Mother's Day is on Sunday. Unfortunately, my own mother died some years ago, so I can't celebrate the day with her (though I owe her an immense debt of gratitude for all that she gave me). There is, however, another mother in my life that deserves to be honored. Namely, my bride, Sarah (yes, after almost nine years of marriage, she is still my bride), the mother of our two daughters.
Mothers certainly don't get the credit they deserve in our society. Did you see the recent kerfuffle between the political strategist Hilary Rosen and Ann Romney? Mothers work long hours (they are never off the "time clock"), are frequently exhausted (no time for naps or coffee breaks), have little time to themselves (it's all about the kids), are terrified of screwing their children up (the bar is set so high by the "maternal-industrial complex") and get paid nothing for their labors except, of course, with the gratification of raising their children (which doesn't pay the mortgage or, often, the emotional bills). There is also some evidence that being a mother makes them less happy than women without children.
Sarah can certainly attest to everything I just wrote. There are days when she wonders why she is a full-time mom (she has great appreciation for the fact that she doesn't need to work and recognizes that many mothers don't have that luxury). Like all children, our girls can be difficult with some frequency, and Sarah reaches her limits with almost as much frequency. Though she will tell you that there are many wonderful moments that remind her why she is a mother, there are just as many or more moments that cause her to seriously question her commitment to motherhood. And, with degrees from two Ivy League schools (I married up!) and a former (and future) career in the non-profit world, Sarah often jokes (okay, only half jokes) that she is overqualified to be a mother.
Then, of course, there is the constant pressure Sarah feels to be the "perfect mother" (as if that species exists). There are, in our social circle, some mothers who seem to not only be able to do everything that mothers are expected to do these days (cook, bake, keep a flawless home, sew, buy organic, volunteer at their kids' schools), but who also seem to always be happy and love being a mother, and also are cool, calm, and collected even under the worst circumstances. And, like so many mothers, Sarah can be her worst critic (I tell Sarah that appearances are deceiving and we can't know what goes on behind closed doors with families).
Yet, for all the challenges Sarah faces, all of the "moments" she has, and all of the angst that she can feel, I truly marvel at how she keeps it all together. She does so much so well for our girls (and me). Sarah is loving, patient and calm. She is giving, supportive and generous. Sarah is also tough, consistent and persistent. She puts the needs of our daughters ahead of her own.
Sarah is so committed to doing the best she can for our daughters and, though she often sees only her small failures, Sarah does a remarkable job at everything she does. And it shows in our girls who are, at ages six and four, pretty good kids: loving, kind, respectful and responsible.
As anyone who is married with children knows, family life is hard on a marriage. When children come along, the honeymoon ends and real life begins. It's not all love and connection and harmony; there are conflicts and struggles. And it's easy to get so caught up in life that you can forget to reflect on why you got married and had children in the first place and remember all of the joys of marriage and parenthood. So, when things get stressful and I begin to wonder why I am here, I always go back to one simple reality: I love Sarah madly and I love my girls as just as much. And then I tell Sarah, "Thank you for all you do."
Sarah isn't that different from other mothers out there. So this post isn't just a tribute to her, but rather to all mothers who get up every morning and do the hard work of raising their children. To Sarah and to all mothers, thank you and enjoy this one day each year dedicated to you.
Note to fathers: Sarah had only two requests for Sunday that I think apply to all mothers: no planning and no cooking. Make Mother's Day the one day in which your wife or partner feels so appreciated that the memory of it will help take the edge off of those more typical days in which being a mother ain't so great, but they do the job anyway.