Mother’s Day is when we take time to remember and celebrate our mothers. Most of those who hold the honor of being mothers deserve our time and attention. Those who did it poorly, deserve our compassion and forgiveness. I dare say, a few hours each year to express our gratitude is hardly sufficient.
Motherhood is a long, difficult job filled with both joy and heartache. While some would have us believe that mothering consists of fun-filled days baking for sweet, adoring children, that image holds little resemblance to reality for most moms. Even those whose children are well-behaved, have their work cut out for them.
What is the Job of Mothering?
Effective mothering requires a combination of skills that are difficult to find in one person. A mother is at once a nurturer and disciplinarian, a teacher and referee, a cab driver and rule enforcer.
Ideally, parenting is a two-person job. The tag-team approach allows for some of these traits to be shared by the other parent. The reality is much different.
The Reality of Parenting in the US
In reality, the US divorce rate is 53%. In 2009, the most recent census data available at this time, over 26 % of children in the US lived with only one parent. Over 82% of custodial parents were mothers; only 1 in 6 fathers had custody of their children.
Over 44% of the mothers who had custody of their children were divorced or separated, and 36% had never been married. Over 53% of custodial fathers were divorced or separated, and 25% had never been married.
The poverty rate of custodial parents in 2009 was over 28%. That is roughly twice as high as the total population.
Breadwinner Moms: A New Trend
The Pew Research Center reported in May 2013 that mothers were either the sole or primary source of income for the family in 40% of all households with children less than 18 years of age. For some perspective, that number was 11% in 1960.
This group of ‘Breadwinner Moms’ included 37% who were married and made a higher income than their spouse/partners, and 63% who were single moms. Of the first group, the median household income was $80,000 per year. The single-mother households had a median income of $23,000.
In a survey conducted by Pew, they asked respondents if the increase in women working outside the home had made it easier or harder for families to:
· Earn enough money to live comfortably. 28% said harder and 67% said easier.
· Marriages to be successful. 50% said harder and 35% said easier
· Parents to raise children. 74% said harder and 19% said easier
Making Sense of Motherhood
Mothering, especially when done solo while earning a living, is stressful and often thankless. So why do we do it?
If someone posted an advertisement for a mother, the list of responsibilities would be long and tedious, the minimum job requirements would be unrealistic, the hours unreasonable and the payoff would be minimal. Nonetheless, we do it.
The reason we do it is simple – the many rewards exceed the sacrifices. Some say they become mothers to leave a legacy, others to create a family and a sense of belonging, many have maternal instincts that cannot be satisfied in any other way and a fair number do it for religious reasons or because of socialization. In the final analysis, it seems to be about love. In mothering, we give love, which has its own rewards, and receive love (most of the time). We create for ourselves a situation in which we will be loved and cared for by our children.
7 Ways to Love Your Mother
Here are a few ways you can show appreciation to your mom on Mother’s Day and every other day of the year.
· Reciprocate – Give back what you receive from your mom, whether that is time, affection, attention, money or guidance. Mothering is so much more rewarding when we give and receive.
· Recognize – Understand that as you both get older your roles will change. She may become more dependent on you for care, support and guidance. You will have an opportunity to complete the circle of life by giving to her what you received in your young life.
· Appreciate – Show and verbalize your appreciation for your mother. Publicly and privately acknowledge your gratitude for the many ways she has contributed to your life. Give her small tokens of appreciation on random occasions, whether a flower you pick from the back yard or something more substantial. It really is the thought that counts.
· Gentleness – Be patient and kind. As she ages, give her the time she needs to gather her thoughts or find her keys without pressuring her. Be gracious and gentle with your aging mother.
· Celebrate – There are many ways to celebrate a life. Include her in your family gatherings. Invite her to do things with you, both individually and as a group. Keep her involved in the life she helped create for you as an adult.
· Magnify – Focus on her strengths and abilities. Overlook the small stuff that can tear families apart. Remember that she grew up in a time when things were different, and different is okay.
· Honesty – Tell her honestly, but kindly, when she says or does things that offend you. Rather than cutting off contact with her, set clear boundaries and enforce them. This can prevent hurt feelings and give her the opportunity to learn how to handle things as the roles change - otherwise, she has no way of knowing. It doesn’t always work, but it is worth the effort.
Most of all, honor your mother. Forgive her for anything she may have done wrong. Cherish her while you can, and remember her when she is no longer with you. Without her, you would not be who you are today.
1. Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends. (2103). Breadwinner Moms. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/05/29/breadwinner-moms/
2. US Census. (2009). Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2009. https://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p60-240.pdf