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Dr. Cheryl Pappas Headshot

Mother's Day: It's Complicated

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"In the sense in which a man (or woman) can ever be said to be at home in the world, he is at home not through dominating, or explaining, or appreciating, but through caring and being cared for...." -- Milton Mayeroff, On Caring

Let us remember the matter of mothers this Mother's Day. The Hallmarking of this yearly commercial salute to Mom is like American cheese -- a goopy gauze which allows us to go totally unconscious about our mothers. Instead, we may act out the picture of having what passes as a relationship. You know, the special menu Mother's Day brunch, the gifts, the picture of what it all looks like. But what about the real relationship?

Mothers get a lousy rap from decades of psychoanalytic literature that basically lays at her feet blame and reason for all life-time events in her children's lives. Yes, our mothers are powerful in us, but we need to know that at some very specific point in time, it's up to us.
That's a complicated subject for another day. Today I'm turning exclusively to the subject of caring.

Caring, as a feeling state, the ability to feel on behalf of another person's existence and condition, does not come in every human package. It is also true that though we may be endowed with the ability to feel and care for another person, our expression of caring is not always clearly demonstrated. Caring deeply can also bring out the worst in people. As a child in response to a caring, imperfect mother, this can be very upsetting, to say the least. But I believe that the presence of a mother who cares is registered in the core of the baby in a nourishing, essential way.

For those of us who are lucky to have a mother who really cared about us, let me make it clear:
This is a supreme luxury we have. It's easy to cast a critical eye on the methods, styles, imperfections, unintentional hurtfulness, and ways our mother's caring communication seemed to go awry. The great majority of people are impoverished and have not been given the gift of what we have in our mothers.

Let's not today. Let's just identify the unheralded, invisible truth of the gift of having had a mother who authentically cared. Only that. And that alone is very big.

Ask those who did not have a mother who cared for them. They know.

So here's to caring. But mostly, here's to my mother, a woman who never for one moment stops caring.

Happy Mother's Day all year, Mom.



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