We deserve Mother’s Day

‘Tis the season for heart-shaped lockets, bouquets of lillies, sappy cards, and supper out at a restaurant. That’s right, boys and girls – we’re right in the thick of Mother’s Day season.

(Disclaimer: Dads are great. I have an awesome one, I married an awesome one, and I know too many other awesome ones to count. They do many of the things moms do, sometimes even more, and they do a million things that moms don’t, won’t, or can’t do. So in June, it’ll be your turn to be thanked for mowing the lawn and killing the spiders and pressure washing the siding. But until then, this is our day, so kindly endure a few minutes of horn-tooting and give us our moment. Thank you.)

I prefer a low-key Mother’s Day. All I want is to sleep in, no presents required. (Actually, I would like that every day, but if I can bank on it just one day a year then I’m going count on it and hold everyone to it. Also, I would never turn down bacon that was cooked and then marinated in maple syrup, but no pressure.)

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On the other hand, I have friends who turn the occasion into an all-out national holiday at their house, with presents, jewelry, moratoriums on housework, weekend getaways and the works.

Easy as it may seem to judge those who laud themselves the second Sunday in May, keep in mind what they’re celebrating. Our job is quite simple in description: be everything to everyone. The execution of that is where the real skill comes in.

At its core, a mother’s job (at least as I see it) is to keep her kids safe, teach them to live well, and hopefully see them happy during the process. She is a child’s first love and, if she plays her cards right, their longest-lasting.

The journey isn’t without its challenges, however. The task of raising independent, conscientious children in a world disrupted by technology, inequality, and danger has grown increasingly complicated. There seems to be so much to worry about now, so many milestones to track and so many commitments to juggle. Just thinking about raising kids can be exhausting, never mind actually doing it.

Mothering, I’ve often joked, is a test of endurance. The game has changed so much from when I did it almost 20 years ago to present day, that it’s no wonder so many people are riddled with anxiety. The onslaught of parenting advice and accompanying judgement can be bewildering, to say the least, and it’s hard to know which direction will lead you down a path to a happy family.

Add to this the pressure we put on ourselves to get it right. We expected so much from ourselves as mothers that it would be hard to live up to our own ridiculous standards. Plus, our husband is watching. So is our mother, his mother, your mother, literally everyone’s mother, and our friends, and the other kids in the house. There are so many eyes on us all the time, quick to point out what we’ve done wrong or forgotten, but often not nearly as quick with reassurance or even just a well-timed silence.

To add to the stress, we must research family histories for the heritage fair, build leprechaun traps, make a list of supplies for the birthday party on Saturday, make sure the baseball uniform is clean, bake a pie for the fundraiser, call to track the parcel in transit, clean out the deep freezer, and literally thousands and thousands of other seemingly minor tasks. Thing is, combined, they actually require a herculean effort.

And these challenges are ones experienced by someone lucky enough to go through this journey with an amazing partner – imagine what it must be like to go it alone. A full 25 per cent of families in Cape Breton are single parent families, did you know that? That’s significantly higher than the rest of the province, and certainly the rest of Canada. And without another pair of hands to share the hard labor of raising kids, mothering is an arduous job.

Not a single word I’ve written is a complaint, but rather a condensed inventory of reasons why every mother has the right to congratulate herself on Mother’s Day for her many efforts. Our rewards are our kids’ successes, yes, but a mani-pedi is pretty great, too.

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Gina MacDonald is a freelance columnist, mother and wife who lives outside Port Hawkesbury.