Sunday, May 14, 2017

Why I Choose to Love Mother's Day (from a Perfectly Imperfect Mom)

Mother’s Day evokes a lot of mixed emotions for me, as I know it does for many others. 

As a child, I loved Mother’s Day.  I loved the opportunity to show my mom how much I adored her.  This was usually accomplished with a rudimentary card plastered with hearts, homemade coupons for hugs, kisses, and extra chores, and a bouquet of dandelions from the lawn and lilacs that were cut off our lilac bushes in the back yard.

As a teenager, however, I discovered that my mom hated Mother’s Day.  I couldn’t imagine why!  Besides the sneezing fits and watering eyes from her allergies to the weeds and flowers we gave her, didn’t she appreciate the gifts, songs, and outpouring of affection she got from her kids?  It wasn’t until I was a mom myself that I understood the negative association that many women have with Mother’s Day.

Instead of basking in the glory of being a mom, grandma, aunt, sister, or woman, Mother’s Day has, for many, turned into a day of guilt and an examination of shattered expectations.  At church and on social media we hear about idyllic mothers who have sacrificed everything for their kids—raising the bar for moms everywhere to live up to and adding to that never-ceasing mom-guilt we all carry around.

Additionally, rather than a day for respite, Mother’s Day is oftentimes only accentuated by the mundane motherly tasks that don’t exactly fill our hearts with joy.  Whether it be getting up with crying kids, cleaning up toys, making dinner, or wiping those dirty bottoms, it sometimes makes it hard to cherish everything it means to be a mom.

Having lost my own mother a few years ago, Mother’s Day has also become one more poignant reminder of the gaping hole in my life and my heart— that my own personal cheerleader is no longer a phone call away to buoy me up and tell me that everything is going to be alright.

Being a mom is hard and sometimes it doesn’t always feel like there is a lot to celebrate.

However, my perspective has changed a lot in the last couple of years since becoming home bound and often bed bound with POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and autoimmune issues.  You would think the fact that I can now do LESS as a mom would make the ever-present mom guilt even worse—and in some respects it has.  There are certainly days that the “dark side” works hard on me to admit defeat amidst my crumbling losses.  But the lessons I have learned about letting go and celebrating the little things in life has also been liberating and provided clarity about my role as a mom.   

Being a chronically ill mom, I’ve had to drastically lower my expectations of myself (which has been incredibly hard for an over achiever and previously aspiring wonder-woman).  I’ve had to learn to let go of a lot of things that I want to do and be.  I’ve learned that many of the things I used to feel mom-guilt about don’t really matter that much.  I’ve learned to cherish the moments I have with my kids, and appreciate the days I am able to spend time with and help them (even if it is just wiping a dirty bottom).

As President Monson has reminded us, “If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the piles and piles of laundry will disappear all too soon and that you will, to your surprise, miss them profoundly.”

So with all this in mind, I have decided to change the way I view Mother’s Day.  I have decided to make it a day of thanksgiving rather than a day of comparisons and shattered expectations.  I have decided that I want to relish the time that my kids are still young enough to give me hugs and kisses, make homemade cards, and pick dandelions from the lawn.  I have decided to embrace Mother’s Day as a day to rejoice in my sacred calling as a mother and appreciate the sweet spirits that God has given me stewardship over.

I know that I am far from the perfect mom.  I recognize that, even in my condition, there is still a lot I can do to improve.  I also understand that there are a lot of things out of my control that I can do nothing about, so I shouldn’t worry about them (sometimes easier said than done). 

M. Russell Ballard said, "There is no one perfect way to be a good mother.  Each situation is unique.  Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children.  The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family.  Many are able to be “full-time moms,” at least during the most formative years of their children’s lives, and many others would like to be.  Some may have to work part-or full-time; some may work at home; some may divide their lives into periods of home and family and work.  What matters is that a mother loves her children deeply and, in keeping with the devotion she has for God and her husband, prioritizes them above all else."

In case you missed it the first time: “There is no one perfect way to be a good mother!”  While there are certainly plenty of wrong ways (most of which would land child protective services at your door), there is not just one right way to mother.  What is right for one family may not be right for another.  What is right for one child, may not be right for another.  Thus, there is no point in comparing! 

Heavenly Father gave MY children to ME, so He must have the confidence that I am the right mother for them and their needs--despite my faults and my short comings, and for me, specifically, despite the fact that I am mothering from bed most days.  I am the mom that was divinely selected for my kids and they were divinely selected for me, and that is worth celebrating!   

So on this Mother’s Day, I choose to appreciate this day for what it is—with no reliance on unrealistic expectations of myself or anyone else to make me happy.  I choose to be happy because I am a perfectly imperfect mom who recognizes my faults, strives to improve, tries to let go of the things I can’t control, appreciates the tender, happy, and not so happy moments I share with my family, and loves the heck out of my kids. 

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