By Carol Lloyd
My hubby woke me up early, not for breakfast in bed or anything like that, for me to clean poop up from our puppy. He didn’t get the "chance" and didn’t have the "bucks" to get me anything - then he saw how upset I was( i lied saying it was ok) and left me home with the kids and poop to get me some cards and a gift; so that meant I had to clean the house myself to get ready for both of our families coming over for lunch...
So begins one of hundreds of sagas evoking the misery of Mother’s Day on chat boards (this one courtesy of BabyCenter.com) across our virtual nation. The disappointments, the hurt feelings, all those DHs who don’t see the point in pampering the mother in their midst. “You’re not my mother,” allegedly quoth said hubbies.
For many years, I’ve been among those who try to ignore the cellophane trappings of Mother’s Day. Not just the signs in the windows advertising chocolates, flowers, and new iPads, but the countless articles that enumerate ingenious activities, home-made cards, and ways to show that special mother you care.
Though I’ve never been shaken awake for early morning Mother’s Day dog-do duty, I’ve had some bummer Mother’s Days, like the time my husband announced at 11 Sunday morning that we should go out to brunch, only to find every restaurant in a 10-mile radius was booked with families who thought to actually plan their Mother’s Day festivities. Like many women, I married a very nice mensch who doesn’t go in for those choreographed moments of sentimentality, and for whom spending money causes more discomfort than the bi-annual colonoscopy. (Thank God for my children’s teachers! In my life those projects, cobbled together with toilet paper rolls, clay and love have done much to bright those Sunday morning discussions about what to do.)
Given my husband's strengths, I can't take the issue too seriously. He’s always done just as much parenting as I do and these days a whole lot more. He has no debt to pay a self-sacrificing wife. Besides, he's consistent: he couldn’t care less about being pampered on Father’s Day.
But on this day of maternal reverence, I’m writing mostly to the those 83 million mothers out there: If you’ve got a fabulous day ahead of you, relish every minute. If you hit disappointments, take heart. You’re not alone. In fact, the very woman who conceived and copyrighted Mother’s Day to honor her own mother (haranguing politicians until Woodrow Wilson made it a national holiday in 1914), had an ambivalent relationship to the tradition she spawned. Objecting to anyone who she saw as exploiting the holiday for commercial and political gain, Ann Jarvis railed against (and sometimes threatened to sue) all matter of opponents – from department stores to Eleanor Roosevelt, who used the holiday to promote child mortality issues.
For Jarvis, the holiday wasn’t about buying gifts or even cards. Presaging a certain Tiger Mother, she once derided greeting cards as “a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write.” The fact that Jarvis spent much of her life (and inheritance) fighting and regretting her life’s achievement, only to die penniless and childless in a Pennsylvania mental institution, should remind us of the dangers of making the perfect the enemy of the good.
So this year, I’m going to forge my own plan: choose the day’s activities (boring art museums anyone?) and require my children (for the sake of their education, of course) to memorize at least a few choice stanzas from Billy Collins' ode to the limits of maternal payback, The Lanyard.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard. ....
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.
Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp....