearly there is an emotional benefit with an end result — or why would women do it?”. Most parents agree that parenthood never ends, no matter how old you or your child become.
While Erma Bombeck had some hilarious observations about motherhood, which helped many of us keep our sanity through those years, in the end, mothers tend to think that if we’ve done our jobs; we end up with the goal — a contributing human being, who can give back to the world. But if that isn’t exactly the goal, at least we want our children to be happy.
Mother’s Day as a national day of recognition is not just an American holiday — it is observed in 40 countries around the world. There are a few versions of the story of the American incarnation of Mother’s Day. The most accepted is that it was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 with a ceremony at her church in Grafton, VA to honor her deceased mother’s tireless efforts to promote the idea of honoring mothers several decades before. It became an official U.S. holiday in 1914.
“I’m reminded every day of this pandemic how fortunate I am to still have my Mom thriving at age 93. My career in business and hospitality, as well as lifelong interests in good food, the arts, current events, and writing, clearly spring from her,” said one local businessperson. ” Encouraging me to be an early and avid reader as well as sharing the kitchen with a young cook underfoot are just two of her gifts that keep on giving me joy.”
Not all Mother’s Days are happy ones; some are simply bittersweet until children reach an adult age or a time of reconciliation when they can finally admit that what parents do to fight for their children — and for who they could become — and perhaps thank them for the effort.
They also come to realize a central tenet of parenthood; mothers aren’t perfect. We screw up. The sooner we realize that, the more prepared we are for what is to come. Usually, our children come to this realization while still in high school, which can lead to screaming matches (daughters) and sullen silence or anger (sons). Somewhere in the decades that follow those teen years our children come to the startling revelation that we mothers might have known a thing or two; that is before they decide we’re senile and stop listening.
As children grow, they become their own persons, and that can lead to conflict. Not because we won’t let them go, but because they become more like us than perhaps we intend.
“My mother shaped who I became, but I didn’t see that right away,” said another. “I saw her independence and feistiness and her instinct to serve and I think resented that public side of her. But now that I’m grown, I see that I internalized all of that — the servant leadership. The idea that you do what you can to help.”
For those with young children, Mother’s Day is often filled with homemade cards, breakfast in bed with burnt toast, hugs covered in jam and peanut butter, and the joy of a day picnicking at the lake, or hiking a favorite trail.
“Now that my first Mother’s Day is finally here, it feels so surreal,” said a young new mother. “I’m just excited to spend the day with my baby boy and make more memories.”
For those who have lost their own mothers, it can be a wistful day. For this writer, every Mother’s Day I sit remembering; holding a small cedar box in which my Mother kept dozens of delicate white handkerchiefs, scented not just with the cedar of the box in which she kept them, but of her perfume.
As the U.S. celebrates its 113th Mother’s Day, it’s good to view motherhood and this day as Rogers and Hammerstein did; “as long as there is one person on earth who remembers you, it’s not over.”