Happy Mother’s Day to all of the amazing mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, and mother figures out there! WE set aside today to honor and thank mothers for everything they’ve done and continue to do for everyone they care for. Mother’s Day has been an official U.S holiday since 1914, and you can learn a bit about its history here. However, as nice as cards, flowers, and breakfast in bed are as gestures, sometimes we forget that moms just want to be thanked. Being a mom is a full-time job with multiple positions; moms are alternately teachers, nurses, cooks, cleaning staff, spiritual mentors, and a host of other things that we probably take for granted, because we often don’t notice the little things that make a big difference in our lives. So here are a few things moms do why they’re awesome.
1. For tracing hearts in your peanut butter sandwiches
Okay, I’m probably dating myself here, but does anyone remember those Skippy Peanut Butter commercials from the 1980s where the mom draws a heart in the peanut butter? The fact that you couldn’t see the heart once the sandwich was closed isn’t really the point. The point is that Mom took the time to do this for you, probably at 5:00AM, because she had to make sure she sent you off to school with a hardy (and hearty) lunch. I don’t remember when my mom stopped doing this, but I do remember that her hearts looked just like the one on TV.
2. For reading bedtime stories to you
If you think about everything your mom had to do just to run your life, from sending you off to school, to going to work to pay the bills, to coming home and cooking dinner while reading over your shoulder to make sure you weren’t skipping the hard Math problems (not guilty), she probably wanted to spend any “free time” she had with a glass of wine, the TV remote, and the dog that never asked for anything but belly rubs and pretzels. (this was a ritual our dog initiated. the pretzels, not the wine. At least, not for the dog). Instead, Mom chose to spend that time reading to you. According to the Reading Foundation, infants and young children who are read to or frequently engaged with verbally develop more advanced language and literacy skills.
3. For letting your friends treat her kitchen like the Waffle House (except with better food and sans drunk truckers)
Remember all the Friday nights when you begged and pleaded with Mom to let your best friend sleep over? She always said yes even though she needed another hormonal teenager under her roof keeping her up all night like she needed the entire family to become infested with head lice. And when you woke up the next morning, there were waffles. Always waffles. With chocolate chips. And enough maple syrup to send your blood sugar off the charts. You can’t really thank Mom if you’ve since developed diabetes, because she probably told you once if she told you a thousand times to lay off the sugar. You can and should, however, thank her for giving up her Saturday morning to cook you breakfast instead of shoving a box of cheerios at you and saying “Kitchen is closed. You’re on your own, kid.”
4. For making you do homework during the summer
Maybe this one is more specific to children who were raised by teachers, but I still remember summer mornings of having to practice my handwriting and my multiplication tables before I could run under the sprinkler outside or bury my nose in a book (unless the book in question was my required summer reading, in which case, I could spend all day reading if I wanted to). I have to be honest, these morning previews of purgatory didn’t really improve my math skills or my handwriting, but that’s not really my mother’s fault. I’m just inherently bad at writing in cursive and balancing my checkbook. What I did learn, however, was the value of tackling unpleasant things first thing in the day to clear my head and allow me to focus on the things I enjoyed with greater enthusiasm. It’s probably the reason why as a grad student, without fail, I rolled up my sleeves, however reluctantly, and tackled my daily writing quota on my dissertation before doing anything else. The downside, of course, is that you can’t numb the unpleasantness of difficult tasks with alcohol if you complete them in the morning, but I’ve learned to settle for caffeine.
5. For forcing you to make your bed every morning
Maybe I’m assuming a rule of thumb here, but in my experience, organized parents seem to think that an unmade bed equals some kind of moral degeneration. My mom also thinks this about dirty dishes left in the sink. The truth is that as much as we grumbled about this as kids, there’s something quietly satisfying about seeing that neatly made-up bed, knowing that your day has officially begun, if for no other reason than that you’re not going to go back to bed after all that work smoothing the sheets and aligning the comforter just so. Perhaps it’s psychosomatic, but I always seem to feel more tired throughout the day when I haven’t made my bed, so obviously my mom was onto something here. I don’t credit my neatly made bed for all of my work productivity, but it certainly hasn’t hurt.
Even as I write this, I recognize that the ways that we define the roles of parenthood have necessarily become more fluid as family dynamics have changed. Some of us grew up in the so-called nuclear family. Some of us were raised just by our mothers, or just by our fathers. Some of us had two mothers, or two fathers. Some were raised by individuals not biologically related to them. The label of the person who performs these small kindnesses for those they care for isn’t really the point; what matters is the love behind those acts.
What does the word mother mean to you?