I love my children. I even love all that being “Mom” entails. I mean, maybe not so much when “Mom” is immediately followed by, “can I have…?” or “(insert sibling name here) won’t let me/won’t share/took my…” But, I do love parenthood. I’ve loved it through illness, divorce, dating, remarriage, and the addition of a pooping, crying, eating machine to our family. It may be the sleep deprivation talking, but I am quickly losing my interest in leaving my home Monday through Friday to work, juggling track meets, speech therapy meetings, newborn well-child medical check-ups, housework, meals, and maybe, if I’m lucky, regular showers, in what little time is left in the week. For years I’ve thought myself a woman of the times, organized, full-time employed, stressed but excited when I made everything work. I know I’m not as young as I once was. Four hours of sleep leaves me looking like I got hit in the face a few times, meals on the go have expanded a waistline that hasn’t managed to make time for morning runs in a while.
Still, I have to admit that when I think about work versus staying home, I feel like I’m weighing the wellbeing of my growing family against the expectations of a society that doesn’t much care about me other than to judge actions that seem to run against the “American” ideal. Mainstream media seems to simultaneously peddle the idea of motherly perfection from the 1950’s and stigmatize single income families. On one perilously tall pedestal are the employed mothers, stacked up according to their pay, number of hours they work a week, and at the pinnacle of the colossal dog-pile of wonder-women, the ones who are at the top of their pay scale, AND still coach evenings and weekends. On the other, the stay-at-homes are organized by how many children they have (and how many of those are under the age of 5), how tidy their homes are, and how many volunteer hours they put in at school, church, and the community center, all while maintaining a consistent 6:00 pm dinner time, at which each family member sits at the table, tidy and cheerful, and politely discusses the events of their day.
But, what about the rest? What about the moms who sometimes can’t shower until 9:00 at night, if all. Who pack home lunches then forget to hand those out in the wee dark hours of the morning before they leave for work, hoping the kids remember they are loved, even though they didn’t seem awake enough to actually hear it said. What of the mothers that work outside their skillset simply to have a job so they can be good mothers and provide things for their children, all the while feeling like terrible mothers for not being there for them? Where is the pedestal lauding the poorest mothers, who choose assistance so they can be there for their kids as mother and father, rather than taking a second (or third) job to lift their family above the poverty limit? Or the one for the mothers who hold multiple jobs and go to school at night to better their lives and be examples for their children?
No matter how you stack them up, mothers all have so much in common. We all want to do what’s best for our children, take care of our families, and be the people that our children can look up to, to become happy, thriving adults. We want to be like our mothers, or better than our mothers, or the mothers we never had. I’m forever grateful to the example I had in my own mother, who stayed at home with us, but has never judged me for stepping out into the world to work. My mother, who is still there for me when I’m in the hospital, or laid up in bed, laid off from a failing company, or just need someone else to be in charge of the cooking for a day. I know how lucky I am to have such a one in my life, and I will never take that for granted.
Today, I will look at every mother, better, every woman that I see and I will see her. I will look into the eyes of the people I meet rather than at their waistlines or raiment. Every woman deserves to be seen and respected for her innate value, the trials she faces, the adversity she has overcome. Today I would have us celebrate all womankind for the amazing, mother-qualities that we have. Happy Mother’s Day, all.