NOT Your Mother’s Mothers’ Day

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  • NOT Your Mother’s Mothers’ Day

Do you feel it?

I think the way we look at moms is shifting…

I think there is greater recognition for what we do. For the parts that are tangible and the parts that are not. For what we sacrifice and don’t get back, even if yes, there are sweet rewards. For the costs – to our bodies, our careers, our psyches when we wonder if we are doing right by our children. (Approaching discipline in an age-appropriate way? Over scheduling or under scheduling them? Leaving them too much or helicopter parenting? Respecting their preferences or coddling???) I think, for a few reasons including those below, we might be approaching a cultural shift towards a climate where we honor and revere mothers for all they do. Where we stand in solidarity with any mother who feels judged, gypped, or unsupported. Where we elevate the status of motherhood to where it is consistent with the significance of bearing life, nurturing bodies, spirits and minds, to where it includes acknowledgement of giving up any chance at autonomy or predictability, any chance of being able to make one decision that doesn’t hinge on four or five others, any chance of ever feeling like we’ve mastered anything for a good 18+ years, or probably forever.

The fact that partners are playing a larger and larger role in the active, down-and-dirty parts of the parenting role is one contributing factor – more and more they understand what we “do all day,” to evoke that old stereotypical lack of understanding. I see spouses all around me hold the mothers of their children in high regard: compliment their patience during a tantrum because they’ve felt for themselves how hard it is to maintain self control in those moments; recognize the dedication it takes to succeed at any length of a breastfeeding arrangement, or the difficulty of letting go of the arrangement we envisioned; share the burden and acknowledge that even if she’s not headed to an office the next day, being woken up all night long affects her day too because she will be working too.

On social media we are seeing struggles play out now in a much more public way, as brave souls decide to tell their real, hard truths in hopes it makes someone else feel less lonely… or in hopes it helps someone else down the road… or just in hopes that by naming it their whole world won’t fall apart… This gives us glimpses into battles with infertility, health complications of mother or baby, special needs, and even loss. Loss in utero, loss in childbirth, devastating, shocking loss when you’ve crossed those thresholds and you think you just might be home free. This leads to a growing recognition that motherhood isn’t just what it looks like on a Hallmark card or a Johnson and Johnson’s commercial. That every time we embark on this journey we are rolling the goddamn dice.There are no guarantees. It is scary. It makes sense that we worry. And finally, we are starting to be permitted to talk about it.

I also think we’re seeing a new level of questioning about our assumptions and judgement about mothers and motherhood, in part due to a large movement to squash the “mommy wars.” Maybe you grew up scoffing at those women who were “just” a mom, because of your feminist ideals and/or career goals, but then you had children of your own and saw just how complex that decision is, how maybe it actually depends on what kind of baby you got, on their health and temperament and your health, mental or physical. Or maybe you grew up receiving messages about how those “working moms” were out of touch with their ownchildren, unfeeling and cold.. only to learn that you yourself feel empty without a career, feel like you’re crawling out of your skin if you can’t do that thing – that thing you’re really good at, or passionate about, or trained really hard to learn how to do. And then maybe you see how you can go do it, and come home, and still know your children better than anyone else can.

So yes, absolutely get her flowers. Maybe take her to brunch, sure why not (it’s likely that a cappuccino and a mimosa are warranted). But this is not your Mother’s Mother’s Day, when things were maybe just a bit too polite. We know too much. We’ve seen too much. We’ve pulled taboos from the closet and paraded them around for all to see, confronting you (and ourselves) with your assumptions, the pretty pictures in your head, your shock that someone would complain about beautiful, miraculous new life, about the privilege that is motherhood. Privilege, yes. Sacrifice, equally. Let’s not just tell half of the story, or shame her for wanting to tell the other half.

Happy (Sad, Scary, Overwhelming, Magical, Beautiful, Heartbreaking,Complicated) Mother’s Day.

Kathryn KeenerNOT Your Mother’s Mothers’ Day

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