Thoughts after the holiday

Congratulations, everybody. We made it through another Mother’s Day.

All you dads thought of something heart-warming and appropriate to give your wives, or survived the humiliation if you did not.

All you church leaders and Sunday school teachers avoided the fraught topics, or not, but at least it’s behind you.

You women who wonder if you really qualify as a mother, because your mothering is non-traditional, smiled and wore something pretty and made it through. I honor you.

You who are grieving the loss of your mother cried the tears and braved the ubiquitous shopping displays (BUY THIS NOW!! FOR HER!! – while you thought if only I could). You who are grieving the loss of a child you loved – I know it hurt. I honor you too.

You who are still waiting for that special someone who will rock your world – you who sat quietly with no one squirming on your lap and putting sweet arms around your neck – you made it. We saw you, and the tears you could not cry. Our community would be so much less without you.

You kids who pulled off the breakfast in bed, the handmade cards, the first attempts at cooking – Good job, honey. You did a good job, even if it didn’t look like you imagined.

You moms, whom this day is supposed to be all about – I thought of you especially. Some of you ate it up and loved it. Some of you found it didn’t look like you imagined either.

The before-church messiness and bickering, normal on most Sundays, can be unbearable on a day like this because can’t they for once let it go, just once this special day?? All the usual, reasonable sacrifices of motherhood – being last at the food, washing those dishes, sweeping up the glass shards – seem more burdensome. There are babies screaming to be fed. There are adolescents giving you that face. There are grown children who do not reach back to say thank you. Mother’s Day can be a reminder that not all is as it should be.

But we made it.

If there is one thing I have learned in the last months about motherhood, it’s that it is a GIFT, surprisingly unpredictable, impossible, and delicious. You who felt swamped with work and worry yesterday, remember – some in your congregation would give several years off their life for that honor. Okay, maybe several hours, I don’t know.

I read two books lately that changed my views on mothering and homemaking. One was The Bookseller of Kabul, a difficult read I wouldn’t necessarily recommend. Besides painful glimpses into the oppression of women in Afghanistan, including sexual exploitation, the punch-point that impacted me most was that the author could not imagine a fulfilling life for her main characters, women who lived out their lives in service to the men they loved, sweeping daily dust that never went away and cooking for daily crowds that never went away too, and falling into bed at night exhausted. I thought Abuses granted, yes. But women have lived this way for thousands of years, and some of them have been very happy.

I’ll be honest with you though: it rattled me. For several weeks I was choked by my own femininity and cultural setting, and I even printed out Maya Angelou’s beautiful poem Caged Bird and hung it by my kitchen sink. That worked, and made me feel noble and queenly and misunderstood, until my sons who were emptying the dish drainer began reading it aloud in an outrageous mixture of British, Swahili, and Pennsylvania Dutch accent. They don’t even speak Swahili. But they had it down, and it nearly ruined the poem for me forever. “A CAAAHGED bird stahnds on the GREEAAAVE of dreams, his SHAAAYHdow shouts on a NEIGHTHTHMAHRE scream…” When I stopped laughing, and crying, I took down the paper and threw it in the trash can.

We are not in a cage.

We are not in a cage just because our lives revolve around other people and we serve a lot and wash mounds of grass-stained laundry without thanks. We are honored. Jesus said those who serve are blessed, and I can’t help noticing that his servants eventually grow into pretty incredible people.

The other book was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and in it the author, who is a self-professed liberated woman, mourned the losses of a generation of stay-at-home moms. She spoke of the food losses, particularly, in healthy eating and homey happiness, but she spoke also of the deception of a System that promised us freedom and then harnessed us with long-hour jobs as well as childcare and housekeeping and cooking (someone still has to do it!) with less time than ever. She considers it “the great hoodwink” of her generation. (Read a larger quote here.) So I am happy not to have entirely fallen for women’s lib, just yet.

Mothering is hard. We women have always struggled with comparison and jealousy, but in this modern age of invasive technology and picture-perfect online worlds, I am convinced we have a harder time of it.

I’m not sure – forgive me for being cynical, I don’t try – I’m not sure that a day to honor us is the best idea. Besides all the people on whom it puts pressure (those I spoke to above: men and children, and women with pain), it puts some pressure on all moms – to get our smiles on and make this look good, and bask in rather dreamy praise while simultaneously juggling a baby in one arm and a stack of Bibles in the other (which the kids forgot under the pews), and thinking whether that casserole we put in the oven for dinner will really feed fifteen. And showing delight in everything we are given, no matter how clumsily and preciously.

They love us, and they want to show it. That breaks my heart. The way I made peace with the day is that I said to myself, Shari – it’s a great day to be a mother. Be glad, and do your job.

I was given a lovely hammock yesterday from my favorite people, and the columbine they gave to me last year bloomed again in my flowerbed this year, just in time for Mother’s Day. That was awesome.

Maybe it is primarily a day to honor the women who are done. When I went to town on Saturday, the store was full of women in their forties and fifties, prancing around with carts full of flowers. How many mothers do they have? Do they buy their own presents? Instagram post: #mythoughtfulson #amazinggift   Anyway, I honor my mom, and mom-in-law. They are at the stage to rest; I am at the stage to rise up and call them blessed.

And then I need to wake up Monday morning and draw sudsy water for those dishes. And Tuesday morning. And Wednesday morning. I’m a lucky kid, and I get to be a mother, and although this job is not classy or romantic it is liberating, and worth doing.

Hang in there, everybody. We made it for another year.



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What did you take for granted about your mother?

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6 years ago

Thanks Shari! I needed that ? you are right-motherhood is a blessing and there are many who would love to have a messy house with stuff strewn everywhere..I need to stop more often and pray for those with empty arms…and then stop and count my blessings for my little people whose mother has apparently not mastered the art of teaching them how to keep everything picked up when done…I wonder if there is a school to teach mothers? I think I need to apply asap.?

6 years ago
Reply to  Trish

Thanks, Trish, for praying for us who will never experience childbirth…I love women like you who remember us on Mother’s day

6 years ago
Reply to  Amy

Was reading something this eve that made me think of you and others with no children…it said children are born from the womb but maternity (or maternal love I would say) is born from the soul – there are many ways to be a mother…..I thought that was a neat Quote…

6 years ago

This year on Mother’s Day I cleaned up vomit and diarrhea before 8:00am. My poor husband didn’t get anything for me and felt really bad about it, but in a way it was nice not to have such huge expectations for the day.

You make me laugh with your irreverence. I might have done something similar to printing out a melodramatic poem…at least I know what it’s like to let myself feel noble and misunderstood. ?

6 years ago

So good. Thank you.

6 years ago

It is so good to hear from your perspectives. (those in the trenches!). I don’t know many hours or years I would give. 🙂 I used to think I would give all. But in this season I am trying to be content where I am, and make the most of the opportunities that lie in front of me. They abound!
I had a good weekend. Craig’s cousin preached on Sowing and Reaping. He asked my MiL if we would be at Rawley, and is very sensitive to couples without biological children.
We took pizza in for Craig’s Mom Saturday evening.
We were invited away Sunday for lunch, and the hosts had lined their walk with flowers to give all the ladies. It was so thoughtful.
So to know that others care is one of the most healing things that can happen, maybe for all of us. ? 🙂
When I am tired, the idea of never having my own grandchildren could be very depressing. But surely in heaven the Lord will give me one, if not before. 🙂
I used to tell Beat, I don’t care about being a Mom, I just want to be a Grandma. We would joke about it together. 🙂
Life just can be full of pain. But there is a better place, I hope the pain can point in that direction. 🙂
Thanks again, Shari, for baring your heart.

6 years ago

I liked what you said about feeling misunderstood and how much pressure we put on those around us…. husband and children. My children aren’t old enough to know what mother’s day is, but they give me flowers everyday even though they are just dandelions. It is special to be recognized on a particular day but my mother-in-law said to my husband that she would rather have obedience than a gift on mother’s day.

Kendra Sensenig
6 years ago

I love these thoughts.
I didn’t grow up making a big deal about Mother’s Day, and neither did my husband. It’s kinda nice that way. It’s a nice time to try a more special dessert for fellowship meal or something, and if someone thinks of making or buying a card, it’s special but not an expectation.
I do grieve for the pain of childless women, though, and even the unmet longings of those who are craving some love and recognition.
I appreciate your sensitivity to all of these, as well as your thoughts on the honors of femininity. I fully agree.

Twila Smucker
6 years ago

I don’t even know what to say about this. I just “got” so much of it. To tell you the truth, I always breathe quite a big sigh of relief when Mother’s Day is over. I don’t generally spend a lot of time comparing myself to others, EXCEPT in the mothering department. I so often feel inadequate and overwhelmed and somehow all the perfect looking breakfasts in bed and flowery cards just annoy me after awhile (even though I do get similar stuff myself…it just all seems so cliche’ or something when everyone has to parade it over and over again on face book.) And the feeling of “why can’t they know that just getting along for ONE day and being helpful without ANY complaining?” would mean more than any gift or card?! I need to read the books you mentioned..they sound interesting.

6 years ago

I wonder if all holidays bring into sharp relief our blessings and losses? Always someone to love and someone/thing missing?
I was able to enjoy my mother and MIL, my precious daughters, and my extended family on Sunday. It was a day to enjoy presence; no lavish presents were given.
My thoughts often turned to a dear mentor who passed away two weeks ago. She had no biological children and Mother’s Day was often hard for her. Seeing her husband at church by himself was terrible. She was a cherished life-giver to me even though we had no family connection.

6 years ago

Thanks, Shari! …It was a difficult day. I’m pretty new at this mothering thing and have found it to be a MUCH bigger, harder adjustment than I ever expected. Just to hear your strugglings with The Holiday is a bit freeing. I always thought moms must really like the day. Teehee!

Beth Miller
6 years ago

Wow! What a mixed up world this is! While I was sitting through yet another Mother’s Day sermon, trying not to be envious of the ladies that are blessed with a husband and children, they would rather skip the whole thing. How crazy is that?? If it didnt hurt so bad, it would be hysterical! I wonder if part of the problem is our expectations are too high. My expectations of the wonders of a husband and children, and your expectations of a perfect day with the perfect children smiled on by a perfect mother. It isnt about perfection, its about acknowledging the things everybody takes for granted (all the OTHER days of the year) Its acknowledging and applauding your efforts, regardless of how close to the mark you think you’re getting. Nobody’s perfect, not even the ones that look that way (from a distance). Please, SOMEONE, enjoy the day! (Maybe I need to go ask mom if she had a good day, and what I could do to make it even better)
Kudos to you for being broadminded enough to acknowledge those without children! We appreciate it!

Beth Miller
6 years ago

Pardon the ‘even’ better on the last comment. After I hit post (why does it happen then?!) it dawned on me that could sound like I think we had it all together. I dont. Although Mom did always act like she enjoyed everything. But maybe that was just a good mom act. I need to investigate! It DID ‘rock my boat’ to realize some moms dont enjoy it. Thanks for broadening my horizons.

6 years ago
Reply to  Shari Zook

Definitely not thinking the crazies are babbling…what you said made perfect sense to me. Thanks! Jo

6 years ago

This is good! My kids gave me the sweetest Mother’s Day cards but they also threw a big fit and I heard those words, “I wish I had another Mom and Dad”. There is nothing that bends and twists my emotions as much as being a mother does.

Denise H
6 years ago

My dad has a sister who never married. So my younger sister’s family “adopted” Aunt Jeanie and now call her “Grandma Jeanie”. I thought this was such a nice way to include an older single, if they are okay with it. I’ve known families who don’t have grandparents living close by or aren’t living anymore, who adopt older couples as grandparents, or singles, as aunts or uncles.

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