I guess you could say that part of my job puts me in the “motherhood” business. I have two young adult children who I love beyond reason and would die for without a second thought. Hearing my 79-year old mother’s voice on the phone when I call always comforts me instantly. And I strongly dislike Mother’s Day. I’ve not been a fan since the Mother’s Day when my kids were 7 and 4 – I was exhausted, had way out of proportion expectations for the day and we all ended the day in tears. No person – mother or child – can be perfect. No day can be perfect. In my opinion, Mother’s Day is manufactured by politicians, preachers, and businesses to keep people who identify as mothers in their swim lanes. Messaging around this day reinforces white supremacy, patriarchy, homophobia and transphobia, distracts from the work that needs to be done, and sugar coats a role that is the hardest thing most people ever take on in their lives. Ask me how I feel about this?!
There are many people who may find Mother’s Day difficult.
- People who have (or want to have) children and nurture them but don’t want to be bound by the word “mother”.
- People who want to become parents but are impeded by infertility and miscarriage. This is compounded by economic disparities which keep treatment out of reach.
- People who were forced into parenthood – Roe v Wade overturn withstanding, many people who identify as poor, rural, LGBTQ+ and/or of color have never had full access to the resources they need to have autonomy over their own reproduction.
- People who have complex mother/child relationships.
- People whose mothers have died or whose children have died.
- People who know that children they may have and/or the children they currently have are at risk because of the color of their skin.
- People who nurture others all the time but do not have children.
- And many others.
Mother’s Day is also sandwiched between social work month, nurse appreciation week, and teacher appreciation – all under-paid, female dominated professions. Raise your hand if you have stayed up past midnight on Mother’s Day writing thank you notes to OTHER WOMEN in care giving roles? Or if you’ve stayed up late cooking for your church Mother’s Day luncheon?
As we have all experienced over the past two years, change can happen, and change must happen. This is what I want this year.
Policy Action: We need paid family and sick leave, livable wages, quality health care for all (Medicaid expansion and more), quality affordable childcare, income supports for low wealth families, access to the full suite of reproductive health services, respite care, the whole Momnibus Act, and healthy neighborhoods to start. There is very strong evidence that these policies will keep people safe, productive, and well – mothers, children, and everyone else.
Radical Rest: My colleague recently taught me about the seven levels of rest – physical, social, emotional, mental, creative, spiritual and sensory. Tricia Hersey’s Nap Ministry work is revolutionary. Mothers/parents should not sacrifice their own self-care and compassion at the altar of service to others. There is a balance. Maybe achieving a picture-perfect birthday party for your 2-year-old really doesn’t matter as much as being a centered, happy person. I want supports from employers and society for rest and recovery!
Culturally-Appropriate Coaching and Mental Health Care: We are all so woefully unprepared for dealing with the hard things that are tied up with mother/parent/child relationships. We need technical support, informational support, and access to mental health services to navigate the complexities. What do you do if your child is so depressed, they won’t leave their bedroom? How do you parent a young adult living in your house? How do you navigate hard decisions around care for aging parents? How do you keep everything together for the family when you are falling apart inside? This is HARD and most people are left to figure it out on their own. It should be simple and stigma free to find a mental health care provider and needed resources. There must be a better way.
Dialogue: Motherhood is a complex role and construct. Language around mothers and birth and women is challenging. We are a time when we want to center AND decenter this concept at the same time. There are so many competing thoughts and feelings. I don’t have the answers, but I want to be in the conversation.
Motherhood is messy, wild, heart melting, painful and transformative. We raise our kids to leave us. We become caregivers to our parents. Our kids to us. Or not. What a tangle of role and life transitions. We disappoint each other. We lose each other. We hold each other. This is a movement – not a day.