Friday, May 22, 2009
Mother's Day Blues
I got to be with my 80 year-old mother for Mother’s Day this year. It was wonderful to reminisce, laugh and cry, eat, play games, and talk to each other face to face. It was also interesting to learn that after all these years of mothering my mom still despises Mother’s Day.
She hated this day when I was growing up, but I thought it had more to do with the fact that raising seven children can be a tiring and sometimes thankless job. As the Matriarch of a very large family I thought her feelings would somehow convert to a different bandwidth, to relish this day with all the accolades that go with this stage of her life. However, that is not the case.
It seems that all of the drippy greeting cards which herald motherhood perfected and the glowing talks in church with the seemingly flawless remembrance of mothers, is a stark contrast to the realties of rising at the crack of dawn to prepare a nice Sunday dinner and getting seven children ready for church, just to go and listen to everyone talk in a foreign language known only to June Cleaver and other TV moms who solve all the problems of the world in 30-minutes while wearing pearls and a constant smile, have tainted the day forever.
All of these vaulted heights of mothering can create a sense of failure for those who do the drill every day, week in and week out without fanfare! This single day seems to bring into focus the less-than-perfect realties and creates a wide gap when you know you will hit the same routine tomorrow with no trumpets to announce your grand entrance!
At any rate, it is surprising that my mom still feels that way, especially knowing how much she is loved by all of her family for the things she has done and continues to do for her posterity. I reminded her that a woman’s greatest role is the influence she has on her own children, which in turn influences generations for years to come. I then asked how she could compare herself against a false measure of her true worth, which seems to be the root of her discomfort with the day. She didn’t have an answer for that question, other than she just doesn’t like to hone in on motherhood when she knows her own shortcomings and feels like she doesn’t fully meet the expectations or self-comparisons. (I can relate to this!)
I honor my mom for many things. I picture her hands in service to all of us and thank her for at least 20,000 home-cooked meals she prepared before I struck out on my own. She cooked three-square meals a day from scratch, including homemade bread for our school lunches and a host of wonderful treats after school every day.
She washed and ironed mounds of clothing, hanging all of the clothes on the clothesline until the early 1970’s… she canned fruit and vegetables, sewed our dresses, read to us, sang with us and created a sense of security that only being at home can bring. The wonderful memories, and feelings of home evoke a longing for childhood days gone by.
Besides the obvious chores of washing and ironing, cleaning and cooking, my mom was at home at the important junctions of the day. Our comings and goings were often signaled with no more than a holler at the door, “Mom!” ...just to make sure she was there…and there were very few times in my childhood when she wasn’t there to greet me back.
I vividly recall a time when money must have been tight and my mom applied for a job at a local retail store. She lasted just one day at the cash register and when I went with my dad to pick her up she came out in tears, haunted by the idea that her children were coming home to an empty house. That “heart tug” of responsibility was one of the single most important unspoken lessons in mothering I ever had. She wanted to be at home with her children, and combined with my dad’s efforts, they managed for her to do so. She did childcare and later did some bookkeeping at home to earn extra money and be there with us at the same time.
To have her steadying influence day in and day out was a gift beyond measure and one I will always thank her for. We sacrificed in terms of the material things a part-time job could provide, but those frills pale in light of having our mom home to comfort, guide and care for us.
It is not adequate to thank our mothers just once a year. Their influence is felt in everything we do for our own children on a daily basis. Indeed our mother’s influence continues for generations to come!
Spontaneous gratitude will likely have more of an impact when given in sincerity rather than on a designated day. If your mother is still living, count yourself blessed and give her a call or drop her a note to thank her today!