Acknowledging The Whole Picture of Motherhood


In case you missed the memo, yesterday was a big day.

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother’s Day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mothers Day is one of those holidays that bears the weight of impossible cultural expectations. I’ve had some doozies of Mothers Days in the past few years. There were three in a row, in the infertility years, when I tried to pretend the day didn’t even exist. But the mother of all Bad Mothers Days was the one I spent in the PICU with Julianna. She wasn’t in any danger by that time, so all my emotional energy went into feeling sorry for myself. After all, I’d asked for only one thing for Mothers Day: brunch at one of those wonderful buffets. Instead,  I was sitting under fluorescent lights being bored out of my skull and trying to keep a baby entertained while his sister slept…or didn’t.Since then, I’ve kept my expectations for Mothers Day pretty low. The whole thing is a crock, anyway. You should appreciate your mother all the time; this is just one more way to separate people from their money. As a stay-at-home mom, the best Mothers Day gift I can imagine is for someone to take them off my hands for a whole day so I can just relax! And, um, that’s not quite the point. Ahem.

This year, by the time the weekend rolled around, I was in not in a great frame of mind. Witness my Facebook status:

These are the days that make me want to engage in some serious theatrical drama. In an attempt to get naps coordinated, I force Michael to stay awake for an extra half hour till I get lunch on and the others are half done. Then I put him down, get them finished with lunch, and upstairs they go. Julianna goes in and wakes Michael up.

1 1/2 hours later, I despair of getting him back down by nursing, so I put him in his room and pray he’ll go down before he wakes Julianna up. After ten minutes of him crying, NICHOLAS wakes up wailing in the other room. I comfort him, tell him it’s not time to get up yet, and go back downstairs.

Ten minutes after THAT, Michael wakes Julianna up. I carry her into my room to finish her nap. Michael settles down at last. Three minutes after THAT, the @#$%^&*( neighbor turns on some jack hammer-sounding piece of lawn equipment…which won’t work. So he starts it again. And again. And again. And every time, Michael screams AGAIN.

Three minutes after THAT, Dish Network pounds (I don’t mean “knocks,” I mean “pounds”) on the door. “I’M NOT INTERESTED,” I say, and slam the door in their faces.

And Michael is crying again.

Michael did not sleep for FOUR AND A HALF HOURS on Friday afternoon. I spent the whole evening composing a long, foul blog rant in my head.

But Christian has been on a multi-year campaign to redeem my faith in Mothers Day. Last year, he took us all to a brunch buffet–quite an investment with our then-three children. It was wonderful. This year, he came home with a crabapple tree for me (I adore crabapple trees, and he hates them), and we bought a new outdoor table and chairs, which he and my parents put together at great inconvenience and time expenditure so we could eat our dinner outside yesterday. (Babe, you rock!)

It’s human nature to hug the extremes, I suppose. We get into a negative funk and look for things to get P.O.’d about, and then someone hears us and goes to the opposite pole: “Just enjoy it! It goes so fast!” I defy you to enjoy a baby who’s mad and refusing all forms of comfort for four solid hours. Please. Be real.

The reality, and it’s an uncomfortable one, is this: “Motherhood is the only time you can experience Heaven and Hell at the same time.” You can’t deny either part; to do so devalues the whole. In contemplating this humble post, less than a blip on the radar of the blogosphere, much less the sum total of human history, I traveled from borderline murderous rampage to blissful transcendence to grace-filled tolerance and back to pulling my hair out. (Fussing baby + preschooler who is physically incapable of closing his mouth while awake + clumsy daughter knocking over the marble run for the tenth time in half an hour = Mommy Meltdown.)

I think I would be less jaded about holidays like Mothers Day more if those trying to separate us from our money were a little less rosy about the whole thing and acknowledge how darned tough it often is. We all need affirmation. That’s why the card Christian gave me last night was so perfect:

The inside reads: “And that was all just since yesterday!” Did I mention my husband rocks?

16 thoughts on “Acknowledging The Whole Picture of Motherhood

  1. Aww. I get it about Mother’s Day being just a way to separate us from our money. Yesterday was probably the best mother’s day ever and we didn’t spend any additional money! I took the kids to the amusement park (we have season passes this year) and just spent time with them where I wasn’t nagging them to clean their rooms or fold their clothes and put them away. It was a big departure from a regular Sunday, that is. 🙂

    I’m glad you got to eat your dinner outdoors! I keep trying to figure out a way to do that where it doesn’t feel like such a hassle…We have outdoors furniture for our deck and lots of space outside to enjoy a meal, but I just haven’t figure it out yet.

    • Eating outside is a hassle no matter how you do it. You just have to decide to do it. 🙂

      BTW…I have a suspicion which park that was, and I am sooooooo envious!

  2. For the past several years, Lydia has asked me what I’d like (to receive) for Mother’s Day… and my answer is always the same.
    “I want well behaved children.”

    She laughs at this. She thinks I’m being silly… that I *must* want something else, something tangible, maybe edible. And each year, my wish goes unfulfilled.

    They came in yesterday with cute handmade cards, full of promises: My 4-year-old was going to do the dishes, the 3-year-old was going to fold and put laundry away… *snicker* and Lydia was going to cook us dinner. It made me shudder to think what my house would look like afterwards.

    Throughout the day, they fought, bickered, and whined, forcing me to implement time-outs and referee arguments.

    In the end, I did the dishes and laundry, and my husband made dinner… and we wondered if Mother’s Day might be appreciated more by mothers with grown children. (Same goes for Father’s Day, haha) 😛

      • I think we’ll enjoy their cards, e-mails, and lunch dates much more after they have moved out and finally realize how much we meant to them. Especially since they’ll be forced to cook and clean for themselves…. LOL 😉

  3. Kelley

    This post actually brought me to tears. The pressure felt to be perfect can sometimes be overwhelming to me. I do the exact same things at least once a day. I can go from heart melting to nuclear meltdown in a matter of seconds. Who ever thought that having children is easy, doesn’t have them. Thanks for putting into words the way I feel.

  4. Love the card and know what you mean about the best present being having someone take the kids off your hands. When my two big ones were young, my husband worked six days a week. Weeknights consisted of picking the kids up, feeding them, finishing homework, bathing them and putting them to bed. By that time any shopping was a rushed trip to Wal-Mart, if I really had to go. Joe could watch them on Sunday, but so often we had fun stuff to do as a family. One year he asked me what I wanted for MD and I told him “a day off” and he gave it to me (no nursing baby at that point). After mass I headed for the art museum, and then the bookstore and came home ever so much happier. He asked me this year if I wanted a day off and I could honestly say I’d moved beyond that–he’s home on weekends now, and with two teens in the house (oops a teen and a twenty) I can find a sitter and go out when I need to–its not quite the privilege it was in those years.

  5. Don’t feel bad about wanting a day off! This year, I sent the toddler to Grandma’s and my husband and I *read*for*pleasure*(!!) while snuggling a newborn. Best Mother’s Day evah!

  6. othermother6

    Another thought about Mother’s Day: acknowledging the whole picture is very different for some people. Mother’s Day for foster and adoptive families is sometimes not so nice. For some kids, it’s “You’re not my momma day” or “I love you but I miss (or worry about) my other mother,” or “I’m so mad that my mom didn’t take care of me that I can’t be nice to anyone” day. It’s very complicated for some families. Holidays are crisis times for some of our kids, so the lower-key we can keep it, the better. Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s day – whether they are happy memories or sad, it’s not an easy day. I also think about those mothers who have lost their children through the system, miscarriage or death, or those who struggle with infertility. The truth is, though, Mother’s Day is not perfect for anyone, because we are imperfect people. Imperfect mothers and imperfect children for our mothers. We can appreciate the good things, though — the happy times, the memories, and for those of us who are older, the fact that our children grew up to be great adults because of or in spite of our raising. 🙂

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