Looper column: So much for June Cleaver: Mother’s Day 2020
I once thought of Mother’s Day as an innocuous, greeting card kind of holiday. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate moms? Just the fact that she went through labor giving birth to us is cause enough to say thanks. She fed us countless meals, clothed us, put cold washcloths on our foreheads when we had a fever, and laid awake at night when we were out late as teenagers. Everybody ought to celebrate moms.
Then I got to know people - not one but many - who had a mom that did not always see that they were fed, whose 5-year-old had to pick out her own clothes and get her own breakfast. Moms who either were not home to put cold washcloths on foreheads or were not sober. Moms who didn’t give their teenagers a thought, except when they were angry.
Then there are the women who ached to be a mom but were not able. Mother’s Day is an annual reminder of what they were denied. Not everyone wants to celebrate moms.
Even moms might not feel like celebrating Mother’s Day. If celebrating requires energy, mom may need to decline. Energy, like bandwidth, is in limited supply. If mom uses too much, she may start buffering and then freeze up altogether.
Debbie Farmer’s description of how motherhood changes one’s perspective was eye-opening to me. “Before children,” she says, “I was thankful for fresh, organic vegetables. After children: I am thankful for microwaveable macaroni and cheese - without which my children would be surviving on about three bites of cereal and their own spit.
“Before children: I was thankful for the opportunity to obtain a college education and have a higher quality of life than my ancestors. After children: I am thankful to finish a complete thought without being interrupted.
“Before children: I was thankful for holistic medicine and natural herbs. After children: I am thankful for pediatric cough syrup guaranteed to cause drowsiness in young children. I was thankful for the opportunity to vacation in exotic foreign countries so I could experience a different way of life in a new culture. I am thankful to have time to make it all the way down the driveway to get the mail.
“Before children I was thankful for the Moosewood Vegetarian cookbook. After children I am thankful for the butterball turkey hotline. I was thankful for a warm, cozy home to share with my loved ones. I am thankful for the lock on the bathroom door. I was thankful for material objects like custom furniture, a nice car and trendy clothes. I am thankful when the baby spits up and misses my good shoes.”
So much for June Cleaver.
It seems to me, looking from the outside, that one of the difficult things about motherhood is that there are no standard gauges by which a mom can determine whether she is doing a good job. Even the mom - no, especially the mom - who cooks countless meals, puts cold washcloths on fevered foreheads and lays awake at night worrying about her kids, wonders if she is doing it right. The latest clash between the kids, the clutter everywhere and the recurring feeling that she is on her own, all seem to declare her a failure.
These are a few of the reasons people wish to ignore Mother’s Day. They are also the reasons we should not. Yes, not every mother is a good mom and not every woman who would be a great mom will get the opportunity. These are sad truths but they are not a reason to ignore our own moms who have poured their lives and love into us.
Perhaps moms don’t need their families to glorify motherhood in the abstract, once a year on the second Sunday in May. Perhaps what they need is a family that acknowledges their effort, requites their love and expresses gratitude not just for the innumerable sacrifices they have made but for the fact that they never bothered to count them.
Shayne Looper is the pastor of Lockwood Community Church in Coldwater, Michigan. His blog, “The Way Home,” is at shaynelooper.com.