Skip the sugary sweet mother’s day cards. Ditch the flowers and candy. Phone calls are good. Visits are better. What mothers really need are children who accept the reality no woman is born knowing how to mother. Some, surrounded by experienced women and an engaged father, get up to speed quickly, assuring her mothering efforts go well for the most part. Some figure it out eventually via an on-the-job learning curve that leaves only minor nicks and bruises on her child’s ego. Others, for a thousand different reasons, just never quite figure it out. This hurts. It is a profound disappointment; the deep kind of unresolved core pain that keeps professional counselors busy.
Here’s the truth. Not every woman who becomes a mother wanted the role. Or at least not as soon as she got the part. Does that make her a horrible person? Human biology is such that a woman has no easy way to back out of motherhood while fathers can walk away. Don’t get me started on how totally furious it makes me to think of all the reproduction decisions made by men, who have this option, make for women who do not. Mothering is a full-time, life-long commitment. Some women are forced to make the commitment before they are ready.
Ironically, other women desperately long for the baby that never arrives. She and her husband may spend years and thousands of dollars trying to conceive or adopt a child. Begetting and raising children is part and parcel of being human; but each woman’s experience in the process is unique.
Sometimes a mother desperately wants to do the best job ever of raising her children. But the odds are stacked against her. The father of the children disappears. Or doesn’t. Instead he stays around to demean, abuse, belittle, and undermine her efforts until she has nothing left to give her children. Sometimes she was so emotionally malnourished as a child she lacks the emotional tools necessary to nurture babies and children. Sometimes a cruel and uncaring system removes children from their mother. It happens every day while society looks the other way. Or worse, blames the mother when really it was poverty, war, lack of proper papers, or a legal system that doesn’t respect the sacred bond between mother and child. Sometimes it is addiction or another physical disability that renders a woman incapable of adequately caring for her offspring. We are too quick to judge and too slow, much too slow, to assist when a women becomes a mother.
As another annual card sending, restaurant-booking, flower-buying day rolls around, this is what mothers would really like from their children. 1) Appreciation for birthing them because good, bad, or indifferent, none of us would be here without a mother. 2) Forgiveness for the ways she let you down. 3) Acceptance that mothers are human beings doing the best they can with what they have to work with, often in circumstances they cannot control. Being a mother changes everything in a woman’s life. Everything. Forever. Change is hard. Hug a mother today.