What Should Mother’s Day Mean?

Mornings with the Kids
Real morning portrait.

Today is Mother’s Day, something which I remembered partially, and was very proud of myself for getting a small package into the mail for my own mother, although it likely won’t make it until tomorrow. However, my husband forgot. I didn’t really think to remind him a few days ago when I remembered long enough to head to the post office with the kiddos. After that I forgot again until this morning when I woke up sandwiched between my daughters, after a night of nursing my nine month old every twenty minutes, feeling groggy as if I hadn’t slept at all. I brought the girls out to the living room while my husband and son slept on, and I remembered.

Today is Mother’s Day! I should be in bed right now! He should have had the kids make messy but cute homemade cards! We should have plans for an idyllic family day, or I should have the day off! I didn’t really feel resentful at this point, but I was working up to it. “Haha,” I thought, “I’ll tell him it’s Mother’s Day knowing he forgot, and now he’ll feel guilty and let me go back to bed!” Then I remembered his usual statements about Hallmark holidays, “Everyday is Mother’s Day.” I used to think this was an excuse, a way to ignore a chance to make someone feel special, but today I finally get it.

Of course we should show our mothers that they are special on Mother’s Day, and I’m sure my husband will offer me some flowers or something today, but please, let’s not forget moms the rest of the time. As a homeschooling mom of three, I spend a lot of time thinking about parenting and motherhood, and as far as I can see, it is generally under-appreciated, overlooked, overwhelming, and pretty much impossible to feel like we are doing a good job in this society, at this time. Working moms are frustrated that they aren’t with their kids as much as they would like, at-home moms are frustrated that their work isn’t valued, everyone is frustrated with household tasks that there isn’t enough time to do, self-care we’re supposed to be taking time for that seems more like a burden than a luxury, a lack of maternity leave, vacation time, and support from dads who are working outside the home. And where do we find nurturing, non –competitive, deep social connections with other mothers? How do we create a fair, supportive relationship with our spouse that prioritizes our own personal time as well as our partner’s, as well as time to grow as a couple, as well as satisfying family time? How do we connect with our children deeply and authentically when they are in school for eight hours a day and have homework in the evenings and we are all exhausted?

These are not happy, friendly Mother’s Day sentiments, so I’m sorry if I’m reminding you of something negative on a day when we should be celebrating. I do want to celebrate mothers today, including myself, and I want to do it the way my husband suggests when he says, “Every day is Mother’s Day.” He may have forgotten that the calendar says to remember moms today, but yesterday he let me sleep in for three hours while he cared for and played with our three children, and managed to keep them quiet in the hallway so they didn’t disturb me. Then he took our two older kids to the park for two hours while I spent quiet one on one time with our baby. He does one or both of these things every Saturday. The day before he took the day off from work to spend the day hiking through a redwood forest in a nearby state park with our two older children. As a homeschooling mom this was a great break, even just for my mind not to have to keep track of all the kids. I appreciate the way he helps care for our family, by working outside the home, but also by genuinely witnessing and appreciating the work I do in the home, with our kids. To the best of his ability and time, he offers me time off to recharge, and listens to the details of my day, and my ideas and problems. If I need support, I know I can come to him, and that makes my life and work not just possible, but meaningful.

In the past few weeks I have had a conversation with a long time nanny who doesn’t have her own kids. Her husband passed away, then she went to culinary school to become a pastry chef, then she had breast cancer and after recovering, began to work as a nanny, and has been caring for others’ children as if they are her own for the past thirty years. I found her story moving and inspiring. I also spoke with a friend who is a mother of two who told me that she had an older child who passed away a few years ago, something I hadn’t known and almost couldn’t imagine, something that I have thought about every day since. When I think of her sunny demeanor and obvious love for her two younger children, I feel sadness but mostly a tremendous amount of hope. I had a long conversation about motherhood with a twenty-four year old mother of two who is struggling to make ends meet by working nights in a restaurant and caring for her little ones all day, giving a whole new meaning to working a double shift. These women inspired me to remember that we may see women with children today and have a sweet or sentimental thought or word for them, but we don’t know the depth of their stories, the complexity of their struggles, or the nature of what motherhood looks like for them. There are many people for whom this day is unbearably sad, whether they have lost their mothers or children, or long to be a mother. I would ask us all to be compassionate toward the daily struggles of every kind of mother, to work toward appreciating our own work and our partner’s, and to care for ourselves and each other with love.

Happy Mother’s Day.

At the beach with my Mom.
At the beach with my Mom.
Mo's forest selfie with the kids on Friday.
Mo’s forest selfie with the kids on Friday. I was busy staying in my pajamas all day. Every day is Mother’s Day folks!

2 thoughts on “What Should Mother’s Day Mean?

  1. great post, Caitlin! As you often do, seeing all sides of an issue, with loving kindness, honesty, and equity. May I say , I am proud to be your Mom and the Grandmother of your three beautiful children, and so happy for you that you have such a loving and wonderful husband!

  2. Oh Caitlin this is beautiful and one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever read about Mother’s Day and mothering itself. You as a mother, and your relationship with your mother are a blessing and a balm to witness. Thank you for your realness and honesty. Motherhood is both idealized and also devalued in our culture (like so much pertaining to women). Thanks for the inclusiveness of this post, for many of us grieve our mothers (or the kind of mother we never had). and then there are those who want children and don’t have them, and those who have children but aren’t close…I really like Mo’s sentiment on this!

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