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“The mother’s heart is the child’s school-room.” —Henry Ward Beecher

Sunday, May 14, 2023 is Mothers’ Day in the U.S. Every person alive has a mother, or had a mother, somewhere, at some time. Not everyone who is female is a mother – yet or ever. That doesn’t make the role any less important — for some, it makes it a very special choice. For others it’s the natural progression of things.

Too often we go along expecting things to be as they are forever. But change is inevitable. So is death.

After my own Mother died suddenly in 2008, my siblings and I had quite a job clearing out several generations of our family’s heritage from a large house in the Wisconsin countryside. One day while laboriously going through drawers in an upstairs bedroom, a drawer was stuck. I gave a tug and out came the drawer. Stuck behind it I found a small fold of yellowed paper.

When I opened it up, in my mother’s beautiful handwriting I read:

“What would we give if we could say, ‘Hello Mother’ in the same old way.

To hear her voice and see her smile — to sit with her and chat awhile.

So you who have a mother cherish her with care

For you’ll never know the heartache ’til you see her vacant chair.”

My mother lost her mother early, and suddenly too, which might be the backstory behind that lost folded poem. I’ll never know. All I know is I sat down and bawled.

My own children are grown and just in the past couple of years have had small children of their own. This means that my mothering experience as a working mother isn’t just past experience, but tends to put me in sync with current conditions and working mothers, and their value in our economy.

Here in Chaffee County, the best gift we could give our hard-working mothers is a real commitment to quality childcare. It’s not that we don’t have good childcare — we don’t have nearly enough early childhood slots. According to the Chaffee Early Childhood Council, this situation has gotten worse, not better.

Mothers who can’t be sure of the childcare environment for their children struggle with the uncertainty. They worry — ‘Will my little one be safe? Is this a good environment?’ Without reliable childcare it tends to be the mothers who miss work, have to shift hours, or cut back on their hours to care for small children. It shouldn’t be this way.

This year, wouldn’t it be wonderful if this community got behind our young moms and supported some childcare solutions? It would make such a difference for them, while they make a difference for all of us.