Recently I met someone who reminded me of my mother. My mom died in 2001 and this year marks the 6th Mother’s Day without her. I still miss her terribly. When my mom died, my best friend told me, “You’re an orphan now.” It didn’t strike me what she meant until I began the grieving process. Then the notion hit me really hard. Living life without your mom is really hard.
My mom died relatively young—at age 60 when the average U.S. female life expectancy now is close to 79 years. She died almost two decades too early. I reminisce about her and how we shared a love of coffee, laughter and things like “I Love Lucy” reruns. My two adult daughters have grown up without knowing their grandmother and experiencing her zany wit and perspective on life as I’ve had to find ways other ways to fill that extended family void.
Each of us is also tied to a woman somewhere who brought you into this big bright world. So, let’s stand up and applaud motherhood—the time consuming and tireless dedication to a helpless human being often filled with sleepless nights and minimal gratitude. Sometimes that tireless dedication is from a grandmother, aunt, father, older sibling, foster or adoptive parent and they also deserve an ovation as they filled that role.
What is a mother and why do we relegate only one day a year to honor that role? Scores of cards circle the U.S. Postal system waiting to be delivered and opened by someone called mom. This cursory card may be accompanied by a Mother’s Day brunch, a dinner, flowers, or even a mani/pedi gift certificate. Life will be good for a day, hopefully.
I won’t get on my soapbox and complain about how as a society we only dedicate one day a year to honoring motherhood. We could also complain that fathers only get one day. These calendar days are earmarked to help us remember. Slightly odd, but somehow necessary. Do we need to be reminded to honor our mothers? Has motherhood and parenting become so low a priority that we need a commercialized way to help us remember and honor people who sacrifice almost two decades to each of our lives? We have mothers’ who work full-time outside the home and mothers’ who work full-time inside the home. Mothers are mothers and it doesn’t matter if you hold an outside job, because that job of being a mother is a 24 hour-no-quit-full-time-dedicated-no-holds-barred job.
The benefits we get from being a mother are the intrinsic benefits. When our children bring home that finger painted work of art that we hang proudly on the fridge and when we get an occasional “Thank you” or “I love you, Mom!” our hearts are filled with joy to last a lifetime. No amount of money in the world could ever compensate a mother for her years spent in motherhood. And besides, I don’t know a mother out there who would take a dime.
As a licensed clinical mental health counselor, I worked with traumatized and neglected children for many years. One young girl at the ripe old age of 7, who was in state social service’s custody, asked me why her mother didn’t want her anymore and why her mother made certain choices. I carefully but plainly explained that while sometimes grown-ups have problems and that being a mother was different than being able to give birth to a child. We talked about how sometimes grown-ups problems are so big that they stop the grown-up from being a good mother. She was a wise soul at the age of 7. She thought about our talk and proudly proclaimed that she was never going to be like that. She was going to be a “really Mommy” and love her children “to the moon and back”.
Stretch-marks, lost sleep, gray hairs and constant worry are symbols of motherhood. Despite your children reaching the age of adulthood, mothers still worry and wrestle with the world having access to their pride and joy without their ferocious protection as the mother tiger. Some mothers have faced the unthinkable: the loss of a child. This loss bemoans a grief that can barely be spoken. There are many other issues mothers’ face that require our heartfelt acknowledgement and attention. These require highlighting, advocacy and action as these challenges make the lives of many mothers’ so difficult to face: post-partum depression, workplace inequities, domestic violence, poverty, super-Mom syndrome, stress, financial hardship, stay-at-home moms, single parenthood, childcare to name only a few.
So, let’s resolve to honor all mothers throughout the year and be a champion for each and every one of them as somewhere out there, a young child will benefit from it!