I have been thinking about mothers on Mother’s Day, the day that is meant to make us feel appreciated, and reflecting on the experiences of the women I know who are mothers. My work is with mothers; expectant mothers, birthing mothers, postpartum mothers; women at every stage of mothering are amongst my friends and colleagues.
Despite the words in greeting cards that may say otherwise, mothering isn’t about being appreciated. It’s nice, of course, to be acknowledged but being a mother is so much more than words can ever express. It is a true labour of love where expectations are seldom met, our needs no longer as important as the needs of our children, starting from the moment physical labour begins, or for many of us, from the time we first know that we are pregnant.
There are wonderful mothering moments; times when we hold our babies and children close and we are overcome with maternal love. Times when we feel connected, attached, rooted in the lives of the little ones who need us. We hold a baby at our breast, rock a sleeping child, cheer with excitement at a new accomplishment and kiss soft downy hair.
But what about those other times; the ones filled with frustration, exhaustion and sometimes despair? Those are mothering moments, too. Equally real and part of the fabric of mothering.
One cannot know the magic of maternal love without also knowing the heartache that accompanies it. We sacrifice our wants and needs for the wants and needs of our children. We take on the responsibility of teaching values and empathy, we guide and support. We cannot do these things without also knowing the gut-wrenching pain when our children unravel, when life gets tough, when emotional or physical ache surmounts our ability to cope, when the children we love are hard to love despite our best intentions.
So while it is sweet and charming that our children, partners and families want to give some of us a day of appreciation, I think what would be best is for we mothers to appreciate one another. To step back from judging those whose choices and situations are dissimilar to ours, and to instead realize that we share much more than we differ.
We have all experienced the highs and lows, the joys and heartaches of being a mother. We are on a shared journey where we are called to surrender ourselves to love, accepting that love can be glorious and painful at the very same time.
I have heard the saying “the hand that rocks the cradle shapes the world”. I like that and believe it to be true. But I wonder what it would look like if while one hand rocked the cradle, the other symbolically held the hand of another mother in a gesture of appreciation and shared understanding?
After all, “there is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, skills and abilities. Each child is different from the next. What matters most is that a mother loves her children deeply. ” (M. Russell Ballard)