It's Mother's Day, the day that women who often go unacknowledged receive a lot of praise and gifts. I'm a big fan. The thing that makes me twitchy is the idea that Mother's Day hooplah should be reserved for one day a year. Mother's Day type of gratitude is a pretty regular thing around here. I think that's come from a rather long lesson I've learned (and am still learning) about self-care and the balance of being a mother and being a person. Being a person is first and, dare I say it on this sacred day, more important. Being a mother is a huge piece of how I expend my time, energy and resources. It undoubtedly is one of my greatest sources of joy and feelings of accomplishment. It had fundamentally affected my self-concept. And I am so proud to be a mother. HOWEVER, I am a person. I am a woman. I am an artist. I am.
In an attempt that is in no way meant to be an act of rebellion against a day that many oft-overworked women get their one morning a year in bed, I would like to say that we need to stop acting like women are only good mothers if they don't take care of themselves. Memes and cards are full of praising mothers for giving up everything, doing everything for others, not once thinking of themselves, yada, yada, yada. And most definitely, there are seasons in life, in trauma, in physical and emotional development of little humans, in great adversity where mothers choose their children over themselves. You better believe it takes sacrifice to get up to a crying infant all through the night to share not just your sleep, but your very breast. No Doubt.
And yet. Are we being good mothers if we teach our children that being a good mother means not giving yourself, your talents, your dreams, your very humanity, a voice? What are children learning from mothers who do nothing but care for their every need? Now this has nothing to do with whether you're a "working" mom or not (that's in quotes because every mom is a working mom whether she has an employer or not). I know plenty of working women neglecting their dreams and plenty of stay-at-home women kicking ass at pursuing their passions. I just want to say, sometimes the moms who are out in the world pushing themselves to do things that scare them, to create moments to shine bright might be the very women we're telling aren't doing enough for their children and families. Maybe the bravest women among us are the most wracked with guilt? That is a travesty.
I'd like to say that being a mother is whatever you make it to be. Being a mother is being yourself with little people in tow. Do not lose yourself. Yes, take on the beautiful identity of mother. Bask in the glory that is both late night snuggles and vomit on your carpet. Motherhood is to be embraced. But motherhood is defined by you. Because you're the mother. Don't let someone else tell you how to mother. And don't listen when someone tries to tell you how to be yourself and live in your world because you're a mother. If you're a mother, be yourself as a mother. Whether that involves Pinterest or vodka. Be a mom. Be there for your kids and be there for yourself. These things are not mutually exclusive. No doubt, there are moments when they are. But those moments are not lifetimes. Don't let your life pass you by in a haze of diapers and painstakingly planned birthday parties. Enjoy yourself. Right now.
Motherhood involves sacrifice. But I would like to say that we get a say in how that manifests. We get to decide how motherhood edits, demolishes, delays, accelerates and even motivates the pursuits of our dreams. There are women who pride themselves on giving up everything for their children. They deserve all the handprint clay wall-hangings in the world and I will not take them away from them. But that is not the only way to mother. And if I'm being honest, I believe it could be a one-dimensional way to be one. What if our kids saw us kicking ass in the world from the audience, paving the way before them to do big scary things. Yes, I will be in the audience of my children's lives. But I will also forge the path in front of them, clearing away the brush in the wilderness. Their story, their courageous adventures will be theirs. But I will show them how to do that. I will show them my way of doing that. And if that isn't mothering, I don't know how to be a mother.
So let's stop acting like one day of appreciation hits the snooze button for the next 364 days. Let's stop immortalizing mothers for being so giving and never taking care of themselves. I'd like to see more cards that say, you taught me how to be a person who loves herself, who cares for her body, mind and soul, who invests in her relationships with her partner, with her girl friends, with her family. You taught me how to think big and take risks and to love my body in all its beautiful complexity. You taught me to live in the moment and laugh when things get messy.
Ladies, we don't have to wait to be appreciated. We can also show our own self-appreciation all year round. Would you like a massage, schedule it! Would you like to get away with a friend? Book it! Would you like to be alone with your significant other, call a sitter! Don't wait for or feel guilty for having needs. Living a life of sustained unmet needs is not what being a mother is about. If we are to teach our children how to live, let's start by living.