Usually when people talk about Mother's Day, we have images of our moms or mother-figures, flowers, some jewelry, and maybe a special lunch or dinner. In the days or weeks leading up to this special Sunday, we try to write or find the card with the perfect words to communicate for at least one more year, how special she is or has been.
We always think of the great moms, the fun moms, the excellent-cook moms, the best-dressed moms, or the moms who aren't with us anymore. We see all kinds of tributes to them, and they are well-deserved.
But there are many types of moms and some of those moms have made terrible mistakes. Some of those moms hurt their kids or their partners, are incarcerated, or have struggles with addictions. Some of those moms may be battling illnesses that make it hard to be that great mom or maybe they are forced to work so much that they can barely be there to mom. What about the moms who need forgiveness or are struggling to forgive themselves for not feeling connected to their children or pregnancy?
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On Mother's Day, how often do we see the moms that left their kids to an uncertain future knowing they were not in the position to care for them, such as we saw in Little Fires Everywhere (2020) or even Antwone Fisher (2002)? Do we see the mothers who have to fight to even be considered a mom because they foster children or adopt? Do we give the same credit to the moms who didn't carry their own children and override the ridicule they receive for not having stretch marks to compare, as we saw in Losing Isaiah (1995)?
Mothers who once had children that they had to bury sometimes struggle to still see themselves as mothers if they don't have other kids, but they are. A child that passed does not take away the bond felt or developed, and these moms during Mother's Day should still be at the forefront of our celebration.
How about the moms that provide consistent childcare for children not their own? They may be getting paid but you cannot put a price on safety, security, and humane treatment. All childcare provision isn't treated equal. For some, they don't cut off their care for a child because business hours have passed and they don't let a child go without because their parents couldn't afford or weren't able.
photo via elitereaders.com
Let's talk about the moms that are just plain stressed... all the time. They want to do better but sometimes the only way to cope is to emotionally or mentally shut down, such as Jennifer Hudson's character in The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete (2013). When Mother's Day is coming around, who is going out of their way if their kids can't to make sure that they are seen? How many shout outs do they get unless something turns out tragic?
Being a mom that "gives up" or "walks out" is treated as a much more horrible crime than as a father who "can't cope" or "isn't capable". For men, excuses are often made about why it is okay for them to temporarily disappear or not show up at all. Women are expected to stick it out, no matter then circumstance and regardless of the available resources. If it turns out she can't cut it, she is shamed.
Some women don't or didn't deserve to be moms. Some have no remorse for the things they have done to their offspring or for the abandonment. I sit here and I judge them because there are some actions I cannot understand or justify, even if maybe there's a reason. But I also know there are some moms struggling, emotionally or physically, to do the job because they want to, and they need to be recognized. They need to be forgiven for not being a greeting card version of what motherhood is, for not having the time some moms have, or not having the same capabilities.
To those moms: Recognize that you are not to blame for not knowing how it was all going to turn out. Understand that you deserve to think better of yourself and move forward. Your circumstances may affect you but they don't define you and they don't have to be permanent. Maybe you can't give your kids the ideal home or education or problem-free family, but most people rarely can. Maybe you are driving that unreliable car to keep working or you can't always give them a birthday or Christmas present. They will remember you being there for them but they won't remember all the gifts they received.
It is okay to take that rest. It is okay to feel some regret. It is okay to feel some guilt about where you are or what you feel you can't do. It's also okay to know that you are just one piece of your child's life and they can find the other pieces they need as you keep pushing forward, anticipating better. It's okay that it will take time to transform your reality. It's okay that you will need some help, because we all do.
You get to decide what kind of mom you are. You get to decide which mistakes you will rectify. Even if you can't talk to your children every day or be around them, you can make a way for them to feel your love. The way you feel this year can be completely different than the way you feel next year. Be proud. Keep standing. See yourself. See them. See all that you are and why you were chosen and why each child made it. Don't be afraid to be transformed and don't be afraid to allow yourself to be loved. Give it freely. Surely it will come back.
Being a mom and being a caretaker is not a competition. If not this year, next Mother's Day, think of a mom who may not be the traditional happy version of motherhood and may not have someone to remind her that she counts. Think of the mom wishing she felt better about who she is or her connection to her kids.
Do you know a mom that's behind bars or somewhere getting treatment that has never gotten a gift or a letter? Do you know a mom that could use one weekend in a hotel room just to get it together? Do you know a mom who may be broken hearted because one of hers is gone or her child is the only reminder she has of a lost love?