The role of “mother” has been the most important and rewarding undertaking I have experienced in my adult life; albeit, I didn’t know at the outset how much is woven into the designation. Even having grown up as the firstborn of a stay-at-home mother and having developed a true appreciation of the ties between mother and child, I still was on the outside looking in until I grew into my own set of “mother” shoes. It is only then that you truly appreciate all the things your own mother did for you, tolerated from you, and dreamed for you.
I lost my mother to a stroke over a decade ago, but there really isn’t a day I do not think about her in some form or fashion. So much of who I am as a person generally, and as a mother specifically, is woven around and through the things I learned from my mother – things that I never even realized I was learning at the time. It is funny how much takes root in a person without them even realizing it at the time. Our relationships and experiences so profoundly shape us – for better or worse. Those relationships can come in a hundred shapes and sizes, but it is the role of “mother” that carries the greatest expectation and therefore the greatest responsibility.
Mothers are viewed as the molders and protectors of children. They are envisioned as the safe place to fall for their children – the keeper of all things heartfelt. But we know that not all mothers are the same and that they are not always the nurturers of children’s souls. Some mothers struggle, some spend many years finding their groove, and some even abandon the role entirely – the role designation is not one of performance, but rather one of birthright.
Let’s face it – being a mother is hard work and the skills and abilities attached to being the mother Hallmark writes cards for are not necessarily innate. Mothers are not born mothers – they are created. It is through the thousands of interactions and moments in their child’s life that they become the mother that is held in their child’s heart and mind. And it is that phenomenon that allows for a “mother” to be so designated based purely on love and commitment – a recognition that motherhood is not a journey merely marked by the birth of a child. There are so many mothers out there who may not have physically carried a child for nine months, but that have earned their stripes because they held little hands, bandaged bruised knees, hugged away doubts, and encouraged successes.
It is an important, but tough role. Mothers move from being needed all the time when children are young to being the bane of their child’s existence when they are teenagers to being afforded a knowing reverence when the child grows up and understands the commitment of the mother. It is the role of a lifetime and it does not take long for one to recognize that this role – the role of “mother” – has the power to completely dwarf all other roles.
There are many platitudes regarding mothers – some that would have you believe that mothers are angels on earth or that they are superior to regular mortals. While that level of appreciation may be nice on Mother’s Day, mothers know that they did not gain sainthood as part and parcel of accepting the role. They know that just as their child or children grew – so too did the richness in their role. Not every choice made was perfect and not every memory was endearing – it was never about perfection…it was about the care, commitment, and enduring bond that was being nurtured throughout it all.
Today, while you are honoring or remembering a mother, take the time to see the woman you are honoring or remembering as a regular person who took on the role of lifetime – a sometimes difficult, but richly rewarding role…a role she likely was naive at the outset about, but grew into over time. As a sign that has long hung in my house states, “Motherhood isn’t for wimps!” It is a multifaceted, incredibly difficult, and surprisingly nuanced role that is envisioned and embodied in each mother differently.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of those embracing the role of “mother” – may you find a moment or two in this day to reflect upon the rich gratification this role has brought you and will bring you in the future. While your official celebration may only come once a year, you know that every day as a mother is one in which you may create a memory that you and your child hang onto for the rest of your lives. It’s a great gig!
Day one thousand four hundred and four of the new forty – obla di obla da