“Here’s the problem,” the minister said. “Mother’s Day programs are hard to plan. If you talk about great mothers you know, many of the women feel they’re not measuring up. If you talk about the impact good mothers can have, the women who endured poor mothering role models feel they’ve been shortchanged by life, or God. Not to mention the women who aren’t likely to be mothers, and see the day as a sign of their personal failings.”
And so it goes. The idea of setting aside a day to honor mothers is a wonderful idea. For most restaurants Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year. If you waited until yesterday to buy your Mother’s Day card, shame on you.
But it’s complicated. Moms love the fuss of the day, but the other 364 days typically leave them feeling exhausted, frustrated, and beaten both up and down.
We honor them today, but the reality is that tomorrow everyone goes back to work. And between child care, school, Mom’s job, Dad’s job, and all the daily responsibilities of maintaining a home and family, time evaporates, and priorities wither under the blistering heat of daily reality.
Every mom I know wants to do right by her children with every ounce of her energy, intellect and soul. But modern life demands all of the above, and more. As the middle class continues to erode, time and financial demands escalate.
Every mom I know understands that children need more time with loving parents and less time with You Tube and the Disney Channel. They know that children need more outdoor playtime, and more time on Mom’s lap reading about Llama Drama and discovering Where the Wild Things Are. But when mom has to work until five and school lets out at three, an afternoon of TV and computer screens in locked living rooms becomes the practical, not preferred, necessity.
Every mom I know understands all of this, but in the end she is often as victimized by life’s harsh realities as her children.
And what is our societal response to all this? Support? Educational alternatives to a life of low-end poverty-perpetuating jobs? Um, no. Mostly we just pile on the guilt.
If you can’t afford them, why did you have them in the first place?
If you want a better paying job, why didn’t you pay more attention in school?
If you’re a single parent, why didn’t you make things work with your boyfriend or husband?
This is what we do. No matter what your obstacle, we can find a reason to blame you for it. And you, with your trusting, vulnerable mother’s heart, will believe it, and conclude that everyone else is right, and that it really is all your fault.
And so once a year we pay homage to you, and the rest of the year we watch you struggle with our arms folded and a smirk on our lips that allows us to revere the importance of motherhood in vague generalities while washing our hands of having to deal with you individually.
If we really cared about the importance of mothers in society, and the children they sacrifice so much to raise, we’d do a hell of a lot more than just buying Mother’s Day cards, flowers, and a steak and eggs brunch once a year. Expanding competent low cost day care would be a start. A solution to the joke of our half-in/half-out health insurance programs would be, as they say, huge. And how about affordable education programs to train working moms for the kinds of jobs that would reduce their hours away from home?
I could go on, and you could too. But in the end our cultural hypocrisy shows no sign of changing. We say we care with words but not with actions, knowing that you’ll just hang in there because you don’t have a choice. The truth is that with all the cards stacked against you, you’re a role model for the rest of us.
So to all the mothers out there, I hope today is a good one. As for tomorrow, good luck. Chances are you’ll need it.