May 10, 2011

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Mother’s Day Was Different This Year

Mother’s Day Was Different This Year

I’ve spent days ruminating on why Mother’s Day felt so different to me this year. And just now it occurred to me why it is.

I’m embarrassed to admit that, years ago, I didn’t used to think that Mother’s Day was a big deal. It seemed like another day to have an obligatory brunch with family. I didn’t think that much about what it meant to be a mother, what it meant to celebrate mothers.

Perhaps when you’re a child and it seems the world revolves around you, it’s not so easy to notice everything a mother does. Maybe, for a while, it seems natural that someone would care as much about your needs as her own. It’s easy to miss the hours spent worrying about your well-being, the sacrifices made so that you can have a wonderful life, the dreams deferred in favor of your dreams.

In the nearly five years since I’ve become a mother, however, I’ve grown to see differently. It always strikes me as funny that, mere seconds after having a baby, celebrities seem to give interviews saying that, “everything has changed” in their lives, and they’ve “never been happier.” Whenever I see an interview like that I think, “just you wait.”

Of course, motherhood does change you in an instant (although I think that instant starts sometime while you’re trying to get pregnant or while you are pregnant). The moment you have a child, your life surely does change forever. But I think it takes a while to see exactly how.

When your sweet baby is laying next to you in those first few days, you can’t imagine that she will every talk back to you. That you’ll find yourself saying things you swore you’d never. You (hopefully) don’t yet know what it’s like to worry about your child’s health problems. Or other difficult scenarios. You imagine what your child’s life will be like, but your imagination cannot possibly account for all the different things you’ll encounter as a parent. The worry. The uncertainty about how to proceed. The confusion over discipline techniques, education, whether to have pets, and on and on.

But you also don’t know that parenthood will continually break your heart open, in order to make it bigger. It will require you to stretch yourself in every way possible, only then to fill those new, stretched-out places with love.

I realized tonight that Mother’s Day felt bigger to me this year for two reasons– first, I feel like I’ve been through enough trials to know what being a mother really means and to feel enhanced in just about every way by it. It didn’t hurt that my husband and daughter made a really big deal of Mother’s Day this year. I think my daughter wished me a “Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy!!!!” at least fifty times. In fact, Monday morning one of the first things she said to me was, “It’s not Mother’s Day anymore, Mommy?” I said, “No, Sweetie. It won’t be Mother’s Day again until next year.” To which she replied, “Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy!!!” I took it. You can never hear it too much, can you? And shouldn’t a lot more days be Mother’s Day?

But the second reason Mother’s Day felt different this year was, for once in my life, I feel like I’m not striving for something. Well, I take that back– I still wake up every morning a little bit disappointed that my body doesn’t look more like Gisele Bundchen’s, and I may always. But, now that our son has arrived and we have two children– two very different but equally scrumptious children– I feel like my family is complete. I feel like I want to do many more things in my life, but knowing that my family is here together, and we all love each other, just makes something feel more settled in my life.

Knowing that I am a mother who has made it through nearly five years of motherhood, two successful pregnancies (and a few false starts), some health and development concerns that have resolved in many ways (and haven’t in others), that I am up to the task of motherhood, despite knowing that it’s not always easy, feels gratifying.

And I know now that motherhood is a very big deal. Maybe that’s really what made Mother’s Day feel different this year. Because I know all (or at least a lot) that Motherhood entails, and I appreciated what I have been able to do (and be) as a mother, myself. Though the flowers, cards, gifts, and appreciation from others were nice, I truly appreciated my own contributions, myself, this year. I know that being a mother, and trying valiantly, day by day, to do it well– to be thoughtful, compassionate, open-hearted, stern when necessary, a powerful advocate when needed, and also have a lot of fun– makes motherhood about the most complex and demanding task there is.

But I’m doing it. Not perfectly, of course (because there’s no such thing). But as well as I can. I still have a lot to learn, and I’m certain that my children still have a lot more to teach me. But each day I give my darnedest to this motherhood thing. And damn it, I think that’s pretty good.

“Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy!!” to all you amazing mothers. You’re doing it. And that’s remarkable. I hope you, too, feel the value of your contribution and give yourself the satisfaction of feeling, deeply, how important it is.

  1. Mary Jo says:

    Wonderful!

  2. Thanks for sharing!

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