To the Unsung Heroes of Mother's Day
Because it's not all champagne and roses for everyone...
(originally posted in 2013)
Happy Mother’s Day. This Sunday is a day where we sing out loud the praises of the mothers, the women who brought us into this world, gave us their genes, raised us the best they could, and tried to steer us towards happiness. Odes to mothers and their sacrifices abound before and on this day, and to that I say huzzah. It is as it should be.
But I want to sing the praises of the unsung this Mother’s Day, because they deserve to hear this song deep in their hearts. Instead of “you wouldn’t really understand this because you’re not a mom.” Or, “Someday when you have children of your own you’ll understand.” Or, “you don’t have kids? WHY? That is selfish.” Or anything else that is ridiculous, invasive, or self righteous.
Happy Mother’s Day to the stepmothers, the women raising other people’s children, often without the full blessings and agency that a biological parent takes for granted. To the women who tend scrapes, feel sad when their step kids suffer defeat, clean up barf, and rush them to the emergency room only to be told they need to go fetch a legal parent, I salute you. To anyone who has felt truly maternal feelings towards someone who needs to point out that you’re not their real mom, I think you should get the massage and the manicure this year.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who are experiencing difficulty and hardship conceiving a child. I see you there, my sisters, I feel your pain. Whether you have already had a child and are experiencing secondary infertility, or you’ve never had a child and can’t seem to conceive, or if you’ve had one miscarriage or two or three or ten, or if you’ve had round after round of IVF to no avail, or if you don’t want to call yourself pregnant yet because you don’t want to get your hopes up…or those of you who wanted at least one or at least one more and didn’t get that wish, I am wishing you the most awesome, magical and happy Mother’s Day, and that there can be some part of your day, like the sun on your face or the joke of a friend, that brings you a smile.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of the child-free women who play with my child and behave as though her little-child ramblings are unique and novel, because to you who haven’t heard it for the billionth time, it is, and I’m so grateful for the fresh energy you bring to all of the children that you touch.
Happy Mother’s Day to anyone who has taken an interest in my child and delighted in her, not because you felt like you had to, but because you enjoy her. To all the aunties, biological or not, who make kids feel special and give tired parents a break, I give you a tearful, grateful, Mother’s Day hug. All the people who have been polite and understanding if my kids were loud or obnoxious in public places, I love you.
To the woman in the office who covers for the mom who has to rush out and care for a sick kid, Happy Mother’s Day! If the world were more kind, you’d be gifted a shelf of free yogurts and an extra vacation day for your efforts. I don’t work in a traditional office environment, but if I did, I wouldn’t take you for granted and I promise I would not act or feel superior to you or anyone else just because I’ve pushed forth life from my uterus. Because if there’s anything worse than lack of acknowledgment, it’s the lack of acknowledgment coupled with pointless and unfounded condescension. I’m giving a virtual smack to any annoying mothers in your office who do this. PS: thank you for sticking up for the woman who needs to disappear every two and a half hours to pump milk.
And to all the women who have chosen to birth ideas and projects, grassroots movements and crusades to help others, in addition to or instead of birthing actual human beings, I want to celebrate you today as well. You break glass ceilings, provide hope and inspiration, and show women that they are so much more than the ability to create life in her uterus and to procure sperm for this purpose. Those of you who are passionately devoted to your life’s work and know that you cannot balance having a child, or who don’t particularly want to, you seriously make the world a better place and I want to tell you on Mother’s Day that you rock.
Those of you who really wanted a child, but chose not to have one because you knew you didn’t have the resources or couldn’t pursue your other goals or knew that because of your health concerns or mental illness that you might not be able to be there 100 percent, you deserve to come to the brunch. That is a tough call, and you are a grown up, my friend, and I notice and appreciate how clear and accepting you are.
To the single dads doing the work of both mom and dad, happy Mother’s Day.
To the gay dads, single or coupled, who are doing the same, happy Mother’s Day! To the transgender women and men who identify as mother, Happy Mother’s Day. I hope someone brings you pancakes in bed.
To anyone who has loved a furry, feathery, scaly, or amphibian baby and taken them into their heart and home, especially you doing the rescue work, you deserve a mimosa today with all the rest of us.
To anyone who had a shitty childhood, or a mother who really messed up and isn’t sorry, or lost their mother way too soon, or never had one, I see you too. You are often the one mothering everyone else. I see you and that sad little girl inside of you and I am giving you both a hug. Today is a day to celebrate yourself and all you have survived. Do something nourishing for yourself and honor your inner child as well as yourself as a nurturer.
And to the planet that sustains all of us, because I didn’t do a good job of saying this on Earth Day AT ALL, I would like to wish a happy Mother’s Day to Mother Earth. I am always striving to figure out better ways to take care of you. It seems like the right thing to do in a world where we keep having babies that challenge your ability to sustain us all.
If you are an unsung hero of Mother’s Day, I hope this post makes you feel less alone. The truth is, a lot of us have tunnel vision about what it means to be a mother, what it means to sacrifice and love, and what it means to nurture and care for something or someone and put their needs before yours. You might have to celebrate yourself, write yourself your own note of appreciation, take yourself to the beach. But I absolutely give you permission to do this, because you ARE that important and needed. You are loved. I appreciate you. Happy Mother’s Day.