Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thoughts For Mothers Day

I'm exhausted. I over-scheduled myself this week. Somehow within a span of seven days I did the following: took a final exam, took a flight see my grandparents, went on an all-day school field trip with each kid, and drove the kids to piano practice, soccer practice, and a doctor's appointment. In between I managed to do laundry, wash the dishes, keep the kids fed, and keep up with my job. And now I'm supposed to pack for another trip. We're leaving to visit my mother-in-law for Mother's Day first thing in the morning.

I've noticed that no where on that list is something that I did for myself. In fact, I ditched a few of my own plans in favor of doing for others. I'm not complaining, and I'm not bragging, either. Moms do it all the time. We have moments when we burn the candle at both ends until the light nearly goes out.

In the midst of today's rush, I noted an email that came in from MissRepresentation.org, an organization that sheds light on the imbalanced portrayal of women and girls in the media. The theme of the email was Mother's Day, and it referenced a piece by founder Jennifer Siebel Newsom written for the International Museum of Women.

Citing the inequitable pay gap between men and women, the pay gap between childless women and working women, and the hardships of single motherhood, she writes:
The feminists before me fought for my right to vote, to work and to have more choices than they had. Yet we are all still strapped with an extremely heavy and unfair burden.  Because despite all of the progress we have made, women are still expected to be the primary caretakers of the young and old, while continuing to manage the home and their careers.  And you don’t want to get me started on the expectations for how women are supposed to look!  It’s unhealthy to idolize the “Wonder Woman” phenomena – the mythic woman who can do it all to perfection.  She does not exist and never will.  And, it’s extremely dangerous that we think we can be her.

...Overall, we are not only harming ourselves but the collective female population by staying small, not believing in ourselves, and not demanding the support we want and need to succeed.  
Yikes! Guilty.

It's clear that being a mother is hard work. Not just because we are parenting our children, but because we parent through other enormous responsibilities. It seems the definition of parenthood often carries much greater weight when it attached to a mother than to a father.

Yes, it's unfair, I'd like to see changes, and I don't know what the answer is. (Siebel Newsom offers some interesting suggestions.) I do know that being an attentive and caring mother is both a privilege and a sacrifice, and its a role that moms around the world take seriously. As Thomas Paine said so long ago, "The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph... What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only that gives everything its value."

So we honor our mothers because we value their efforts. I'm far from perfect, but I do the best I can for my kids every day. My mother gave me that same gift a generation ago. Now that I'm a mother, I can see her efforts for what they were. Not just something she was supposed to do, but something she did out of love every day, the best she knew how. And she likely did it because her mother did the same for her. Mothering is a gift given daily. And I thank my mother and grandmother for it. And I'll hit the road tomorrow and thank my mother-in-law, too.

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