I picked up my oldest daughter from preschool today and she walked out of class with a paper bag decorated with flower stickers and a gentle reminder from her teacher, “Remember, tell her not to open it until Sunday!”
Zoe did not so much as glance at her teacher — or me– and proceeded to set the bag on the floor in the middle of the crowded hallway, pull out all the tissue paper and informed me, “These are the salt dough hearts that I was telling you about. So can I share your presents, Mom?”
No, she didn’t mean share them with me. What she meant was, “I just made some fun crafts at school and was told they were supposed to be for you, but I would really like to keep them. Is that allowed?”
To which my response was: “Of course, sweetie. You can have all the presents.”
To me, this moment was a perfect summary of motherhood and everything it should be: fun, sweet, overwhelming, and under-appreciated. Because I brought these two tiny humans into the world and I made that decision (no one asked me to) so that I could learn to love and nurture these women. I made this decision without the expectation of painted salt dough hearts today or thoughtful Mother’s Day cards twenty years into the future. I made this decision because I want to be a better person and because I loved my children before I ever met them.
Yes, motherhood is the hardest thing I’ve ever done but I don’t expect anyone to thank me for it the same way I wouldn’t expect anyone to thank me for signing up for and completing a marathon. Both are difficult things; both are my choice.
My children do not and never will owe me anything.
They will never be aware of all the sacrifices I make for them. They shouldn’t be. Other mothers might understand. My husband does. But it is unfair to require my kids to validate my sense of purpose. Even without kids, if you strive to be a good person, 90% of what you do will go unnoticed. The real reward lies in doing the right thing anyway.
It takes my entire soul to stay present and engaged with these children from moment to moment, and it’s worth all of it. It would still be worth all of it if they grew up ungrateful and hating me. This is unlikely to happen if I love them properly (ingratitude and anger just are symptoms of a lack of love), but I love without expecting anything in return or it doesn’t count.
At least, that’s the goal of each day. Obviously there are days I fall short. Consider it a combination of the lack of sick-leave, sleep-deprivation, juggling all the household chores and being human. But as difficult as it is for me to endure these trials, it is just as difficult for my children to endure me while I endure these trials. If I am angry and yell at my children, who has it worse? Is it harder for me to be angry, or harder for my kids to bear the brunt of my anger? Because they are so young and innocent, I believe that they have the harder the job. Being mothered by me is harder than being me as a mother.
None of this is to minimize the importance of mothers, but to celebrate the existence of my children. I heard someone say that if they were told that they couldn’t have children, they would have been devastated, but since they already have kids, it is easy to take them for granted. I don’t want to slip into that comfortable habit. I’m so lucky to have my girls in my life and so grateful that they allow me to experiement on them (especially because they aren’t presented with any alternative).
Happy Mother’s Day to those of us who have been grantedthis highest privilege. You’ll find me in the kitchen on Sunday.