On a hectic weekday morning with 15 minutes to go before the schoolbus arrives, or when you absolutely must get the kids into the car and to preschool on time, there are no words more frightening than a sweet, plaintive cry, "Mommmmmy, I need a new pair of underwear!" Like most harried moms, underwear may not be too hard to find ... but clean underwear is another story.
The Meaning of Mother's Day
Once you're a parent, it can feel as though every day is Mother's Day. Mother's day to do the laundry, Mother's day to drive the carpool, Mother's day to get to the grocery store and put some semblance of a balanced meal on the table. With all that mothers do on any given day, you could argue that we don't need yet another Mother's Day. What we need is a Mother's Day Off.
I stayed home when my children were young, but just because I stayed home did not mean that I felt at home. I was slower than most to embrace my motherhood role. In those early years of being home full time, an infant hanging off my shoulder and a toddler attached to my leg, I just couldn't seem to get comfortable in my own skin. I felt torn between what I was doing and what I felt I should be doing. This is an ongoing balancing act performed by mothers everywhere, no matter what their career goals or life situation.
Work and Motherhood
Working outside the home took on almost mythic proportions. I read about my friends' accomplishments in my college alumnae magazine. I so wanted to be one of those shiny, polished women who stared out at me from the glossy pages. They all seemed so successful (and so thin!).
But I wasn't ready. Every time I started to take definitive action toward getting a job that would actually take me out of the house, my heart seized and I knew that the time was still not right. In spite of my ambivalence about doing so, I stayed home. Maybe that's why Mother's Day was such a loaded event for me then. All my hopes, fears, and ambiguity about my role telescoped down into that one day. Somehow I expected this one sweet, silly, wonderful, 24-hour event to settle, finally and unambiguously, the internal battle that was raging inside of me. With this sort of mindset, no amount of flowers, handmade cards, or diamonds or emeralds, for that matter, would have satisfied me.
An End to Ambiguity
Enlightenment came slowly, one Mother's Day at a time. A tee-shirt decorated with the children's handprints one year, breakfast in bed another, a surprise weekend getaway on yet another. Each somehow built on the past, marking the progress of years and along with it my progress as a mother.
Finally, I got it and joined the ranks of women who have come to realize just how fleeting the parenting experience is. With this knowledge came appreciation and gratitude for every (well, almost every) moment with the children.
I met a woman in the gym whose eyes welled with tears when she spoke of her son who had just left for college. "I miss his messy room," she said. "I miss his sweaty socks and his smelly sports bag."
Missing sweaty socks? I understood completely. Which is why I am grateful for this Mother's Day, as well as all Mother's Days. And why I try to embrace every aspect of parenting. Yes, that means laundry, too.