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What We Get Wrong About Mother’s Day

What We Get Wrong About Mother’s Day

I’m not a big fan of Mother’s Day.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of celebrating moms. And I enjoy receiving my family’s affection and appreciation in an extra-large dose. I’m not saying we should get rid of Mother’s Day.

My problem is with the ways we tend to celebrate, or more specifically our attitude toward the holiday, which calls attention to a cultural attitude I find annoying all year long. The basic premise is this: Moms are weak, pitiful, and perpetually just about to fall apart.

Poor Moms

Poor moms, the story goes. We slave away all year, putting Band-Aids on everyone else’s knees and cleaning up after other people and keeping the stove warm and food on the table, and many of us hold down jobs at the same time. And sadly we do it all while wearing “mom jeans” and sweater vests, oblivious to the tides of fashion and every day slipping further from relevant and beautiful.

It’s a good thing we have a day just for us, when we can take a long bath, receive some flowers, or eat some quiche to renew our strength for the next year. It’s also a good thing we’re simple-minded and easy to please and we don’t seem to notice that a cheap carnation, dyed a garish shade of orangey-pink, is a poor substitute for respect.

Every year around this time I’ll admit I roll my eyes at the hype over all that moms are able to accomplish. “Look at how much Mom would get paid if she worked as CEO of a Fortune 500 company, chef of a five-star restaurant, and proprietor of a Laundromat! That’s basically what she does every day! Now don’t you appreciate your poor mom, who just wants to be loved a little?”

Besides the obvious exaggeration—no one could actually do all these things, and sorry, but the work that moms do is not equivalent to filling all these roles–this kind of pandering reveals some very low expectations for moms and some assumptions about what matters to us. Apparently it’s surprising that a little old mom can manage to do so much.

The Dad Dilemma

By contrast, our messages to fathers are often laced with high expectations–do more, be there more, recognize how important you are. Now I realize that much of this is driven by the problem of a massive number of fathers who have fallen down on the job and who legitimately need to be challenged to step up. But we send these messages to all dads. The bottom line is, we assume even good fathers can do more and good mothers need to do less for their own sake.

But moms are not weak. Being a mother does not make you pitiful or pull all your stitches or sap all your strength. Moms are strong, smart, and capable of carrying all that we do.

Moms need partnerships with dads–but married or not, many moms don’t have that partnership, and they keep on doing what has to be done. That takes an awful lot of strength.

Motherhood Is Powerful

Motherhood might make you last week’s pork chops on the clearance rack in life’s meat market, but it will make you richer in love than you ever thought possible. And love is powerful.

Motherhood makes you tremendously vulnerable to a thousand new ways your heart can be broken. It takes a very gutsy woman to live with that level of emotional exposure.

Motherhood will deepen your emotional life and bring your wells of feeling much closer to the surface–but laughing and crying easily doesn’t mean you’re falling apart. It just might hold you together when others fall apart.

Motherhood might leave you with physical scars and permanent changes to your body–but it will build muscles you didn’t know you had.

Motherhood changes your values, and if you embrace that change, you’ll find that you don’t care much about the things that other people need to feel hip and significant.

Motherhood helps you appreciate the simplest things in life–but you’ll think more deeply about them than you did before. Far from simple-minded, you will reach a new level of complexity.

Motherhood might make you tired, but you’ll have access to new sources of energy.

Being a mom will transform your powers of observation–and your excitement over what you notice.

Being a mother changes our vision, opens a set of eyes we didn’t know we had.

The Delight of Moms

When I was with my sister last fall, walking through a downtown area, suddenly she grabbed my arm and cried excitedly, “There’s a train!” She did this automatically because of her son’s passion for trains, even though she was with only me and her son was hundreds of miles away. Ever since he was little, she has been noticing trains and grabbing his arm because his passion has made her see the world a little differently. Her intense love for him adds another layer to what’s important in this world.

Being a mother has changed the way I feel about God—because it changed the way I imagine He sees me. If God sees me the way I see my kids—well, that is just really cool. I love being loved that way. Perhaps that was part of the reason he created us—to watch us enjoy what he had made, and to enjoy it twice as much because of his delight in our own delight.

Delighted is not the same as weak. God is not weak. And mothers are one powerful picture of God’s relationship to us.

This year can we celebrate moms by acknowledging their strength? Can we ask them to do and be more, not less?

This article was originally published at

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