Today is Mother’s Day in North America. The date varies around the world, but the concept remains the same. All people in the world should kneel in thanks to Anna Jarvis as the pioneer of our modern celebration of mothers everywhere. For without a mother, none of us would be here today.
As a mere man, I know nothing of the inner sanctum of the Temple of Motherhood. I’m vaguely aware of course, like I’m aware of life in the oceans, or ancient Egyptians. I can read about it, see the results, but I can never truly experience it. As a father, I enjoyed immensely the creative part, but after that I was an observer to the whole process, like a spectator at a sports event. I was there to cheer on the team. I brought on the oranges at half time, but let’s be honest, this game was going on whether or not I was in the stands.
Get past the physical and the true reality of the child-bearing process is as foreign to me as the life of a Buddhist monk. I wonder if the deepest secrets of the Temple of Motherhood are kept secret even from the initiates to the Order. Does a mother share these secrets with her daughter before she has passed her first test (aka “peeing on the stick”)? Only once this Rubicon has been crossed will the secrets be revealed. It surely must be so, otherwise how has humankind ever survived to this point?
Mothers have a tough go of it, no doubt. Generally, the
lion’s lioness’s share of the work falls to the mother. Right from T minus 9 months, it was Mum who bore the brunt of the burden in bringing junior into this world. Dad did his part, maybe even stuck around for the first four minutes if she was lucky. From that point on though, the onus was on mum to nurture and protect the new life within her.
At the very time when a man would surely turn to drugs and alcohol to blot out the reality of the life blossoming forth in his belly, a woman becomes a temple of virtue and abstinence. Verboten are alcohol, smoking and drugs (legal or otherwise). Rich foods, seafood, anything bloody – all are out. The little parasite growing within will do his bit to keep mum on the straight and narrow, making his poor mum violently ill for the first three months or so of pregnancy. Dad, meanwhile, is living the life of Riley with a free drinks pass on every night out, his personal designated driver on hand to get him safely home.
Throughout this ordeal, the woman will watch as her previously maidenly form becomes distinctly matronly. She will watch girlish hips broaden, her pert breasts swell and her perky little nipples thicken and brown. She will watch her belly grow ever larger, swelling and distending until her belly button pops out, the flesh taut as a drum. She will rub potions and lotions all across her bump in a vain attempt to avert stretch marks. She will grow into a beautiful, loving mother and these will be the battle scars she will bear to show the world she is proud of the woman she has become. And after all of this, as surely as day follows night, she will face what I as a man cannot possibly imagine – the ordeal of childbirth.
During both my wife’s labours I was with her – like a eunuch at an orgy. I kept getting in the way as doctors and nurses did their thing. First time was a slow build up and then a sudden rush to the finish (pretty much the same as the conception actually). Second time she was too far gone for the decent pain meds so she had to make do with the gas and air mix. I actually quite enjoyed sucking on the Entonox, but she kept dragging the mask out of my hand, sucking on that thing like a fish out of water.
I’ve heard childbirth described as the ‘everyday miracle’. I’m amazed and in awe of the result my wife gave me – two perfect daughters.
And then, with not even a single day of rest, the unpaid profession of motherhood really kicks in. My wife carried the burden of childcare responsibilities, just as she had carried the burden of their growth and birth. I worked, as do most husbands and fathers in our societal norms, so she was the one cooped up with the baby 24/7/365. Men might complain about having to work, about how their partners gets to stay home with the baby, but really, how many men could and would step 100% into their partner’s shoes? Her underwear maybe, if he’s so inclined – but not her shoes.
As the little rug-rats grow, often mum is the taxi driver, party organiser and host of sleep-overs and celebrations. The one who takes time off work when Junior is sick, who makes and takes the doctor’s, dentist and optician appointments. Dad is the one (generally) who does the fun stuff. “Take the kids out for a while” and of they go to the park, McDonald’s or the movies. Dad gets to play Big Kid and teach their mini-me how to kick a ball, ride a bike, cast a line. All the while leaving mum to clean house, do the dishes, laundry, clean toilets.
A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.
And so, give thanks to Anna Jarvis – pioneer of the modern Mother’s Day. Just a single day. Really? Seems like it should be Mother’s Week. Maybe Mother’s-week-on-the-beach-with-a-good-book-and-no-kids. I’m guessing, though, that most mums will be happy that their kids made them a card, they get their breakfast made for them and maybe they get their choice on TV. It’s not yet football season, so she’s good to go there.
So kids of all ages, please, take a moment to reflect on what that little lady sacrificed to get you here in the first place. And fathers? I for one intend to ensure my lady understands how much I appreciate the sacrifices she made to give me the family I now enjoy.