The first few years of motherhood, I joked that all I wanted for Mother's Day was a nap. It wasn't really a joke.
For the next few years of motherhood, I joked that all I wanted for Mother's Day was to not have to worry about what was for dinner. It wasn't really a joke, either.
My Mother's Day wishes seemed to follow Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
Over the last few years, my wishes have turned snarky. No longer am I a sleep-deprived primal animal, but now I'm capable of higher level demands.
For Mother's Day, I want equal pay for women, the maternity leave I never got and to erase the memory of having to hand-pump breast milk in a public restroom at work.
How's that for a Mother's Day wish?
But a recent experience with my daughters changed the way I think about Mother's Day.
While cleaning up after dinner, I glanced at my phone and saw a reminder for a party that I had completely forgotten. It was my 6-year-old's end-of-season basketball party -- something she had been looking forward to for weeks. We had just eaten dinner (it was a pizza party) and it was completely across town. To make things even worse, when I scanned my email in hopes that I'd somehow entered the date into my phone incorrectly, I saw that it had actually started 30 minutes earlier than I thought. I racked my brain for the answer to my dilemma. Do we drive across town to show up one hour late to a party? Do I pretend I forgot and wait till she notices in a few weeks? Do I confess my mistake and bribe her with other negotiating tools?
"Get in the car!" I yelled without explanation or warning.
While driving, I explained the situation to my girls. Where I expected exuberance that we were heading to a party, I was met with surly attitude over the fact we were late.
I rationalized for a few minutes with cheesy sayings like "better late than never," with no luck. Finally, I looked at them in the rearview mirror, and without planning or precedence I calmly said, "I am a good mother. I made a mistake, I'm human, but I am a good mother."
Silence. Like 20 seconds of silence. Which was reward enough. But then this:
"It's OK if we don't make it, Mom."
"Yeah, we get to do lots of fun stuff all the time."
I was floored and completely liberated. I had never said those words out loud before. I had masked insecurity with jokes about forfeiting "mom of the year" awards, and pointed comments about someone calling CPS on me, but I had never admitted to myself the truth behind all of it.
"I am a good mother."
And it was the truth. I wasn't a good mother because I piled them in the car without any notice and sped across town for one of a thousand parties they will have. I would have been just as good of a mother if I stayed home and faced the wrath of disappointed children in the comfort of my own home. I wasn't a good mother because I hadn't made any mistakes. On the contrary, my parenting path has been and will continue to be riddled with disasters. I was a good mother because I woke up that morning, like I wake up every morning, with the inescapable job of being a parent.
I've traveled to other continents, taken up endless pastimes and worked 50+ hour work weeks to try to get a break from being a parent only to learn it makes me want to parent even more. The more I run from it, the more it haunts me. The constant desire to do better. To give them more. To find the answers. To be something bigger for them.
That desire drives parents to get up every morning and give this impossible puzzle another shot. But it also haunts them into a constant state of uncertainly and self scrutiny.
So this Mother's Day, I'll reflect on how I am already enough, how all the problems don't have an answer, and how I'm giving what I have.
I'll wake up knowing that I am a good mother, I will chant it while force-feeding them lunch and I will go to sleep after 45 minutes spent trying to get them situated in bed, still knowing that I'm a good mother.
If we want to be valued in society, if we want our children to learn reverence that lasts beyond one day a year, then it must start with ourselves. It must start with a great act of honestly -- while we will sprinkle our children's lives with missteps, we are doing a remarkable job.
We are good mothers. This gift I will give to myself, and I hope all the good mothers I know out there will do the same. Not just on Mother's Day, but all the days that will follow.
But I'm still taking a nap.