Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Part of Motherhood

This viral video -- a tribute to mothers -- is bouncing around the internet so fast it's like Pong on amphetamines.  And I think I'm the only woman on the planet whose reaction wasn't to immediately embrace it as my cosmic thank you for doing what I do.

Being a mom is a hard job.  I get it.

No, really, I get it.  I've spent the last two nights with my fevered daughter wiggling around in my bed. I was awake so many times and handled so many requests that sleep started to feel like a mythical dandelion seed I was chasing in the wind.  And my daytime hours?  Here is a list of what I accomplished yesterday while I was holding my sick little girl:  Nothing.

But you know who had my sympathy yesterday?  My husband.

Know why?

He wasn't feeling well either, and yet he got up and headed off to work because he has too much on his plate to take a sick day.

Now, look, I've had plenty of days as a mother that are straight out of the dictionary definition of hell.  I've had a fever of 104 while I cleaned up someone else's barf.  I've endured migraines while handling endless requests from noisy toddlers.  I've dealt with more bodily fluids than a seasoned RN.  And I do it for months at a time without a single ounce of "help" from my husband.  (Not because he won't help, but because he is gone, working his butt off to support the family).

Yes, there are days when I don't get a single, isolated, teeny-tiny millisecond to myself.  There are days when I'm pretty sure my brains are going to start leaking out of my ears.  There are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days -- long ones that sometimes stretch painfully into weeks.  (I remember a time when my twins were infants and someone had a fever for 17 days in a row, for example).  I've had days when I was so tired I was literally walking into walls.  I've been barfed on and pooped on and used as a kleenex.  That's just how it is.  That's just part of motherhood.

Do I deserve a gold star for this?  Do I deserve the salary of a CEO?

Being a mother is noble and wonderful and incredibly, intensely important, yes.  I am irreplaceable.  But these little winks to the supposedly all-consuming nature of motherhood irritate me.  Why?  Because they are not honest!  Being "on-call" 24 hours a day is not the same thing as actually working 24 hours a day.  Yes, I have spent many days sacrificing every single one of my personal wants and desires, but that is not all the days of motherhood -- it's only a part, just as being a mother is only one part me. 

I've had dozens of days that were wonderful, days when there was nothing more fun than being a mom.  Days when everyone was happy and cheerful and we made good memories together, when we piled on the couch in a heap of books and giggles and ate cookies straight of the oven when we were done.  I've had days that were full of swimming and trips to the zoo and outings to the world's best museums.  And time to myself?  I've had hours of it.  Hours when the kids all miraculously napped at the same time and I took a relaxing bath, ate chocolate, and chatted on the phone with my best friend.  Hours when the kids were playing at a friend's house and I shopped by myself.  Hours when being at the park meant talking with a friend while we glanced at our kids occasionally and said things like, "I'm watching!" and "Good job, sweetie!"

You know how many hours my husband has had like that at his job?  Let me get out my pencil and add it up... carry the one... yep.  About zero.  None of his coworkers nap in the middle of the day, you see, and he can't send his boss to "quiet time" for an hour while he surfs the internet  A phone call to a friend while someone hovers over his desk waiting for a report?  Nope.  A movie in the middle of the day?  No way.  A nap?  Dream on.

And when he gets home from work, do you know what he does?  He helps me with the dishes.  He sweeps the floor.  He mows the grass and pulls the weeds.  He reads bedtime stories and kisses owies and tucks kids into bed.

And he does it all even though no one ever makes youtube videos about how amazing he is or how hard he works.  Even though no one writes articles for the express purpose of telling the world he deserves a hugely overestimated compensatory salary for his sacrifices.  He does it even though every television show, every movie tells him that fathers are stupid and clueless and unnecessary.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't honor motherhood -- we absolutely should!  But I grow tired of every tribute to mothers gobbling up the myth that they give up every second of their lives to their children -- for free!  Part of honor is truth, and that is not found in inflating duties or exaggerating difficulties.  Mothers "never get a break."  Really?  If that's true you need to put Junior down more often.  "You're on your feet all day."  Every single day?  Let your kids get their own dang drink.  "You work 24-7." You mean having a child means you don't get to sleep for two decades?  How are mothers even alive?

Yes, motherhood often means more than sacrifice; it is sacrifice.  It can be mind numbing and heart wrenching and leave you with a sort of bone deep tiredness that feels like it will never go away.  But there is also joy.  There are times when your daughter will bring you a bouquet of dandelions just because she loves you and when your son will hug you for no reason at all.  There will be kisses from stuffed animals and kisses from tiny lips that smell like strawberries.

That's the payment.  That's the "salary."

But it's not the reason we do it.  We do it because it is noble and good and because we love our children.  And we should thank our mothers because what they do is noble and good and because we love them.

But there's no reason to falsely inflate something that is good on its own.  There is no need to exaggerate the merits of something that is already entirely noble and worthy.  (I sure as heck do not "work" 135 hours a week, and I didn't clock in that many hours even when I had infant twins and a toddler!)  There's no need to place a monetary value on motherhood and what it's "worth" because it is already worth everything to the little people who come with the package.  What more justification do we need?  Mothers do not need to prove anything to anyone.

And they don't need to stretch the truth.


Kathy M said...

So true! I especially like the last few paragraphs. I think I'll quote you in a Mother's Day talk sometime. So well said!

fiona said...

I felt the same abt the video! And I just started to write out a whole paragraph explaining why, and then I realized it was pretty much everything you said... ;) I know a couple of other moms who had similar feelings as well, so you're definitely not alone!