Mother’s day is fast approaching, that marvelous day when we pay tribute to our mothers in the time-honored tradition of giving hundreds of millions of dollars to the Hallmark Corporation. Yes, Mother’s day is tons of fun, especially for us mothers. And who doesn’t need another bottle of Jean Naté?
My personal favorite part of Mother’s Day is breakfast in bed. My husband and the boys clatter around in the kitchen, then come clamoring up the stairs shushing each other, with the dog and cats expectantly in trail. When they enter the bedroom, I pretend I didn’t hear any of the ruckus and act surprised to see the breakfast tray. The experience is made all the more heartwarming if, before delivery, they’ve managed to take the foil wrapper off my Pop-Tart.
Two hours later, when I’m down in the kitchen cleaning up that very same breakfast tray, I ponder what Mother’s Day means to me. It’s supposed to be a day where we say thanks to Mom. Give her a day of rest. A day off. But I’ve never had a Mother’s Day off. I mean, a day off for a mom? What’s that? It would mean pretending you didn’t have children.
When a person makes the commitment to motherhood, a day off, for the rest of your life, is essentially out of the question. Sure, you can leave the kids at grandma’s for the weekend, but even then, although you’re children aren’t physically present, they’re still very much in your thoughts. Have you ever tried to see how long you could go without thinking about them? Worrying if they’re okay? Happy? Crying? Being stuffed full of too many cupcakes at Grandma’s house? I know I couldn’t make it for 24 hours.
This is the bond you make with the Universe when you bring a child into this world. You’ve created a link every bit as real as an umbilical cord. But here’s the thing: It’s more of a one-way cord. The love and concern and worry pours through to your child and sure, you get some of it back—but not all of it. And that’s okay. It has to be okay. It’s really the only way for the system to work. If you’ve done your job, your children will go out into the world with confidence and they’ll flourish, achieving all the goals and dreams they can dream and maybe even, occasionally on holidays, remembering to send you a Hallmark card.
That’s the reward. Not the card, but the happiness of your children. Nobody should decide to go into motherhood as a means of accumulating a collection of unopened bottles of Jean Naté. Being a mother isn’t about having or expecting the unconditional love of your children. It’s about giving your children unconditional love—without expectations.
I don’t think anyone who decides to become a parent really comprehends what it is they’re getting themselves into. I know I didn’t. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I mean that it’s a life experience that can barely, and only with very great difficulty, be put into words. When people tell you the tried and true phrase, “It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but the best thing you’ll ever do,” you can hear it, but you won’t really get it, until your kids are already here.
Earlier in life, my maternal urges were thin to non-existent. I was the fun-loving, party girl. I still don’t know what the hell happened. I never had any great affinity for children, especially not other people’s children. Sure I babysat when I was younger, and I did a good job, but pretty much those little munchkins were just a means for me to put myself into a new pair of Calvin Klein jeans.
I don’t remember all the driving factors that made my husband and I decide to become parents. Everyone else is doing it—seems to come to mind. Certainly listening to new parents didn’t help the case for parenthood. I remember my husband saying things like, “It would be fun,” and “Kids add the unexpected.” Then the next thing I knew, we ended up with these kids.
The best thing that ever happened to me.
My boys have brought me joy and laughter every single day they’ve been in my life.
While these are just my humble thoughts on what it means to be a mother, I know the jury’s still out for me in terms of my performance as a mom. My kids are only nine. I still have plenty of time to completely screw them up. But I do love them more than my own life, and I have only the best of intentions with regards to their upbringing. In this, I imagine I’m not alone.
All I know is, at least for now, if you love your kids and do your job to the best of your abilities, when that breakfast tray shows up on Mother’s day morning—your little angels will have, oh so lovingly, removed the foil wrapper from your Pop-Tart.