I have been struggling to compose my annual Mother's Day message. If we still typed on typewriters, you would see me amidst one draft or another, reflected in the scrunched up pile of papers all around me.
I thought about “the meant to be hilarious” pretend help-wanted ads for mothers — you know the ones:
Applicant must be willing to work 136 hours a week, no pay, no benefits; skill set includes CEO/COO type executive skills, master chef, therapist, logistics coordinator, chief negotiator, nurse/doctor, teacher, and IT skills a plus.
Or, I thought about encouraging you to take some time for yourself or perhaps cherishing the fleeting precious moments with your children.
But what really occurs to me is that we use the term mother as if it is one set-in-stone static state of being. In fact, over a lifetime, we are the “doing it all” mom described above, we are the feeling invisible and maybe even unappreciated mom; there are years when our role seems secondary as our children become independent adults, and of course, years of worry and regret. Then, there are the moments of pure pleasure, witnessing your child's first steps, their graduations from high school or college, watching them become scientists, entrepreneurs, or teachers... and, inevitably, the sadness and joy of mothering your mother.
Most profoundly, it occurs to me that the common thread across a lifetime of motherhood are the themes of optimism and worry. Worry is always in the background, sometimes in the foreground, but never really extinguished, even as they become adults and parents themselves. Yet having a child is an act of optimism. It reflects a belief that we can raise a child to take their rightful place in the world, a belief that the world is worthy of our bringing a child into the world, and ultimately, a belief in the continuity of families and communities.
On this Mother's Day, I wish you a day imbued with the optimism of motherhood - a day to temper the worry and exuberantly celebrate the optimism that we all have for our children.
With admiration and affection,
Roxanne J. Coady
P.S. Enjoy this poem from our poet laureate, Tracy K. Smith. As I read it, I was struck by the way it encompasses both of these themes, worry and optimism.
The Largeness We Can't See
When our laughter skids across the floor
Like beads yanked from some girl's throat,
What waits where the laughter gathers?
And later, when our saw-toothed breaths
Lay us down on a bed of leaves, what feeds
With ceaseless focus on the leaves?
It's solid, yet permeable, like a mood.
Like God, it has no face. Like lust,
It flickers on without a prick of guilt.
We move in and out of rooms, leaving
Our dust, our voices pooled on sills.
We hurry from door to door in a downpour
Of days. Old trees inch up, their trunks thick
With new rings. All that we see grows
Into the ground. And all we live blind to
Leans its deathless heft to our ears