We celebrate moms on Mother’s Day. It’s a day to say “thank you” to our moms, shower them with gifts and allow them some extra rest and relaxation. We owe so much to our moms and should appreciate them every day, but it’s nice to make one day extra special.
These days, motherhood has taken on a life of its own. While it’s good to see folks giving more respect to motherhood, all the resulting side effects aren’t so positive.
Modern moms are seen as martyrs — our job is so, so hard that we’re heroes if we come through it alive. Maintaining a home, working, ferrying children around and guiding them toward adulthood are so tough — how do we do it?
As a mother of three — from age 11 down to almost 3 — I feel qualified to weigh in … and I think it’s a bunch of baloney.
Sure, being a mom is a lot of work. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart. But why do we make it sound so challenging? So we can pat ourselves on the back for surviving each day?
In some ways, motherhood is harder than it was in earlier generations; our mothers and grandmothers didn’t worry about school shootings, the Internet, mobile devices or many other things that trouble us now.
On the other hand, there are many things our grandmothers worried about that we don’t; our daily lives also include many more conveniences, but it does seem life was simpler then.
But aside from those factors, motherhood is not any harder today than it has ever been. Busier, perhaps — moms today often work full-time outside the home and kids are involved in more activities than kids in the past. Moms spend more time than ever shuttling kids to and fro while trying to maintain a household, career and relationships.
It seems we take pride in being busy, as if it’s a badge of honor to not know whether we’re coming or going. I often notice moms answering “How are you?” with “Busy!” as if no other answer is really acceptable, as if a slower-paced life isn’t good enough.
The biggest, most daunting and most overwhelming part of mothering is the whole idea of being responsible for another person’s existence, morality and safety, both now and in the future. It’s a pretty hefty responsibility and it’s easy to worry about all the things we need to teach our kids as they grow.
But it’s also important to remember those are big picture things — while we build a little each day, it’s mostly in subtle ways blended in with everyday life. And in that regard, motherhood has never changed — it’s always been our job to shape young lives.
Motherhood is a 24/7 job — we may be called into action at any moment. Staying home with very young children can be isolating and even boring at times. The sheer exhaustion of motherhood is a never-ending challenge.
Some moms may have unreasonable expectations and reality can be a tough pill to swallow. The “quest to be the best” takes the focus off what truly matters in motherhood — the kids we mother. It’s as if we think we’re cheating our kids if we aren’t going way above and beyond the basics of keeping them fed, clothed, safe and loved — even though that’s always been good enough.
Being a mom can be demanding, sure — but that doesn’t mean motherhood is a hard and miserable job. In fact, I can’t think of a better job in the world. Sure, the pay is lousy and the hours are endless, but the rewards are endless, too.
Not much could top seeing your child score a winning soccer goal, dance in a recital, win an award or — best of all — do exceptionally kind and loving things for others.
Maybe we make it too complicated. (I’m sure our grandmothers would think so.) Maybe we take ourselves too seriously and we make it harder than it ought to be. Maybe we just need a little validation — if we feel appreciated, we won’t have to remind everyone how hard our job is.
Being a mom is probably the most important job on the planet — if we mess it up, not much else matters — but it’s also the most rewarding, exhilarating and heart-swelling. Let’s all endeavor to be more honest about it.
The days are long but the years are short, so let’s slow down and enjoy the extraordinary gift of motherhood.
Rebecca Horvath of Johnson City is a wife, mother and community activist.