I don’t like it when mothers are referred to as “heroes”. I think one of the reasons it bugs me is because it’s never another mother who is calling you that. There’s basically only two people who call mothers heroes – men, and women who have chosen not to have children. When someone from one of those two groups uses the term “heroic” to describe the role of motherhood it feels patronizing, because I think what they’re really trying to say is, “I’m SO GLAD I’m not you.” When men say it, I don’t think they even know what it means. Of course, there are exceptions but most of the time I feel like men calling mothers heroes do so because they think it’s what they’re supposed to say, not because it’s what they actually think. On the other hand, women who have chosen not to bear children (as opposed to those who wish they could but have been unable to) drive me crazier when they try to pay homage to the role of motherhood. (Hi Oprah.) The worst thing someone like that could say to me is, “Oh, I could never do that,” because let’s face it, that’s a load of crap. Of course you could do it, you just don’t want to. Why can’t you just admit it? I remember working with a woman who had twins - it used to drive her crazy when other people would remark with the “I could never do that” line. Um, yes you could, you just haven’t HAD to! What choice does one have other than to play with the cards they have been dealt?
So, here’s what happened. I heard about a friend in need and made an unannounced visit to her home to check on her a while ago. I inquired about the well being of her family and she began to fill me in on the details of some recent stress. As we stood in her kitchen and visited for over an hour, I watched her meet numerous requests and fill various needs from her kids. At one point she was asked to help a child cut his fort out of a cardboard box; another wanted to paint, the other one wanted a cookie. I stood and watched as she fetched little bowls of water, paints, and coloring books. She cut images out of cardboard for the one, and broke sections of cookie into pieces for the other. She grabbed wipes for cleanup, refereed the sharing of paints and brushes, and made sure to acknowledge the one standing there with a finished product in hand, waiting for her to admire it when she responded appropriately with, “Wow! You did such a great job!” ALL while carrying on a conversation with me and speaking in (mostly) complete sentences. I admired from afar the work of this lovely and capable mother. I had done this job before, but I had never really observed it from this view.
And from one mother to another I dare say it was…
Happy Mother’s Day.