Inside each of us dwells a mother.

The instinct to care for another being. Pushing a several-pound mass through one’s birth canal represents one way of achieving motherhood; after all, once the infant emerges with a squall and crowned in meconium, someone assumes responsibility for the child’s care and comfort.

But giving birth is not the only route to becoming a mother, simply the most obvious.

While biology is the least of motherhood, it is the most celebrated. Flowers, chocolates, and Hallmark cards message a sticky sweetness that sugarcoats the reality of motherhood. Mother’s Day is pay day for the hardest job without financial compensation. You can argue the same goes for fatherhood but the reality remains women do the vast majority of child care and housework necessary to raise healthy and happy children. Not to mention the lioness’ share of the emotional work.

Underneath today’s family gatherings and brunches and breakfasts-in-bed runs a river of grief, a grief which embodies the essence of mothering. Honor this grief. For with every tremendous responsibility comes joy–and pain. So too all of you:

Who have lost a mother.

Who does not love your mother.

Whose mother did not love you.

Who have lost a child.

Who wish for a child.

Who cannot bear a child.

Who deliver children into this world.

Who care for others’ children and others’ mothers.

Who have given up children to others to care for.

Who care for animals.

Who demonstrate kindness and compassion to others.

Who care for your friends and neighbors as if they are family.

Who care for this planet.

Who give a damn about making this world kinder, saner, healthier, freer, and fairer.

I honor you.

To the Mother in each of us. Find her. Celebrate her. Remember her. Peace…

On Mothering…

Carol_WastilaI miss my mother. Back when we were children, on Mother’s Day my sister and I prepared Mom her breakfast in bed. Being kids we were up early; by the time we barged into her bedroom, beaming over our toast and coffee and dandelions plucked from the lawn, mom was likely entering REM sleep. A part-time nurse, she worked nights in the ICU, so those days we didn’t see her much. She received her RN degree; back in the day, the only training needed to be a nurse. She loved her job—her patients, her colleagues, the work itself. Until the field became saturated with surgical approaches and advanced degrees. She left her profession, edged out by a work environment that had gone touchless long before the arrival of our pandemic.

Not effusive with her children, I suspect nursing was one way mom mothered. Mom wasn’t one to take us clothes shopping or for manicures or fancy lunches; she wasn’t one to dedicate a day to baking holiday cookies with her daughters. Mom wasn’t huggy or kissy, and declarations of love were reserved for Christmas Eve card openings and quiet conversations. Many friends had involved moms, and I was jealous of them. Others friends had absent, neglectful, and abusive mothers, which made me grateful for mine.

I grew up vowing if and when I had children, I would involve them in my life. Together, we’d jump in puddles, explore forests, make gingerbread houses, read books, write plays, have tea parties. We would hug.

After being a mother myself to two children, after working full-time through their childhood, I have come to wonder if my mom’s lack of interest in doing things with us was exhaustion. Did years of being the primary breadwinner, working nights in a demanding job, doing all the usual-but-taken-for-granted mom things– grocery shopping, cooking meals, housecleaning, PTA meetings–tired her down to the bones?

Because I know that fatigue. A physical, emotional, and spiritual tiredness that hums through me, day after day, year after year. I wish I could hug my mom, tell her I get it, get her, I appreciate her, and I love her.

Which she must know. Just as I know she loves and loved me. I always knew that.

Mothering is the hardest job. It never ends, even when your children grow into adults and launch their own lives. It’s a job that has only gotten harder, I think; today’s world does not look kindly upon those trying to create calmer, softer, sweeter lives. I wish for all mothers to find some quiet, some space, some time to nurture themselves, today and every day.

Happy Mother’s Day, and peace…