This post might lack eloquence, but I promise it won’t be void of honesty. I’ll type quickly and edits might be few because it feels more necessary to share it now before that One Day of the Year arrives rather than to write a long, well-voiced essay that won’t make it to your hearts on time. This is for you, my sisters, daughters, mothers.
(Also, please note that this isn’t meant to be an anti- Father’s Day, Moms vs. Dads, One-Is-Better-And-Worth-Celebrating-More-Than-The-Other post in ANY way whatsoever. If you know me, you know I value the dads of this world equally. Make no mistake about it. Fellas, I’ll have words for you next month.)
I woke early as I usually do, greeted Nadia who always beats me out of bed, and made my first stop to the bathroom. I glanced at myself in the mirror and did a quick evaluation to determine the state of my hair: Will it be washed, dry shampooed, or freshly curled? Curled it is. Today, I decided, we’ll take my annual Mama’s Day photos.
Black shirts and overalls for Nadi & me, new black onesie and jeans for Tash. I knew I should have purchased that pair of baby bibs on carters.com when I placed my last order. Ah well. We match well enough. Dana shook his head slightly with that one smile that melts me for days. He’s watched me “accidentally” match my outfits with our girls’ for years. I think he’s on to me.
We took our mildly spruced up selves to the front yard, feeling the chill of
spring winter air hit our underdressed skin. Why is it so cold outside? After a minute of showing Dana where I wanted him to stand with my camera and hearing Nadia say she was freezing and wanted to go inside and then Natasha yelling in my ear completely justified in her response to being dragged outside in a tiny tee when it was a temperature typically only experienced during spring in the arctic… I knew the only thing colder than our hands was my heart.
“For goodness’ sake! How come every time I want a picture, everyone is complaining?!” The first picture is cute, but the fourth is the most accurate. I threw my head back in laughter as I thought, Don’t worry- in a month I’ll take some photos of Dana and the girls for Father’s Day, and every one of them will be pure bliss. Cause, dads. Typical.
I called it quits after three minutes, and we went inside.
Funny thing is, as soon as I took off my faux lashes and the minute Dana looked at me, I actually began to cry. Hard. It no longer felt humorous to me. At first, I felt a little ashamed of my feelings of bitterness. But then the more I thought about it, I realized that there is a difference between motherhood and fatherhood, isn’t there? If that’s not the case, then why are there so many memes circulating right now that were created so us mothers could commiserate in our frustration of how we thought Our Day would go? We laugh to avoid the alternative, crying in self-pity.
Which was EXACTLY what I was doing.
I know, I know. This is so stinking petty and immature. My children were mildly whiney about being cold, and then I had a disproportionate response that — since we’re being honest here— was fueled by lack of sleep, hormones, and a skipped breakfast. Big whoop. But that doesn’t mean my feelings weren’t real or valid. They’ve just been buried for a while, and I was hangry enough to let them out.
Some might wish to remind me that motherhood is a high calling, and if you also speak Christianese, you may be inclined to add that “God notices what I do in secret & my reward should come from Him, not the praise of others.” Yeah. Ok. That’s fine. I love Jesus, and I’m so glad He notices and cares about my daily do’s. But lemme be real “worldly” here:
I want the friggin’ recognition right now.
I want the pat on the back, the “atta girl,” the raise! I want vacation days and cards and a big old festive feast in my honor. And, yes, it feels trivial, childish, and small, but it’s sincere. I wonder if you feel this way, too?
After a while, I decided instead of allowing myself to wallow, I should just swallow that chill pill invisibly placed in my palm. I came around and realized the root of my feelings of inequality were rooted in one thing: Expectations.
Having them isn’t always bad, no. But there is something ugly about having expectations for that ONE day a year. What happens if they’re unmet, if things doesn’t go right? (Whatever “right” is.) It sure can cloud our judgement and create room for doubts, making us forget how good we have it the other 364 days. Sure, kids might act crappy on Christmas, but are they normally grateful when they haven’t been overstimulated and overly-sugared? Probably. So a friend missed your birthday. But didn’t they check in with a handwritten sympathy card a couple months ago when no one else seemed to understand the pain you were experiencing after your beloved pet passed away? Do you remember the “just because” gifts you’ve received on days when you needed them most, or does your spouse’s forgetfulness of your once-a-year anniversary speak louder than the in-between days he still brings on the romance? And on Mother’s Day, maybe Dad and the kids didn’t bring you breakfast in bed, but they certainly have nourished your soul during the ordinary moments, and your kids have continuously gifted your heart with wide smiles of adoration upon greeting them after school– the kind that remind you that you are their safe place, their home.
Perspective certainly helps, doesn’t it?
Even still, if you feel “childish” like me and still want the One Day Celebration on top of the rest, it’s okay. You do hard work, and your feelings are certainly valid. So let me gift you with one thing before you get on with it:
You are noticed, mama.
You are valuable and important and worth celebrating in any kind of way you wish. I know what you may have given up to get here. I know the pain of those long, exhausting, never-ending days and the relief that comes when the sun sets and the work is nearly over. I also know that sometimes, when the babes are in bed, you miss them and wish to hold them again, even if it goes against what you said all day. Ah, motherhood.
I know how many diapers you change and how many meals you make. I also know how many plates you’ve filled that go uneaten or tossed to the floor leaving you feeling unimportant, unappreciated, and living a work life that is unending. Another meal, another dish to wipe clean, another day. I know the spills you clean, the broken crayons you pitch, the tears you tenderly wipe from their eyes (and yours), like only a mother can. I know the books you read and the questions you answer all. day. long.
This Mother’s Day, I encourage you to do the one thing that may help you get through this easier than the last: Lower your expectations and fix your eyes on your own people. Nevermind that Debbie got a rich bouquet from her husband, a painting of handprints from her children, a spa gift certificate, and a puppy. If those things are important to you, then get ‘em. Seriously. Give yourself the gift you want OR tell the people you love that real, tangible—and if you want that puppy, then living— gifts are the thing that will make you feel extra celebrated and the most loved. (I, for one, bought myself a king size assorted cheesecake, because I dig sweets I can share with my own Sweet’s, thankyouverymuch.) But, dear mama, keep loving those babies like you do every other day of the year: changing diapers, wiping tears, cleaning boogers, bandaging boo boos, scooping them up for tickles and wrapping them up in the coziest blankets of love. Make the bottles, feed the bellies, read their stories and answer all the questions again and again and again.
Yes, God does see you, and He notices you and loves you and smiles at you and would give you The Best Mom Dundie Award if it would make you smile back. As would your children, as would I. You’ve earned it.
And if you need to know it, this day or any day- I see you, too.
Happy Mother’s Day, dears.