Monday, May 10, 2010

Sayonara, Queen Mom

"Mother's Day is a crock," said one mom to me on Saturday morning at our sons' baseball game. "I spend the whole day running around to my mom's and my mother-in-law's. It's not about me at all. I've decided to institute a 'Mother's Week' and maybe they'll treat me right somewhere in there."

I nodded in understanding, and mentioned that we, too, were spending the day with my in-laws.

Oh, how frustrated I used to get with Mother's Day! This was supposed to be my day, my "reward" for all the work I do all year, all the thankless tasks, all the prepared meals, all the washed clothes. My husband would try his best. There would be breakfast in bed, cards from the kids, even gifts. But, before I knew it, my "hour or two" were up, and we were off to celebrate my mother-in-law.

Yes, I was resentful. It struck me as unfair, that she (who is in a much calmer and less demanding stage of motherhood) should get the bulk of the celebrating and attention. It bothered me that I never got any say in how we would spend Mother's Day. No matter what we did in the morning, by early afternoon, we would be en route to my mother-in-law's home.

This year, however, was completely different. And it turned out to be the most wonderful Mother's Day I could ever have imagined.

The logistics of the day didn't change. My time was still crammed into the morning. We still spent the afternoon at my mother-in-law's. Only my attitude changed. Rather than viewing Mother's Day as some sort of "reward" and expecting to be treated like a queen, I saw this day as an opportunity to celebrate the gift of motherhood.

We got up and rushed to get to early mass, at my husband's request. That meant, instead of lolling around waiting for breakfast in bed, I was ironing clothes, tying bows, and combing cowlicks. We got to mass a few minutes early and knelt together in a pew. I prayed in thanksgiving for my family... and for those women who long for motherhood and are struggling with infertility. Right from the start, my heart was focused on the gift of my vocation, the blessing my children are in my life.

Mass was wonderful, a true gift to me. There is no better breakfast on Mother's Day (or any day) than the Eucharist. After we arrived home and I had spoken with my mom, the kids were bursting with surprises: a balloon (accompanied by a cheer), handmade cards, gifts, and ... cake. My birthday cake had been accidentally ruined last week (while DH was out of town). I was surprised with cake for breakfast... the exact cake I'd wanted for my birthday.

We sat around the table, giggling, talking and eating cake at 10 o'clock in the morning. So fun. A short time later, I went for a run, soaking up the quiet, cool spring weather, enjoying the rhythm and the deep calm that running brings me. While I cleaned myself up, the kids straightened the house, and then we headed to my mother-in-law's. The kids played with their cousin. The adults talked, laughed, visited. It was a wonderful, relaxed, laughter-filled afternoon.

Later that night, I laid down next to each of my children, one at a time, and talked with them. I listened. We cuddled. We prayed together. Bedtime took nearly an hour, as we shared and snuggled in the dark.

Before we went to sleep, DH asked me about my day. It was perfect, I told him. Absolutely perfect.

And I think, really, it all came down to this: I stopped focusing on me.

Mother's Day has its place. We all need to pause and recognize the gift that our mothers and mothers-in-law are in our lives. But we mothers also need to pause and recognize the gift that motherhood is in our own lives. And this gift is, ultimately, not about us. I am not a mother because of some special skill, education or training I've had. I am a mother because of these three amazing children I've been given to raise.

Motherhood is a gift from God.

One that should be celebrated.

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