This Mother’s Day, we are having both sides of our family over to our house for brunch. We’ve done it a few times before, and it works pretty well as a way for both my husband and me to see our mothers, as well as our sisters (who are also mothers) and their families. Everyone brings stuff, we all eat and talk, and that’s that. But here’s what I’ve heard: why do that!? Then you have to clean before and clean up after, and then it’s not mother’s day for you. Well, yeah. But so what?
I get a little weary when I read — more and more in recent years — stories and essays and blog posts about how hard it is to be a mother. And yes, it is hard and it is often thankless. Well, yeah. But so what?
Is it only me who finds cringe-worthy all the blog posts and commercials and sitcom plots about how mom holds it all together while everyone else (from the dad on down to the babies and the pets) are hopeless, helpless, selfish and clueless?
Is it only me who finds cringe-worthy all the blog posts (and entire blogs, and books, often marketed as “gift books” for moms) about how mom needs her break and mom needs her Chardonnay and mom needs to get with her girlfriends and trash their useless, selfish husbands and messy, selfish children and bemoan their sticky floors and their lack of appreciation?
You’ll read a lot of legitimately funny stories around this time of year about moms not being able to use the bathroom or shower without being busted in on by their kids. You’ll see Facebook posts and memes about moms drinking wine while fantasizing about their husbands morphing into Bradley Cooper or whoever is this year’s Sexiest Man Alive. And you’ll laugh, because there’s always a grain of truth in the humor.
But I’d like to try to re-frame the “hard” thing a little bit. Being a parent is hard, at different times of a child’s life and for different reasons. Trying to get my son to nurse for the first week of his life was hard (and then it got so, so blissfully easy!). Now, 10 years later, navigating the special-education system in our school district, walking the line between wanting my son to feel “right” and happy at school and reach his potential and not wanting him to change one bit because I love him just as he is feels almost unbearably hard. I wish I could just nurse him and make it all better!
That stuff is hard. It’s not hard to take a shower or use the bathroom alone, if that’s what you want to do.
You know what all these Mother’s Day themes and memes about the selflessly tough life of the modern mother make me think? That it’s all a big dog and pony show that distracts us from what’s really hard about parenthood: supporting a family. Figuring out work-life balance. Making marriages strong and healthy.
Life is harder than motherhood, and motherhood gives you quite a bit of joy in there with the grass stains on the new clothes and the crumbs on the floor and the all-night vomit sessions.
I’m fine — more than fine! — having the family over here, and doing whatever work needs to be done before and after they descend on my kitchen to make the floor sticky (again). I’m not a princess; I’m a mother.
Now, pass the Chardonnay.
(And thank you to folks on the Mean Moms Rule Facebook page who gave me a lot of food for thought on this issue, as well as some good nuggets such as this: We need to stop the exhaustion-as-status-symbol thing.)