Every year in May, there’s a day set aside for the Hallmark world of being a mother.
I think it’s great that there’s a day to celebrate mothers. There should be. But this day can be difficult for many mothers and Hallmark doesn’t always reflect the reality of motherhood.
Over the years, as both a child and now as a mother, I’ve embraced the love that comes with that day; the handmade cards, the sticky hugs, handprint trinkets and declarations of love and appreciation. Today, it’s two teenagers who did things for me around the house. That was the best gift ever.
But I can’t forget the mothers in war-torn countries, whose main priority today is keeping their children alive and safe.
I think of the mothers who became mothers to children that have severe disabilities, whose main priority is to fight every day for the child who has complicated needs and challenges most of us couldn’t imagine.
The mothers standing over hospital beds as their children battle prematurity, or cancer or other illness, or the mothers of children and teenagers who have mental health struggles or addiction or both. They may be crying in the hallway of a hospital today, only wanting to take their children’s’ pain from them and pleading with God to relieve their child of their suffering and give it to them instead.
I think of the mother’s who grieve their children; a group that no mother wants to be in, ever. These mothers are left standing with their broken hearts in their hands, trying the best they can to put it back together, trying to keep breathing, one day at a time. Knowing that it never will be whole again, because part of their heart has gone forever.
Mothers who give up their children for adoption so that those children can have a better life, mothers who adopt those children and give them the love their birth mother so desperately wanted them to have. Foster mothers and surrogate mothers, who give part of themselves so that those children can have a chance to have more in life. The sacrifice of all these mothers should be remembered on a day like today.
Mothers who are still here, who have loved unconditionally their whole lives, but now are old, or frail or have dementia and have forgotten it all. They now need the mothering that they so lovingly offered you. Remember them. Be gentle with them.
Women who long to be mothers and can’t. Be gentle with them too.
Single mothers, who are walking this journey alone. It’s one of the hardest. It’s doubting yourself every day, thinking that there’s no way you can go on, no way this can be done alone, but you get up the next day anyway and prove that it can. I celebrate them today.
Fathers, brothers, sisters and aunts and uncles who take over mothering, when a mother dies. Doing it willingly, because they know that that child needs them now, more than ever.
Motherless mothers. The ache of a heart today for a mother who has gone on to the next world but who you’d give anything just for her presence, even for a moment.
Teachers and nurses who mother by default because a mother isn’t available to nurture.
We celebrate all mothers, not just ones that Hallmark depicts. Because motherhood, in whatever form it takes, is hard my friends.
There’s immense joy and pain and guilt. There’s sacrifice, there’s relentless monotony, frustration and tears.
There are nights where you stand over the small bodies of children, or bigger ones, soaking in their scent, filled with guilt that you might be failing at something that society tells us should come easily to us.
Mothers standng in their living rooms waiting for their teens to get home safely, or those who take sharp intakes of breath if their phones ring in the night, fearing the worst.
Those of us who love our children for who they are, in spite of society telling them they shouldn’t have that right. We fight alongside those fellow-mothers.
Mothers who’ve been separated from their children because of war, or discrimination, or illness, especially those recently who’ve been removed from our country and their families in recent immigration raids. My heart hurts for those mamas.
Mothers who stand at graves or memorial sites today, as they hold it together in front of a world that doesn’t always understand grief and loss the way they should. There is no break from grief today or any other day. We can hold them up today. We celebrate their courage and unconditional love.
Mothering is universal,. The earth mothers us and we in turn, mother it. We all need to be mothered. The motherless among us can be included in those that need the tenderness their lives has been stripped of through loss. We need our village of mothers, taking turns to provide what we need in that moment. Grace and beauty are an intricate part of the process.
Mothers keep the hope in the world and keep the world going. They are the anchors to which we hitch ourselves and the hope in our future. The sacredness of mothering on every level is what we celebrate today. And every day after it.
Mothering is hugs and milestones and little arms around our necks, It is also sobbing on the bathroom floor at night wondering if you have failed completely. It is in the tightening of your throat when your child succeeds.. It’s in the flutter of pride and fear as you drive off and leave them on a college campus to figure out how spread their wings without you by their side. It’s in the sting of a comment that you’re a “terrible mother” from your teen and it’s in the shaky voice that says : “I still need you, Mom.” They are all entwined, these moments, these gifts.
It’s the great moments. Because they are great. The celebrations, the milestones, the graduations, the accolades. All amazing, But, the ones that make your heart hurt with pride are the moments when they show themselves as caring individuals who do something for someone else. Who want to make a difference in the world. When they choose to make the right choice, not the easier one, When you realize that they’re going to be who they are, with or without you. That they are fine human beings, not because of you, but despite you.
So thank you Hallmark. For a day to celebrate with cards, treasured handmade gifts and getting out of cooking. I’ll take it. But I’ll also take ordinary days, all the others that string together a necklace of history and growth and challenges overcome. The miracle of motherhood. Happy Mother’s Day mamas. Remember you’re all amazing, every single day.