I have been privy to many mommy conversations over the past 9 years. You see, I’m a mom, and moms try (most of the time) to keep their complaints among their own kind. One thing I have carried from these many discussions is that moms need birthdays (or any days, really).
Becoming a mother has many side effects; once women cross that threshold, they become, seemingly instantaneously, responsible for the weight of the world. Moms build an immediate executive ability to feed a baby, change laundry, track appointments, organize meals, and schedule all social events. My own mom was so good at this, it seemed to me as a child that it must not take any work or planning, really. When my small neighborhood was kicked off the bus for doing the Wave, my mom crammed us in the station wagon and drove us to school. She delivered us to soccer on Saturday mornings and Sunday School the next day, giving up any hope of a weekend sleep-in. On top of that, she didn’t even have a technological device to fill the hours and hours of waiting she endured at medical offices, sporting events, and boring school responsibilities. That poor woman! In return, once a year, if she was lucky, we produced some sort of birthday cake and a handpicked gift to celebrate her.
Moms become innately responsible in other places too. It is usually a mother who is sure to send thank-you notes to teachers, coaches, bosses, and co-workers. Frequently, mothers make food for funerals, births, and potlucks. Moms remember the boss’s birthday and order a cake or plan flowers when the secretary’s father dies. Moms leave the house with a badge that says, “Hey, I keep multiple people alive. You can trust me to help in any situation.” And because of this, we become used to meeting the many expectations that the badge suggests.
Every once in a while, moms need to put down the weight of responsibility they once took on. A birthday seems a fitting day to do so. If you have a mother, this would be a good day to plan dinner (even if it is just grilled cheese), get a card (or scrawl something nice on a piece of scrap paper), and let mom pick the show and watch it in peace. Before I was a mom, I wanted to celebrate my birthday the entire month of October. It was selfish, really, a grab for attention and validation. Now, I tend to be so busy with conferences, doctor appointments, meetings, and “holding down the fort” that I can get all the way to the day before my birthday without giving it much of a thought. I used to daydream about extravagant gifts, and Nick used to be quick to oblige. Now, I scour for deals on “luxury” items like a good-quality curling iron or a new piece of bakeware, hoping to send Nick a discount code that will save enough money to buy a much-needed toddler snowsuit. My priorities have shifted, and honestly, I really don’t mind. Being a mom has changed so many parts of who I am, and mostly for the better. But on this one day, and maybe Mother’s Day too, or the occasional random Saturday, I am elated if someone I love and care for takes a moment to care for me. A night of not worrying about preparing dinner in between kids’ activities, or Nick doing the bedtime hostage negotiation with Anika, or simply having some recognition that I work hard and do (for the most part) a good job, is really the only gift I need.
Remember this on your own mother’s next birthday: She probably sacrificed much more
than she ever let on. She likely cried in secret as much as she smiled in public. She definitely loved with a fierceness that took all of her strength some days. And undoubtedly, the best gift for her would be to know that she is known, and loved, for all that we forget to say all year long.