I love my Mom, and if you know my Mom you will know why. She is 94 and lives with me. She lived on her own until three years ago, but then she gave up her driver’s license and started to get lonely and sad. So without really telling her I moved her: first herself, then her bedroom, then the rest of her stuff, and here she is.
But this isn’t a story about my Mom; it’s a story about Moms.
Because now I get to be a Mom to my Mom. And being a Mom is something else.
Here is what you get to do, if you’re a Mom:
You prepare three meals every day. You make sure they’re healthy and nutritious. You make sure they’re interesting and not repetitive. You plan ahead and go shopping. If you’re not going to be home for a meal, you prepare and leave something ready, or leave instructions and ingredients for the daycare lady.
You wash dishes. You prepare food in clean pots, and then they’re dirty pots. You serve food on clean plates, and then they’re dirty plates. You wash them, dry them, put them away, take them out one meal later and start over. Over and over and over, day after day after day.
You clean a house. You vacuum. You dust. You clean sinks and toilets. And then someone tracks in some more grit, and someone leaves a soap ring in the bathroom. And so you start over. Like meals and dishes, these jobs do not end. You do them over and over and over. They are not rewarding.
You wash clothes. And sheets and pillowcases, and towels and washcloths. Then you fold them, and put them away. People get them dirty, so you do it again. And again. And again. You make the doctor’s and dentist’s and hairdresser’s appointments, and make sure people get there. Again and again and again. You make sure there’s money in the bank, and pay the bills.
You don’t get any sick days. You can have a horrible cold, or the flu, or a broken leg, but being a Mom doesn’t go away. Those people who rely on you, they still rely on you, and they are lost without you. You can have one foot in the grave, but the other will be pushing the vacuum cleaner or going to the store.
You are always on your game. If someone is down, you find a way to make them laugh. If someone is sick, you find a way to make them feel better. If someone needs to talk, you listen. If someone needs company, you talk. You don’t get to have a bad day, because someone else is relying on you to make their day good. You don’t get to show anger, or frustration, or impatience. You are the rock on which all waves break.
You compromise your career. You tell your boss, I cannot make that meeting, I don’t have coverage; I cannot make that trip, I can’t be away. You arrive at work later, and you leave earlier. You try to do work at home, but then someone at home needs your attention, and they come first. Other people at work – the young kids, the single people, the 99% of men who are not Moms – their careers stay on fast track. Yours stagnates.
My own Mom gave up 25 years of her life, and her career, to be a Mom. She was on course to be one of the first women executives at Time, when Time was one of the most powerful companies in America. She chucked that, to cook, and wash dishes, and clean the house, and do the shopping, and make the doctor’s appointments, and wash the underwear. To be a Mom.
I have learned many things, being a Mom to my Mom.
I have learned that being a Mom is the most frustrating, boring, stupid, repetitive, tedious, day-to-day the least rewarding thing I have ever done.
I have learned that being a Mom to someone I love is the most interesting, satisfying, valuable, by far the most necessary and rewarding thing I have ever done.
I have learned that Moms – not me, but real Moms, to real kids – are the most the most generous, loving, caring, thoughtful, capable, the most fantastic people in the world.
To my Mom – Patty – and to all Moms on Mother’s Day: Thank you, you are the best.