Mothers are frequently defined, by themselves and by others, according to what they do. For good reason, because let me tell you mothers do a lot.
Ya’ll remember this gem?
As a mother I prepare three meals a day plus snacks. I menu plan and grocery shop and manage our schedules and pick up and drop off and volunteer.
As a mother I scrub and wash and fold and pick up and pick up and pick up and pick up and…
As a mother I mend and bandage and groom.
As a mother I speak and scold and teach and whisper and sing lullabies and, let’s be honest here, I yell quite a bit.
As a mother I answer and I listen.
As a mother I fret and wring my hands and shout “Be careful!”
As a mother I play and entertain and run and dance and play in the snow and hike down to the creek and hang out in the shallow end and lift them high so they can see the elephants over the fence at the zoo. (But I most definitely don’t craft…)
As a mother I breastfeed and bottle feed and stay home and go to work and cloth-diaper and disposable-diaper and feed my kids homemade baby food and orange mac and cheese.
Every mother is different, of course. The ‘doing’ varies from woman to woman, culture to culture, baby to baby, season to season.
Mothers do. Endlessly. Always. The job description is beautiful and varied and joyful and tiring and exciting and mind-numbingly boring at times.
But what if I stopped doing? Well, recently I sort of have.
I had surgery on my foot and for the few months prior to the surgery, I have been unable to do. Having willing and generous family and friends have helped immensely in keeping our house clean and meals cooked.
But, the kids have noticed a change. Kids are great at noticing, aren’t they?! They had a mom that did a lot. I took pride in how active I was, I took pride in our busy days spent exploring parks and museums and running errands and taking walks. I took pride in my home and my meals and my work.
Now they have a mother that isn’t doing much of anything, hasn’t been for awhile and can’t give them an answer on when mommy will back to how she was before.
What happens when the mommy who does, doesn’t anymore?
The other night I could hear Zachary start screaming from his room, he had a nightmare and and so I scooted awkwardly but as quickly as possible into his room (yes, I am on wheels. I named my scooter Joshua and you should be jealous). I lowered myself carefully onto the floor and pulled him into my lap. He immediately stopped crying and I felt the tension and fear release from his body into the dark, and he melted into my arms and lap. Eventually he began breathing deeply, he had fallen back to sleep.
I held him there for awhile, my big boy who will turn four years old this month and is about to surpass his older sister in height and weight. My big boy, in batman pajamas, a new summer buzz cut and dirt eternally under his finger nails, asleep in my arms.
I hadn’t done much but provide myself. My scent, my softness, my voice.
And in that moment I was reminded of what makes me a mother.
It’s not the breastfeeding and snuggling and soothing. It certainly isn’t the cooking and cleaning. It’s not even the disciplining and teaching and loving.
Sort of like what makes me a Christian isn’t my church attendance or service projects or music selection. What makes me a Christian is Jesus Christ.
What makes me a mother is that… I am a mother. What makes me a mother is Evangeline Meghan and Zachary Jonathan.
On Mother’s Day this year I want to remember that I am.
What I get accomplished in a given day,whether I helicopter or free range, what I allow them to watch on TV, and what I cook them and do with them are all fodder for other discussions.
Those are things I do. And they have value and make for great mommy wars on the internet. But again, just things I do. A mother is what I am.
That’s enough for today, I think.