Happy Mother’s Day — No Apologies
A piece from salon.com is making the rounds again. In her 2010 article, Why I Hate Mother’s Day, Ann Lamott bemoans the yearly tribute to mothers as a “huge lie about the value of women: that mothers are superior beings, that they have done more with their lives and chosen a more difficult path.” She whines about the unfairness of the day to “all non-mothers, and the daughters of dead mothers, and the mothers of dead or severely damaged children.” Justifying her stance with her own “I’m a mom” card, Lamott says she became who she is “in spite of” her own Mom.
That much is clear, lady.
She ends her article with a plea. “I don’t want something special. I want something beautifully plain. Like everything else, it can fill me only if it is ordinary and available to all.”
The thing is, Mother’s Day isn’t “available to all.” Is that unfair? Probably about as unfair as me not being able to celebrate Secretary’s Day or Father’s Day or Yom Kippur.
Ms. Lamott remarks that it was the “extraordinary love of her best friends, and my own best friends’ mothers, and from surrogates, many of whom were not women at all but gay men” that shaped her.
Melissa Harris-Perry and Hillary Clinton would be proud.
I’ll grant Lamott the idea that many people go into shaping who we are. My 12th grade English teacher instilled in me a passion for writing. An old friend’s mom was the finest example of selfless love I’ve ever known, completely devoted to her children. And she made the best mac & cheese in history. My cheerleading coach taught me many lessons about hard work and achievement. Heck, even the orthopedic surgeon that red-tagged my knee for demolition gave me the gift of never being able to run again for the rest of my life!
Of all the people large and small that had some influence on me, none are my mom. Being adopted made no difference. My mom used to say, “You weren’t born under my heart but in it.” I daresay my old cheerleading coach doesn’t feel that way about me!
My own children are blessed to be surrounded by incredible examples. The kind of people I want to influence them. Coaches, teachers, friends; the list is long and filled with men and women I am proud to know. But they aren’t me. Contrary to what Ms. Lamott thinks, they WON’T have the level of “love and self-sacrifice” I do. And it’s precisely because I AM their mother; the only one they’ll ever have. No one will love them in the way that I do.
Nearly fifteen years ago I received a call from the pediatrician. He asked if I was sitting and he asked if I was alone. I steeled myself for what I already knew was coming. The blood work came back. My two week old baby had Down syndrome. The tears spilled down my cheeks before I even hung up. I was alone in that moment with my girl. There isn’t a person on this earth that could have felt for her what I did right then. Overwhelming love, determination to give her the life I knew she deserved. The tears were not of sorrow but of the fierce instinct to protect. Only a mother can feel that.
I will celebrate this Mother’s Day like I have the last fifteen. I will enjoy the sloppy cards brought home from school. I will get a day off from dishes and laundry, but I’ll do them anyway. I will enjoy the coffee delivered with a kiss, even if I have to wipe up what was spilled on the floor. I will eat the eggs my children make for me, even though I hate eggs. Because it’s what moms do.
I’m not going to apologize for celebrating a day that others view as selfish. Jessica Lange is right. Motherhood isn’t about me. It’s about three children that have my eyes, my stubbornness, and my whole heart.
Image: "Motherhood": Sculpture at the Catacumba Park, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; source Nelly Romeo Alves;
author: picture taken by Eurico Zimbres; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license