Being a mother, like living in Africa, is not for sissies. Once you’ve survived the sleepless nights and constant feeds of babyhood, when they’re older you have to contend with balancing a thousand demands on your time – work, children, domestic chores, social lives, fetching and carrying, and still make sure your family are well fed and watered – not an easy task.
And if you run out of loo paper or forget that it’s dress-up day at school, who gets the blame? You guessed it. “Mom! Where’s my school jersey? Where are my scissors?” Mom is expected to know where everything is, to put things back where they’re supposed to be, to wash, fold and store clothes neatly away so that they’re ready for the next day when you need them.
Every so often I want to yell, “Stop! Get me off this treadmill. I need a break.” And recently, due to an operation, I’ve been forced to take things easy. In fact, I had to interrupt business-as-usual so that I could go into hospital for a procedure that was long overdue. The surgeon himself was amazed that I had put up with such severe pain for almost a year.
The reason? I just couldn’t bring myself to inflict that level of disruption to my family. How would they cope without me organising their lives, especially as my husband travels so often? Who would look after me while I recovered from the operation?Therein lies the problem of being a mother: the very thing we give our families and the thing they come to expect of us – love, nurture, care, oversight – is the thing that we often so crave ourselves. Who mothers a mother?
I have fond memories of when I was sick as a child. My mom used to bring me supper in bed on a tray, making me feel so loved and looked after. It’s that kind of maternal care – like a big snuggly quilt wrapped around you – that you miss when you’re making phone calls to get hospital authorisation numbers, madly scrambling to fulfill deadlines before you’re booked off work, fobbing off birthday invitations and school reminders so that you can finally put your own needs on the agenda and declare: “Mommy is not well. Mommy needs an operation. Sorry – Mommy can’t take you to your friend’s party or attend your school function. Mommy, too, is human.”
Fortunately I have been blessed with an amazing husband who has been such a star in the days following the operation, hanging up washing in the mornings and cooking in the evenings and organising lifts so that I don’t need to drive while I’m recovering. For his love and devotion, I am truly grateful. And my mother-in-law has been equally up to the task, making us a meal and having the boys round in the afternoon so I could have a rest in peace. It’s at times like this that acts of kindness are amplified in our hearts and minds.
A friend who has recently lost her mother told me that mothers are like the skin around us, encircling our lives and protecting us, and that you don’t notice it until they’re gone. I think she’s right. The picture the Lord gave me this year was of a draw-string bag, like the one that my boys use to stash away their Lego: that we, as mothers, pull family members’ lives together and contain them.
Think of glue or eggs in a baking recipe. Without eggs, the ingredients don’t bind together. Without mothers, the centre cannot hold, we unravel. Mothers soothe frayed nerves and kiss boo-boos better. Mothers encourage and admonish, they instruct and teach. Their work is so necessary and yet so undervalued.
How often do we feel sorry for stay-at-home mothers or ask them, “What do you do all day?” (as if they’re painting their toenails!). Their job may not earn them an income or much recognition, but they’re worth their weight in gold for all their labours. And creating a nest for your family is the job of all mothers, working or not, self-employed or office-bound, married or single or divorced.
This Mother’s Day, take a moment to thank your mom for all that she’s done for you over the years. Thank her for the good that she’s sown into your life, thank her for laying her life down so that you could grow and flourish, thank her for telling you the honest truth when you didn’t want to hear it, thank her for her encouragement and love, thank her for the countless times you didn’t thank her when you should have.
Think of family traditions you’d like to keep and those that should be ditched. As for me, I’m keeping the tradition of family meals around the table, but I think it’s time that mommy martyrdom should go the way of the dodo. We shouldn’t suffer in silence just because we don’t want to inconvenience our families. After all, we are also important.
The quote someone sent me the other day sums it up so well: “There are no perfect parents or perfect children, but there are perfect moments.” I had one of these moments this week when my four-year-old son gave me a little note he had dictated to his father. This is what it read:
I hope your bum gets better and I hope you have a happy time with friends and family. I hope you have a pure heart full of joy and happy things.
Lots of love
Here’s to many hugs, kisses, love and happy things this Mother’s Day.