what mothers are worth
She woke knee-deep in sadness on Saturday. It was the day before Mother's Day, her first official celebrating as a mother. Her house was destroyed from a party they hosted the night before, and after three cycles of the dishwasher, she threw up her hands in surrender. Instead, she tightened her robe around her pajamas and retrieved the coffee grinder from the cupboard.
Somewhere in the time between the first push of the grinder and the first sip of steaming black coffee, she managed to begin a fight with her husband, who was cooking her breakfast. She didn't know why she was doing it, she only knew she was mad. As she began to discuss the previous night's festivities, she stumbled into resentment and annoyances that he didn't help as much as she needed. Oh, and while she was at it, she laid into him about all the ways he wasn't helping with the baby. How he always disagreed with what she did in a moment's criticism, how his timing was always off, and how she was tired of them both deciding that his sleep was somehow more precious than hers.
It became obvious they needed to get some space, so she sat on the settee with her cup of coffee. It wasn't long before tears started to flavor the brew. She could all but taste the immense sadness and regret and weariness.
Though she loved her child with such an aching otherness, she has learned in this first year of her daughter's life that being a mother is perhaps the most thankless job she's ever done. Yes, it's hard...but she's worked incredibly hard before. All her previous hard work was performed to a recipient. If it was a paper for school, someone would be reading it. It if was serving a burger, someone would be tipping her. For all other jobs, there is a easily-recognized goal and award. Not so with motherhood.
Does he even know all I do to keep this house semi-livable? Does he even notice how full the refrigerator always is and how I keep refilling his whiskey? Does he think toothpaste and toilet paper grows magically in the pantry? Does he notice that the shoes he left out last night are now put away? Does he know how much time and effort and emotional demand she exerts in order to relate to his daughter in a loving, present, and healthy way? Does he understand the angst she swallows daily as she pushes and pulls between her needs and the baby'? Does he even get that she despises her body right now and could use a compliment here and there? Does he understand that he is just as capable of arranging a date and a babysitter as she?
She realized that the three hours of sleep the night before (resentfully compared to his five!) were catapulting her into projecting her needs into his responsibilities. He could never know everything she does for their child. Her daughter, though the direct recipient of these resources, could never know all she does. Though other mom friends are perhaps the closest person to knowing all she does, they still only know the generics.
It hit her like last night's Great Wall of dishes that the ONLY person who will ever know all she does for her daughter is her.
If it's true that the only person on this earth who knows all she does to be her daughter's best mother is, in fact, HERSELF...then the only person who can honor her as she needs to be honored is herself.
Even though tomorrow would most likely be filled with praise, a lot of help with chores and the baby, a reason to relax and let others spoil her with meals and cards and texts, she knew that they weren't what would make her feel most celebrated. To hear "thank you for all you do" would feel fake and ill-suited, though she would accept it graciously.
She would need to find a way to spoil herself...and not just with a new manicure or a long nap or a mimosa for breakfast. This time, she would need to find a way to relish everything it is that she does, to take account of all that is required of her, to bring awareness to her tasks...tasks that are all at once impossible and annoying and joyful and fun and super unfun and praise them. Compliments and appreciations and deep regards said to her by her. It's no one else's job to know and therefore love what can only be known and therefore loved by herself.
What a mother is worth lies in her own ability to celebrate herself in the full knowledge of her sacrifices.
My dear self,
Thank you for all that you do.
A new mother.