So today I was in Costco with a friend, who was looking for a sticky fruit leather snack that her 3 year old is addicted too. She was up until 1am last night working on a silent auction for her church, and had to pause in front of each thing to think about whether or not her family would eat it. I felt horrible, because my allergies have really kicked it up a notch this week, so we were a pair of sad sights. I needed 25 bananas for a meal my church is doing with the homeless. No sticky snacks to be had – Costco apparently doesn’t sell them anymore. Lots of bananas though.
Working on getting end-of-year presents for the teachers at my youngest daughter’s preschool – sent the mother in charge of room mothers an email – she fired one back saying, I can work on this after 9pm tonight – she’s also very active in her church, has three children, husband travels a lot, also running thirteen other projects on the side. . .
Mother’s Day tends to be rather sentimental, and I try to stay away from those cards with the soft-focus picture of flowers and a sappy poem inside. Because mothers, most of the ones I know, anyway, are not softly focused and sappy. They have to be sharp - with database upon database in their minds – what snacks their sons will eat, what their daughter’s best friend’s stuffed animal is named, the names of the people who live two doors down and – hallelujah! – have a kindergartner the same age as their daughter!
The mothers I know are always running, always in a hurry, many times because they are on missions of kindness – perhaps a Mission from God, as the Blues Brothers said. I always thought that “It’s a Wonderful Life” was a remarkable movie because it was a man who made the decisions that Jimmy Stewart makes in the movie. The movie would have been invisible with, say, Donna Reed in the lead. To give up college so a beloved brother could go? How many women have done that? To pour all your energy into making the world a better place? We see it with new eyes when Stewart does it. But Reed’s decisions – to give up the rich boyfriend, to stay in her hometown, to live in a wreck of a house that she apparently spent every spare moment, when she wasn’t taking care of her children or running the USO, working on… those are all easily explained. She did it for love, so it must have been easy. Reed makes it look easy, until finally after what had to be years of dealing with a bitter husband she broke – “George, not in front of the children.”
And the first thing I learned as a mother was that it wasn’t easy. The baby didn’t figure out just how to eat right away. The diapers were awful. The lack of sleep was bone-crushing. The stereotypes set forth from society – the perfect house, the perfect clothes, the hair just so, the girls with bows and pretty shoes – were as tight as a vise.
And yet to my amazement there are lots of women out there doing all that, working all the time, whether they work outside the home or inside it. They learn the discipline of getting up in the morning, even though they hate mornings. They grit their teeth and practice patience when the wiggly baby doesn’t want to get his diaper on. They are resigned, or laugh, when the two year old pees on them.
They find time to run their church committees and save their schools and maintain those relationships that all the psychologists tell us are so important for our mental health. They call their mothers who are 600 miles away to tell them the cute story, so the grandmother isn’t so distanced from her grandchildren. They call the doctors to make the appointment for their mothers-in-law. They nag their husbands to eat better. They make sure that the favorite dress is washed AND dried in time for school, and the permission slip is signed, and the correct amount of money ($5, $14, a check made out to xxx for $21.50) is attached.
And it is hard. As Beth Moore said in one of her Bible studies, it is “dang hard.” No soft focus here.
And every mother I know would say, Yes, but it’s for the children. And her face will light up a little bit. Mine as well.
So Happy Mother’s Day to those miracles of nature, the mothers around us, who keep our worlds steady and secure and who every day make the world a better place. Thank you to every mother I know.