I am a single mom. Being a mother is hard work, physically, spiritually and emotionally. It is the most rewarding job you will ever have, should you choose it, but also the most draining and demanding. I wouldn't change any of it for the world.
My ex-husband and I separated while I was pregnant with my daughter, Bee, and divorced soon after. She is now seven years old. The divorce was a difficult time. To his credit, I am sure he never quite fully understood (or will ever know) how hard it is to be a single mom. You really can't know, unless you are one. He is a great father to Bee, and she adores her daddy, but it took work and effort from both of us to create that loving space where we could both parent her without animosity or junk -- just love and support.
I am not a big "Hallmark Card Holiday" kinda gal, but Mother's Day is that one day out of the year, where we truly do want to be recognized for our efforts, hard work and sacrifices made. Especially single moms who do the work for two.
When Bee was really little, we loved to go to Walt Disney World together. It was "our thing". When asked what we should do to celebrate Mother's Day, every year her immediate answer was always "Disney". So we went.
Standing in endless lines in Orlando heat and humidity, eating fried dough while waiting for the Dumbo ride was never my idea of being "pampered" as a mom, but the smile on her face, her laughter and excitement, and the end of the day hotel cuddle to sleep was my idea of heaven.
I would take her alone. I would pay for the entire trip, which would cost more than a spa weekend in Hawaii. That was all fine with me. It was our tradition. Mother's Day would arrive, and I would send myself flowers, and a gift for Bee, thanking her for making me her mom.
My ex-husband was living his own life, so I didn't think much of his lack of contribution. Until one day, at Disney, we had been watching television in the hotel room and this awful ad kept running on Cartoon Network. It was relentlessly aimed at children.
A 1-800 ad for a cheap floral company that went something like this:
"Kids, do you love your mom?!"
Kids shout: "Yes!!"
"Well then do something special for her on Mother's Day! Let your mom know how much you love her by giving her the gift she'll never forget!" The kids hand their mom flowers and she hugs them. The announcer repeats this over and over again. Different moms, all receiving this magical gift, hugging their kids in gratitude. Big smiles all around. Happiness, brought to you by one simple call, and a credit card.
I could swear, on the days leading up to Mother's Day, they must have played this commercial every 10 minutes. It was virtually on a loop.
Each time, I could see Bee's concerned face, as she realized that she had no money and no way to send her mom flowers. She was about three, and after the twentieth time this ad ran, I remember Bee, mustering up the courage, eyes welled with tears, to lie to me for the first time:
"Mommy, I got something really nice for you for Mother's Day, I just forgot it back home, so I'm going to have to give it to you later, after Mother's Day, ok?"
I took her in my arms, held her close and said, "Baby, being right here with you right now is gift enough. I don't need flowers to know how much you love me... That is just a silly commercial to sell flowers."
She smiled. But in that moment, my heart broke.
Have you ever loved someone so much, you wish you could do something great for them, but didn't have the resources to do it? The pain is sensational, it is borderline worthlessness, and humiliation.
In that moment, I felt her pain and lack of empowerment. The powerlessness of being a child, without a dollar or a ride to go pick a card. A child in a hotel room without privacy, crayons or paper to express herself. Me, taking her, would ruin it. There we were, the two of us, feeling powerless.
To her, I was, and am, her sun, moon and stars. Her love letters to me come from parent teacher conference days, when I see the essays she writes that involve me. The pictures she draws in school that she thinks I will never see. The way she adds my maiden name, Manning, to her papers in school, even though that isn't her name. Bee Manning Barish. When I see the pride in her eyes when she sees me writing, or happy about a successful piece.
What I want most for Mother's Day, is to know that someone, other than a class project or a babysitter, took the time to help my little one feel empowered to honor me. No matter how big or small. This quite frankly comes down to one day out of the year, having one parent honor the other, and teaching by example. This is about family.
I want her to feel that excited rush of "having a surprise for mommy when she wakes up" on Mother's Day.
I place this responsibility squarely on the fathers of the world. Yeah, you guys. I don't care what your personal feelings are about the woman who gave birth to your child. That is irrelevant. This is about your kids.
I am happy to say that my ex-husband has come a long way since then, and has married a terrific woman, who has become an amazing step mom. I plan to honor her on Sunday. But for all of those years that I had to order myself flowers and pretend that "Tinkerbell knew the wishes in Bee's heart and sent them to me", I say -- get it together guys.
Empower your children to honor the woman who gave birth to them. Let them experience the joy of giving, even if it's just to make mom breakfast in bed and a home made card. For those of you dealing with a single mom out there, go all out. Because no one deserves it more.
Remember, "Everyday you write the book" and your kids will carry that book with them for the rest of their lives. Make your story the best it can be. Everything matters.
Sending the "clueless guys" out there some helpful advice. Thanking the ones who step up and do right. Thanking Bee's dad for understanding and growing to make this year extra special; but mostly sending so much love and respect to all the mothers out there!
Now go have a meeting with your child and have fun thinking up a plan to make their mom feel extra special. You'll thank me later. Happy Mother's Day!