In the tender days at home after giving birth to my son, in between marathon feeding sessions, diaper changes, and stealing little cat naps, I often thought of my mom.
“Mom, I had no idea being a mom was… so much work,” I confessed on one of her visits, while she cradled my son, her first grandson, in her arms. From my spot on the couch, I watched her smile and stroke his tiny nose.
The big emotions I felt, the physical and emotional exhaustion, the terrifying realization I was responsible for another human’s well-being from now until, well, forever – overwhelmed me. No matter how much we prepare, the transition to motherhood often surprises us with its intensity. My mom had carried this weight for 31 years. Now I carried it too.
My mom started to chuckle. “Of course you didn’t know,” she told me gently. “That’s OK, honey.”
I recalled the Mother’s Days we’d celebrated together – all the brunches, flowers, homemade cards. They seemed wholly inadequate — but maybe this very moment was enough.
Mother’s Day, originally conceived by Anna Jarvis in 1905 in tribute to her late mother, was created to honor the sacrifices moms make for their children. And, as we anticipate this holiday, it can be hard for moms to articulate how much it matters to have our labors acknowledged.
It can also be a day fraught with mixed emotions, especially for those among us with damaged or nonexistent relationships with our moms, those who ache to become a mom, whose moms have passed, whose children are ill, those who have lost children, and other complicated reasons.
For some moms, Mother’s Day might feel disappointing because whatever gifts or recognition you get don’t meet your searing need to be seen. Your partner or kids may never fully understand what it’s like to birth a baby or grapple with mom guilt. Perhaps in the future, you’ll share a moment with your child like I did with my mom.
Whether that day comes, here’s a little advice this Mother’s Day: savor the thanks you receive, sneak in some time for the self-care, and reach out to the moms in your life to give and receive support — after all, they get it.
And finally, fellow mama, let the following be a love letter to you.
For the mom who rose at 3am to the cries of her baby, wiped away tears, fiddled with the Tylenol in the dark (stupid childproof cap), rocked her baby back to sleep, and crawled back into bed at dawn only to be awakened 20 minutes later, we see you.
For the single mom who juggles it all – work, parenting, meals, cleaning, bills, pediatrician visits, school drop-offs – and feels the pressure to be her children’s everything, who never has time for herself, who’s tired of always feeling tired, we see you.
For the mom who lost her baby far too soon, who can’t escape the tides of grief that rock her to the core, who aches for the future she lost, we see you.
For the woman who’s been trying for a baby for months or years on end, who aches to become a mother, for whom this day is especially hard, we see you.
For the stay-at-home mom, who is on the job 24/7, kissing owies, doling out snacks, supervising play, cleaning up messes, breaking up sibling fights, who sometimes feels stuck in an endless cycle of laundry, who loves her children deeply but every now and then doubts her worthiness, we see you.
For the woman who wants to be a mom, but is afraid of how motherhood will change her identity, career, relationship, and body, we see you.
For the mom fighting depression, for whom getting out of bed to feed her little is an act of superhuman strength, who is scared and sad and isolated, who wonders, Wasn’t motherhood supposed to feel different? and Is something wrong with me?, we see you.
For the mom raising children of color, whose heart breaks for the discrimination her children face on the playground, in the classroom, as they grow, who diligently reminds them how to act in order to be safe, who cries herself to sleep whenever she’s reminded she cannot totally protect them from the unjust dangers of a dark-skinned body, we see you.
For the mom whose baby won’t sleep, who’s so tired she can barely think or stand, who dreads bedtime and naptime, who’s tried every method under the sun – cry it out, no cry sleep solution, nursing to sleep, sleep sacks, driving around the block and so on – and prays for the day everyone finally sleeps through the night, we see you.
For the working mom, who puts in long hours on the job, who returns home to dirty dishes in the sink and the inevitable “What’s for dinner?”, who is passed over for promotions even though she’s twice as productive as her childless peers, who battles doubt she can’t do either well – working or motherhood, we see you.
For the motherless mom, who wishes she could call her mom for advice about raising little ones, who would trade anything to see her mom rock her grandchild to sleep, whose loss is amplified every holiday, we see you.
For the mom of a special needs child, who sees so much goodness in her child and hates the way society belittles and ignores them, who shoulders the emotional labor of therapy and appointments and much more, whose tenacity and grit grow daily, we see you.
For the mom who struggled with fertility, who cringed each time someone asked if she wanted children, who shelled out thousands of dollars, attended countless appointments, and coped with the physical and emotional side effects of fertility treatments, who is so grateful for her babies but still feels scarred from the trauma, we see you.
For the mom whose child is seriously ill, who swallows her fear so she can be strong for her baby, who, with shaking hands, offers up medicine and hugs, who soldiers through checkup after checkup, endures the long waits for test results, and sets aside other demands to serve as a caretaker, who wishes with all her might for a change in diagnosis, we see you.
For the mom who feels she’s lost herself, who’s sacrificed so much for her children – her time, energy, ambition, body – and can’t remember what lights her soul on fire, we see you.
For the first-time mom, who’s figuring it all out, who’s constantly texting mom friends, calling the pediatrician, and Googling questions late at night, who’s happy/lonely/tired/scared/exhausted all at once, who’s realizing that caring for a newborn is hella hard and boring and amazing, we see you.
For the stepmom, who became a mother by marriage, whose blended family is beautiful but complicated, who tries not to let her stepchildren’s comments that she is not their “real mom” cut too deep, who feels exhausted but lucky, we see you.
For the mom whose relationship is on the rocks, who hasn’t had sex with her partner in months because she’s too touched out/too exhausted/too self-conscious, who can’t stop picking fights; who, despite it all, keeps showing up for her kids; who just wants to be seen, really seen, for all she gives to the children, we see you.
For the mom separated from her kids, whether by deployment or otherwise; who lives for letters, photos, and calls with her littles; who dreams of the day she can be there to kiss her children goodnight, we see you.
For the adoptive mom, who rode a rollercoaster of ups and downs to be matched with her child, who frets about how to talk with her adopted baby about baby’s birth parents, who pushes past thoughts of inadequacy to show up for her child, we see you.
For the mom who moved her children to a new country because she had to, who’s barely hanging on, trying to make it while assimilating to a foreign culture; who misses her first home, language, and support system; who hopes her sacrifices will give her children an easier life than hers — a chance to live without fear of dying, we see you.
For the expecting mom, who’s overjoyed and a little scared to become a mother, who yearns for a healthy baby, who’s dreaming and nesting and eager for her baby’s arrival, we see you.
For the mom whose toddler had a meltdown in Target, yeah, we’ve all been there, and we see you.
For every mom and every woman whose stories often go untold or are forgotten, we see you. We are with you.
Mama, may you know all your sacrifices, both big and small, add up. May you know your selfless devotion to your children makes our world a little kinder day by day. May you know the joy that comes from motherhood – and the heartaches.
Mama, you are a warm embrace on a horrible day, you are the cheers of delight on the sidelines, you are the emergency contact, you are the giver of snacks, you are the Tooth Fairy/Easter Bunny/Santa Claus (you are the one that makes holidays happen), you are there when everything falls apart.
You are love.
May you know this deep in your bones, whether it’s Mother’s Day or simply Wednesday: mama, you matter. We see you. We are with you.
Happy Mother’s Day from all of us at The Everymom.