Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Young Mother's Day

I have to say, Mother's Day isn't exactly what I imagined it would be when I was younger.

As the youngest in my family, I remember the following about Mother's Day:

Dad would bring Mom breakfast in bed
Dad always had a nice plant or an uplifting book or some other nice present for Mom
I always worked hard to make Mom a nice card
I sang my heart out to Mom when the Primary kids sang to their mothers in Sacrament meeting
Mom was allowed to kind of have the day off and do something she wanted to do instead of her endless mother chores
I tried hard to do little things to help Mom throughout the day or to let her know I loved her-- I wasn't always very good at being really helpful, but I sure tried hard

So I imagined that when I had children Mother's Day would be a wonderful day when I would kick back, rest on my laurels, and bask in well-deserved adoration from my husband and children, who would essentially be my slaves for the day as I got exactly what I wanted all day long.


The necessary adjustment to my thinking came as a shock at first.

For a young mother, Mother's Day is absolutely no guarantee against throw up and potty accidents. Husbands are liable to have to work or go to church meetings. Even if they can make you breakfast in bed your children will probably disrupt it. There usually isn't enough money in the family exchequer for much of a gift. Sometimes your children are heinously disruptive when the Primary is up on the stand singing at church. Sometimes they give each other bloody noses during the Sacrament. Sometimes they whine and fight all day long and don't let you even pick up your Inspiring Mother's Day Book. Sometimes the more you try to take some time for yourself, the more disruptive they become.

In short, the more you insist that Mother's Day be about you and what you want, the more miserable you become. Motherhood and selfishness do not successfully mix, even on Mother's Day. It is a day when honor should be given, but honor should not be sought, even when well-deserved.

I have, in the past, spent Mother's Day in tears of frustration.

But I've wised up since then. A friend once told me, "Frustration is a measure of expectation." This has been one of the most vital pieces of advice pertaining to motherhood that I have ever been given. If you're frustrated, you need to change your expectations.

So if you expect barf and bloody noses and screaming and muddy shoes on Mother's Day it won't faze you. You will look past it and see how beautiful your children are and how they do try to please you and how they blossom under your selfless love and attention. You will be deeply touched by the crinkled, scribbly card they bring you from their Primary class, especially if that's the only token of appreciation you get all day. You will be grateful for the opportunity the day affords, not to take a day off for yourself, but to remember once again that you're engaged in the hardest, most wonderful job in the entire world and there's nothing you'd rather be doing.

I no longer expect to spend the day like Cleopatra, but I usually do get at least a little bit of pampering and I always thoroughly appreciate it. The highlight of my day today was the long, glorious nap I got when I stayed home from church with our virus-y girls. It came at the expense of being able to hear the boys sing to me in Sacrament Meeting, but they brought me home the cutest flower pens they made in Primary. And the Badger worked hard at washing dishes and picking up toys even though he was fighting a cold himself.

This morning Bean remembered it was Mother's Day long enough to change the Rabbit's diaper for me all by himself. It was awesome. As he and the others get older, I may get more and more differential treatment on Mother's Day. By the time the youngest is five or six, my Mother's Days may resemble what I remember from my childhood. But I will not insist upon it or expect it. And I will appreciate it so much the more because of all these early years where I was still called upon to slog through the trenches of toddler parenting despite my exhalted status on the calendar. I will look back on these years and smile and giggle a little and miss the tiny, sticky hands and the squeaky little voices. And then I will go and spend my Mother's Day not in bed with a book but out doing something nice for all my young mother friends.


Marilyn said...

My sister-in-law, who also has four small children the youngest of whom is not one year, enjoys breakfast in bed every Mother's Day... the children help make it and then they climb into bed with her and help her eat it. I don't know how much of the breakfast she actually gets to eat, but I think it's the thought that counts.

Annalea said...

Birrd, this is mother's day to a T. (What does that mean, anyway?)

I've not had bloody noses in Sacrament Meeting, yet . . . but everything else, yes.

I think I need to print this out and include it in my journal. It's beautiful . . . especially the last paragraph. Not only is it timely and accurate, it's beautiful and writerly. Thank you!