Before moms around the world start throwing things at the screen: If you like your Mother’s Day, you can keep your Mother’s Day. Moms deserve honor, respect, time, gifts, love, and appreciation in whatever form they like, including gooey kisses from tiny mouths and spa gift cards from dads.
That said, for a lot of moms (and dads) I know, the holiday has worn thin, often due to the burden of meeting unrealistic expectations during a period of life that’s already exhausting, overwhelming, and overburdened with tasks big and small. But there’s another unspoken reason that’s hard for many moms to articulate. I’ll try.
Motherhood Is Logistics-Stacked
A mother’s brain is like a washing machine, each item represents something or someone important: work, sports, kids, spouse, friends—all tumbling and jumbling, fighting for top spot. There’s school—private, public, or home school, and for each teachers, assistants, and principals, and daily homework or special therapy for reading, speech, or other problems.
Of course, no childhood is complete without playdates, free play (here’s when all the kids break their arms), and organized sports. The practices and games alone represent four to five hours or more per week, per child. Because parents want their children to be well-rounded, they enroll them in music lessons, dance lessons, or other artistic ventures.
All of this must be juggled and managed, and with a smile. No kid wants a grumpy mom lest dad be dubbed, like my kids have theirs, the “fun dad.”
These are aside from other duties women, not just moms, take on, like work, friendships, housekeeping, groceries, and caring for other family members. Of course, men and fathers often participate in all this, too. Pew Research proves dads help out now more than ever, and this isn’t even close to a rant about gender roles. Whether dad’s a superdad or a PS4 dad, however, moms tend to do this stuff more often because that’s in the job description. Though many relish it, that doesn’t make it a less difficult logistical jungle.
Motherhood Works Your Emotions
At times motherhood is physically and emotionally wearing, which amplifies what is already an emotionally sobering task. I haven’t slept more than three consecutive nights in 10 years due to one child or another getting up, from bad dreams to vomiting, wetting the bed, and needing a drink. There’s constant “mom guilt” from wrangling over “Why I can’t just rid my pantry of processed foods once and for all or feed them more organic choices” to why I just yelled at a 10-, 7-, 5-, and 3-year-old for creating a mess in our basement and failing to cleaning it up. (I asked them to forgive me. Thankfully, they did).
No person except another parent can fully understand how it feels to give every ounce of energy in your body to another human being (or four) all day long yet feel completely filled and simultaneously drained at the taste of four goodnight kisses and pleas to read just one more book (I can’t help but say yes).
No person can assuage the terror you feel in a store when your child goes missing for 30 seconds that feel like eternity, or prepare you for the ache in your heart when the ten-year-old comes home shedding quiet, hot tears because he’s felt the steam of being bullied from boys figuring out how to be men.
No anguish can make up for ending the day realizing that, while I may not have lost my temper, I did not hug every one of my children and tell them I and Jesus love them today. Or perhaps that day for a moment I wished—then felt guilty for wishing—I had chosen a career other than raising little people to be responsible big people.
Mothers’ Tasks Loom Large
This is why I hate the homogenized, commercial freak show that Mother’s Day has become. Not only can no Hallmark card capture the myriad emotions that arise in a mother from one moment to the next, but no amount of flowers signals adequate appreciation either. No son or daughter can thank a parent for all he or she has done. It is a sacrificial, agape love that can never be repaid.
But doesn’t that mean we should attempt to honor it all the more? With what, a $200 brunch your family can’t afford? A day solo at the spa? A night out with friends? Whether mundane or grandiose, doesn’t it still make the thing feel that much smaller that every day tugs and pulls and grates and excites every mother’s waking moments?
Some moms might hope for a day off or a fun outing with their kids on Mother’s Day, but most moms I know deep down want someone to make sense of, to acknowledge, to appreciate the wrangling in their hearts over their 10-year-old’s sudden sarcasm, the slight humiliation over an adult correcting the seven-year-old’s speech impediment, the pride over the five year-old’s tranquil spirit, the embarrassment that her three-year-old boy just learned to use the bathroom by himself and still doesn’t know all his colors.
Motherhood Is Too Big for One Day
This is what it is to raise children. These are the ideas, emotions, dreams, fears, frustrations, failures, and successes that weave in and out of a mom’s mind 1,000 times from breakfast until bedtime. It is an all-encompassing, all-exhausting, all-consuming task every mother deep down knows she isn’t qualified to do, much less prepared for, yet here she finds herself: wiping dried toothpaste, kissing boo-boos, cleaning up vomit, teaching please and thank you, pulling babies closer, letting adolescents and teenagers go, crying over what she did not do, and smiling over what she did.
“How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe?” writes G.K. Chesterton. “How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.”
To have one day to “honor” mothers is to fail to even attempt to understand all mothers do. It’s to take a gargantuan task and turn it into a tea as if somehow that makes it all worthwhile. It does not.
What makes motherhood worthwhile are the slivers of the day where mom finally lets go of the tears, anxiety, pain, and frustration and realizes God won’t give her more than she can handle and he loves her kids more than she does. A simple, handmade card or an extravagant, expensive brunch one day a year does not an honored mother make. But simple acts of recognition, empathy, acknowledgement, and grace throughout the year can help moms with a task bigger than themselves.