Flora made me the most amazing, glorious card for the Mother’s Day, a work of art with every doodle a symbol—and a beautiful letter inside. Cinder, when he wakes up, will give me, I expect, chocolate, and Ender is out biking around with his friends, oblivious—but of course he will give me love, he always does. And Sean, yesterday, feted with a Cuban cigar, and today, will do all the things while I fuck off and spend Mother’s Day smoking sheesha, drinking Guinness, and perhaps writing—or perhaps not—but doing all of these things without my children.
Her: OMG, that sounds glorious, what a good idea.
Flora: You’re a weird mother. But I guess it makes sense.
Aunt Augusta: What is wrong with you?
Nothing. As a mother, I spend about 350 if not more days of the year with my children; as a homeschooling and work from home mother, on most of those days, I’m with them or in their very near vicinity 24/7. The gift I ask for consistently, on Mother’s Day, on any holiday—is time for myself.
This particular Mother’s Day is a hard one for me. In the past six months, I’ve been absolutely the shittiest parent I’ve ever been… but also, more awesome, enduring, patient, determined—give me an overblown purple prose adjective, and it probably fits here—than I ever thought I’d have to be. And my feelings, thoughts about what it means to be a mother have never been more clear—and, simultaneously, more ambivalent.
Deeper than that I won’t go, because the damn children read my blog now, and some things, they don’t get to know, now or ever.
But I’ll tell you this—it’s also never been more clear to me that for all the lip service and pap we give to mothers, for all the pomp of Mother’s Day, for all the cliched-but-true quotes in Hallmark cards, for all the excess of Mother’s Day brunches, flowers, presents, blah, blah, blah—as a society, we don’t value mothers. We don’t support them. We don’t make anything easy for them. We remain, as a society, the children who simply expect mothers to change their poopy diapers, feed them, bathe them, soothe them, educate them, love them unconditionally—do all the things—and don’t really think about the effort and the cost that goes into all of that.
I don’t expect my children—your children—any babes, toddlers or even teenagers—to appreciate or understand the cost. I never thought about any of it when I was a child. It didn’t occur to me that my mom had something other to do than drive me to martial arts practice four times a week, or take me out for coffee and a cinnamon bun after working a 12 hour shift because I felt lonely. A loved child should take all of those things for granted, frankly. They shouldn’t think twice about why mothers do the things they do—it is so obvious, you are the Mom, you love them, you do it.
But once they grow up, and they become politicians, policy makers, employers, CEOs… for fuck’s sake. Time to grow up. Want to show your mother how much you appreciate everything she did for you?
Make it easier for your sister, your wife, your daughter, your friend—every mother—to care for her children, earn a living, be a person. If you have power to shape legislation and policy, effect that change on a macro level. If all you have is the power to shape your workplace—or your individual interactions—do that.
Do that. Don’t send me GIFs of flowers and don’t post Happy Mother’s Day on my timeline, and then vote for governments, implement policies, and behave in a way that shows me you don’t value me.
Flora: You know, you could have just said Flora made me a beautiful Mother’s Day card and I’m so happy and left it at that.
Jane: You know, I rant like this to make things easier for you.
Flora: I’ve seen how hard it is. I’m pretty sure I’m not gonna give you grandchildren.
We have this conversation frequently these days, she and I. She asks, “Is it worth it?” …and I can say to that, “Fuck, yeah.” She asks, “Is it easy?” and I shake my head. I don’t know how much of the tightrope I walk she sees… at this age, she shouldn’t see most of the effort that goes into my balancing act, or how much it hurts when I fall off.
When she asks me, “Do you think I should have kids?” I generally laugh and say, “Definitely not yet.”
When she asks me, more in earnest, with more urgency, in her twenties, thirties… I don’t even know if then I’ll be able to tell her about the personal, professional, creative cost. I don’t want her to think she was a sacrifice. That she made things more difficult. After all, I would not be the person I am, I would not be capable of the type of work I do, without her and her brothers. They are part of my alchemy.
But in a society that celebrates motherhood without valuing or supporting it—there is a cost. And it is high.
If things don’t change, and Flora chooses not to have children because she does not want to bear it—that will be the logical, rational, intelligent choice. I will support it.
Flora: I’ll probably have cats. And snakes. Many snakes.
Jane: Just FYI, I’m not changing your cats’ litter boxes and I’m not feeding live mice to your snakes when you go on holidays.
Flora: Jesus. You’re already a terrible grandmother. When can I get my tubes tied?
God, I love her.
Happy Mother’s Day.
PS Mom? I get it now. Not all of it. But more and more of it every day.