I have noticed a strange phenomenon as Mother’s Day rolls around. On a day that we are to celebrate and honor all that motherhood is, I hear so many mothers saying that they detest Mother’s day. The arrival of the day is dreaded. It is a day when they hear about every selfless, wonderful, and perfect thing that every other mom is doing and feel completely inadequate and undeserving.
I’ve definitely fallen into this trap. Those days creep up on me where the house is a disaster area, the kids are fighting, my only accomplishment has been sitting on the couch looking at the computer and I end up throwing a half of a pb&j at my daughter as I shoo her off to school at the VERY last minute. The end of that day usually results in a pity party where I contemplate my utter and complete failure as a mother. Did I even read a book to my children today? Did they really watch that much television!?
And then there are those 3:00AM feedings when I’m sitting in the hallway of my small two bedroom home, as not to wake any of my sleeping family, nursing my little baby. In those quiet moments of reflection, holding my precious child, everything seems to be a bit more clear. Maybe it’s a delusional brain as a result of sleep depravation, but during that moment it seems to hit me. It’s not what I haven’t done that needs to be my focus, but what I HAVE done.
So what have I done?
I carried three babies for nine grueling months. I distinctly remember scrubbing the floors at 39 weeks with my first child. I was scrubbing, my back was killing me, I was yelling at my husband for no reason and I think at some point I was crying. That pregnancy stuff is hard and I did that for my family. I think I deserve a pat on the back. I have been pregnant for approximately 131 weeks of my life.
I pushed for two and half hours on my first. I arrived at the hospital at a 7 for my second child in the most excruciating, crush your husband’s hand, yelling at the nurses kind of pain. My epidural didn’t work all that well during the pushing of my third and “intense” would be the best way to describe that.
It would be really interesting to count the number of times I have been up in the night with a child or baby. 100? 300? Oh, much more than that I am sure.
I have been sick with worry over a fevered baby, a puking child, a yucky cough, a bean stuck up a nose, sore legs, a weird rash, funky looking poop, a stuffy nose and many other sorts of things. I have worried even more if I should take them to the doctor or give them medicine.
I have cleaned my house as a result of children so many times. It makes me weary even just typing those words. SO SO many times.
I have helped with homework, taught them to read, taught them about math and I know that this is only the beginning. I am pretty sure at some point I am going to have to relearn algebra, remember the periodic table and remember what a prepositional phrase is. I know the day of the dreaded science project is quickly approaching and I am more than certain at some point I will be dropping off forgotten homework at school in a frantic rush so it won’t be late.
I have given so many “I love you’s” ”I am so proud of you” ”You are such a good helper” and “How am I so lucky to have the most beautiful girls in the world.” It’s not much. But I think it makes a difference.
I have made lots of meals. I have had to endure some very harsh criticism from some very young food critics, and yet, I keep at it. They are well fed three times a day.
Have I accomplished anything huge? Not really. Have I opened an Etsy shop and started a non profit organization? Not recently. Have I never said a harsh word to my children and have accomplished complete harmony in my home? Definitely not. But as I think about it, that’s not really what Mother’s Day is all about. Being the “perfect” mother is not what makes the difference. I think it needs to be about those daily sacrifices that each of us makes for our families.
I recently had an experience that I felt put in perspective for me what being a mom is all about:
I found out I was pregnant with my third child in December. We were so excited to expand our little family and anxiously anticipated another little baby. I spent the entire Christmas holiday nauseous and tired. We received delicious Christmas treats from neighbors that I promptly threw in the trash because they made me gag.
I went to my first OB appointment and everything looked great. I loved seeing that wiggling little blob with a heartbeat on the screen. A few weeks following my appointment I started to have a little spotting. My husband, ironically, is an OB/Gyn and assured me that it is probably normal and I shouldn’t worry. Well, one cold January evening I asked my husband to do an ultrasound at his office just to be sure because we were going on a trip the following week and I wanted to put my mind at ease.
I will never forget that ultrasound. My poor husband wouldn’t even look at me. I just kept asking him, “Is there a heartbeat? Is there a heartbeat?” The look on his face assured my worst nightmare. I crumbled. I have never felt such heartache. I couldn’t believe that little wiggling blob I saw just a few weeks earlier was gone. My baby was gone.
We went home and the first thing I did was call my mom. At that moment of my greatest sorrow hers was the voice I needed most. She cried with me. She told me she wished more than anything she could take this trial from me. She offered to fly clear across the country just to be with me. Her love at that moment meant everything. It gave me strength. I could feel it as strongly as if she was sitting next to me.
That night I gathered my two girls into my arms and was so overwhelmed with my love for them. At that moment, I realized what being a mother was truly about. It wasn’t about the house, the food, the crafts or if my kids were reading when they were three. It was about the fact that I could hold them, breathe in their smell and have them as my own. It’s about the happy and wonderful moments that make every sacrifice completely worth it.
And to my own mom. Her influence is as clear today as when I was little. I am so thankful that even as a grown woman she still cries with me and is willing to fly across the country to be with me. You are my best friend. I hope that I can be that for my girls.
To all you imperfect mothers out there. You ARE changing the world and making a difference for your families. Get that husband of yours to make you breakfast in bed and cherish every homemade card and macaroni necklace from your dear children. You definitely deserve it.