Happy Mother’s Day-I see you

By Cristina Bedwell
Today was a trying day in some ways. There is certainly an expectation that your Mother’s Day is perfect and filled with rainbows and perfectly behaved kids. Isn’t that what we see on Facebook? On Instagram?
Is that what your day was? From the bottom of my heart I hope it was. Your work does not go unnoticed. Getting up in the middle of the night to tend to sick kids. Your magical power to kiss away boo-boos. Your sacrifices, whether it be a frustrating job that nevertheless puts food on the table, not having a few dollars to spend on yourself or the ability to pee in private—I see you. I know what you are doing. What you are giving up out of love.
My day was trying in that it was like any other day. Which is to say, not that bad. My kids are small. They are whiny and needy a lot of the time. Today was no different. Would have been nice if it wasn’t, but it was, and that’s fine. Today I got the gift of sleep and that does not go unnoticed. I will not look a sleep horse in the mouth for damn sure. Instead of getting up at the crack of dawn with a new puppy and a toddler still adjusting to his new bed I was graciously allowed to sleep until almost nine by my family. (MOM TIP: going to bed Mother’s Day Eve with earplugs certainly helps).
We went out to lunch with my husband and two boys and my Mom and Dad. I am so fortunate to live near them and have them in good health. But eating out with little kids is stressful. Spills, bickering, many trips to the bathroom and griping about the menu, refusing to stay in their seat, etc etc. I have to say though, my heart went out to that waitress who looked ten times as frazzled as I felt. She waited on multiple tables that looked like mine: people determined to have a good time, or at least put up the appearance of doing so.
I got a nap after lunch. Again the gift of sleep which is one of my favorite things on god’s green earth so-definitely winning there.
Dinner was a struggle and has been for several weeks, especially with our oldest who has been a historically amazing eater. Now we have to beg for every bite and it’s exhausting. There’s not enough wine sometimes and tonight that bottle ran dry way too soon.
But I find myself contemplating today and being grateful. As annoyed as I was in parts, I am thinking of all the mothers  I know, and wondering what their day looked like. I hope you did the same. It’s a crazy quilt of experiences we have on this path of Motherhood and I’m sure if you think about your circle, yours doesn’t look much different from mine.
I know mothers who have lost their own mothers too soon, some terribly recently, who are missing a grandmother to their own kids, mothers whose own mothers are sick, adoptive moms and stepmoms and foster moms striving to provide the best experiences to the children they have chosen out of love, single moms who inexplicably do it ALL, mothers who grew up with abuse and who are forging a new life of love and light for their children, women desperate for children of their own, moms dealing with mental illness trying to provide safe and stable environments for their kids as best they can. The list goes on and on and on and ON.
I think of my mom’s best friend. She was my second mom. My In-Case-of-Emergency on school forms. She was always at the ready to get me if I was sick at school, if my own mom couldn’t get me-for whatever reason.  She celebrated my milestones as if I was her own daughter. I want to be that to someone else’s child someday. A constant. A safety net. She’s been gone a while now and I send an email to her daughter today telling her I’m thinking of her. Little notes. Text messages to friends and aunts and moms and grandmothers. Telling them they are enough. They’ve done well. I let them know. I see you. I’m thinking of you.  I’ve forgotten people. There are so many. I feel guilty. I feel sad. But I send my love to you all. Thank you for all you do and all you have taught me.

The Cult of Motherhood

So, raise your hand if you participated in some Mother’s Day tea or other event at your child’s school this year. Adorable, right? I imagine these things are all pretty similar, so you probably had a morning much like mine. I showed up to a little breakfast of danishes and fruit and juice. (My toddler was thrilled because there is only one food group to a toddler: carbs). We all sat in a circle on the rug and the kids sang songs to us. You Are My Sunshine, Happy Mother’s Day to You! and my own personal favorite: MOTHERP. Oh, you don’t know MOTHERP? I didn’t either. Here goes:

M is for the Many things you gave me
O is for the Other things you gave me
T is for the Thousand things you gave me
H is for the Hundred things you gave me
E is for Everything you gave me
R is for the Rest of the things you gave me
P is for the Presents that you gave me
Put them all together and they spell MOTHERP!
(children dissolve into giggles)

The kids then went around and took turns saying “I love my mother because…” First up was Emme, who revealed “I love my mother because she lets me help her do laundry.” Right on, kid. You are welcome at my house anytime. Elliott offered up “I love my mother because she takes me to play basketball at the basketball court.” Hmmm, well…it’s actually Dad that does that, but OK. I’ll take it. I freeze when I’m put on the spot like that too. We were then presented with handmade gifts. Elliott’s class made necklaces. That’s a picture of the one he made me up there at the top of this post. I love it! Not made of macaroni, and thus pretty wearable in public. All in all, super heartwarming. File it in the memory bank to keep you warm when they become ungrateful teenagers, right?

And so here we are. Mother’s Day has passed, and school ends next week, and then summer vacation. Oh and somewhere there in the hazy heat of summer, Father’s Day happens, doesn’t it? Fathers don’t get invited to school for a breakfast in their honor. Father’s don’t get serenaded, and told why they are loved in front of a whole class of kids. (Fathers don’t get handmade necklaces, but they’re probably not too broken up about that.) In the midst of summer vacation, our dads are getting shafted, which is why I think we need to move Father’s Day up a bit (or have year-round school, but that’s an essay for another time).

Sure, you can have your own Father’s Day celebration at home and do all those things-make breakfast, sing songs, etc. But I think there is something to be said about preparing as a class and giving the idea that dads deserve praise too the reinforcement of a group celebration.

What I’m getting at is the abolishment of the Cult of Motherhood. Having a class party for moms and not dads enforces the idea of the Cult of Motherhood for our offspring’s impressionable minds. Yes, it’s super awesome to have a day and a celebration for the hard work I do as a mom. And yes, I think that even today moms still do in many circumstances more of that heavy lifting of parenthood for a variety of reasons. But dads are in the trenches too, and the more we send a message of equality to our kids, the more equal the future will become.

The Cult of Motherhood is killing us. You know what it is, even if you’ve never given it much thought until reading these lines. The Cult of Motherhood says that being a mother is the most important job a woman can do. The Cult of Motherhood degrades those that can’t have kids or don’t want to have kids. The Cult of Motherhood shames working moms, and lays guilt at all of our feet whenever we choose something for ourselves over our children. The Cult of Motherhood celebrates Pinterest Moms and perfect homemade birthday cakes, and highly-planned crafting afternoons that most of us won’t ever live up to. The Cult of Motherhood has got to go.

Every time you watch a movie where the dad is a bumbling idiot played for laughs, know the Cult of Motherhood is alive and well. Have you ever seen a woman out in the wild with a misbehaving child? Chances are the people around are wondering why SHE can’t get her child under control. See a man out with a child having a tantrum, and I’d place bets that people are thinking, “Aw. That poor dad sure is having a hard time!”

I watch competent dads every day. Dads that I am exposed to are not these bumbling sit-com fathers. They are killing it. And if they aren’t killing it, they are having the same struggles of parenthood that moms are. We can’t keep putting moms on on a pedestal and expect them to know everything, while we perpetuate the idea that fathers know nothing. Fathers know. Fathers parent, they don’t babysit. Let’s raise up the dads and tear down some pedestals and start leveling this playing field a bit.

Equality will only come from a shift in thinking that includes dads more, and singles out mothers less. We don’t need to fight for maternity leave, we need to fight for parental leave. Every parent deserves to bond with a new baby, and have time to adjust to the upheaval that brings to your life. And it needs to be encouraged that dads TAKE that paternity leave. Just to have it available and not use it does nothing. And Dads need a celebration all their own with a classroom full of kids singing to them.

So, let’s move Father’s Day up to the 2nd Sunday in April, and get some lyrics together for a new song called FATHERP. Get crackin’.