Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Can See Clearly Now

Before I had children I'll admit that I took moms for granted. And I don't just mean my own mother, I mean I took the entire notion of motherhood for granted.

For sure, I noticed moms. I made an effort to delight over their children. I briefly marveled at "how tough it must be!" before moving on to the pressing concerns of my child-free life. I said helpful things like, "Oof, I don't know HOW you get up so early EVERY DAY!" On Mother's Day I even gave some of them cards! 

But then in 2008 I gave birth to my first child. And the scales fell from my eyes.

At a theater class in college, one of my professors told us that the goal for a Director was "to do your job so well that no one notices your work." 

As it turns out, this is much like being a mom. If you're doing the whole mother gig correctly, the fact is that you are probably not getting all that much attention (nor, for the record, are you getting things like Tony Awards or paychecks). Instead you are spending day after day and year after year lovingly stitching your children's lives together in a manner that is largely invisible to everyone but you.

At one point, as I held the newly-minted infant Snood in my arms, I looked over toward my mother -- standing in my kitchen cooking for us -- and found myself dazzled by my sudden awareness of ALL those stitches: the meals prepared, the carpools driven, the vacations planned, the school trips chaperoned, the diapers changed, the homework overseen. 

Truths I had known all my life were transformed into a source of wonder. The fact that my mother had three babies in three years (born June, then September, then the next September), which had always struck me as novel, now made me want to carve some sort of large statue in her honor and place it on the village green.

All the moms I knew proved sources of new-found admiration:

You did this at nineteen years old with no money while putting yourself through school? Wow!

You did this seven times? Amazing!

You did this while married to that bozo husband of yours? Great job!

You had two of these and kept them alive even though you are a complete and utter moron? I might have to buy you some cake.

For a time, I tried to share my insight with others. I'd obsessively point out the amazing things people's moms had done for them. I'd provide stunning counterarguments when people I knew complained about their mothers. We'd visit my mother-in-law and I'd find myself pointing out the wonders of her home constantly to my husband and his siblings:

Look at the meal she made for us all!

Look at these holiday decorations! They must have taken so much work and they make the house so homey!

Observe these adorable little stools she made for you WITH YOUR NAMES PAINTED ON THEM BY HAND WHEN YOU WERE TODDLERS EVEN THOUGH I'M SURE SHE HAD PLENTY OF BETTER THINGS TO DO LIKE SEVERAL DOZEN LOADS OF YOUR LAUNDRY!!! Perhaps we should all band together, sell everything we own, and buy this woman a yacht?

But while it is tempting to try to make up for a lifetime of ignorance toward the amazing and vast efforts of moms everywhere, I realize that the cause is in vain. It is the nature of motherhood that the bulk of the work involved will remain unacknowledged. 

At least until the next woman we know has her first baby and sees behind the curtain...