This week, dads and kids around the country will hit the mall, department stores and jewelry shops looking for the perfect Mother’s Day gift. They will buy pancake mix, fresh berries and specialty flavored coffee in preparation for making mom breakfast in bed. They may wash her car, take her out to dinner or surprise her with tickets to that concert she’s been wanting to see. Lovely cards will be given from spouses, little kids will work hard at school this week tracing their hand over a Mothers Day’s poem, and teenagers may actually give mom a genuine hug and grunt out a “Happy Mother’s Day, Ma.”
And yet, none of these things, these gifts and gestures, cards and meals, are what moms really want this Sunday. I know it’s not what I want.
No, I don’t want to be left all alone on Mother’s Day with a box of chocolates, the remote and a quiet, peaceful house. I also don’t want to be waited on hand and foot all day, pampered and fussed over, like someone who has just come back from a traumatic experience and needs a refreshing makeover.
There is only one thing I want for Mother’s Day. Just one. I want to be told I’m doing this right. This whole motherhood thing, just be told I’m doing it right. I need to hear it. And I don’t want it told to me in the form of a bouquet of roses, a scented candle and a burnt omelette brought to me in bed on Sunday morning.
Remember your very first six weeks of mothering? When you endured around-the-clock care-taking with zero feedback, when the only sounds you heard were wails, and the only sight you saw was a red scrunched-up face? When did you first feel like you were doing it right? For me, it was the first time my baby looked up at me and smiled. That one wide grin told me everything I needed to hear.
In the years since, I have allowed myself to forget what it feels like to be smiled at, and I have simply forgotten to be aware that I am doing it right. So please, please tell me I am doing it right, and not just on Mother’s Day. Tell it to me on days I need to hear it the most. On days when I am at my worst. When long days leave me weary and emotionally bruised from society’s unattainable expectations for raising kids, I need to be told, “You’re doing it right.”
When my patience tank is grossly depleted, and my children’s wants and needs have left me in a state of panic and suffocating anxiety, I need to be told, “You’re doing it right.”
When I doubt with every bone in my body that the answers I give my inquisitive teenagers about relationships, marriage, love and life are actually intelligible and inspiring, I need to be told, “You’re doing it right.”
When I have flipped what feels like my 85,000th pancake, packed my 10,000th lunch, and served yet another plate of spaghetti to children who are not old enough yet to grasp what a hot, homemade meal truly means, I need to be told, “You’re doing it right.”
When I lie down exhausted in the evening, when anger has fueled my speech, and I go to bed full of regret and shame for not doing better, knowing better and being better, I need to be told, “You’re doing it right.”
When I look at piles of dirty dishes, dirty laundry and dirty faces and only see failure instead of full bellies and active kids, I need to be told, “You’re doing it right.”
When I am left with nothing more to give, when I feel I cannot do another single second of parenting, of molding, shaping and raising boys into men, I just need to be told, “You’re doing it right.”
I can only assume I speak for thousands of mother when I say this: Telling me I am doing it right one day out of 365, a day where a calendar and TV commercials are reminding you to tell me I’m doing it right in the form of charm bracelets and pedicures, is not what I need. Please, tell me more often. Tell me in words. This Sunday, if you’re lucky enough to still have your own mother in your life, call her up and just say one thing: “You did it right.”
This Sunday, call up that single or divorced mom you know, the one whom I bet more often than not feels “less than” because she is going at it alone, and tell her one thing: “You’re doing it right.”
Next week when you pass that young mom in the grocery store, the one with the toddler and infant in tow and the dark circles and frumpy appearance clueing you in to the fact that she is utterly exhausted, pat her on the shoulder as you pass and say, “You’re doing it right.”
When you are commiserating with another mom of teens about how you never thought age 17 would be this difficult, how dealing with the modern adolescent has sucker-punched you both in the face, remind each other, “You’re doing it right.”
To the special needs mom you know, who spends her days not just as a mom, but as her child’s angel, superhero and savior, and yet wonders daily why she was chosen to parent this child, please tell her, “You’re doing it right.” And that friend you have who is expecting her first baby? Don’t go on and on about sleepless nights and the terrible twos. Hug her, look her right in the eyes, and tell her, “You’re gonna do it right.”
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms who think they are doing it wrong. Here is your gift from me: “YOU’RE DOING IT RIGHT.”