Although I feel it’s my duty to write a celebration of mothers on Mother’s Day, every time I think about what I might write for this post, all that comes up in my mind is a kind of lament.
Becoming a mother was definitely the best thing I’ve done in my life. When I look at my two big, handsome, talented boys, I am thrilled beyond measure with the knowledge that I nurtured them in my womb for nine months, I gave birth to them, I did all the loving labor a mother must do to successfully bring children up from helpless infants to strong, independent young men.
So where does the lament come in?
Shift to a small, smothered voice: I just wish I hadn’t had to do so much of it all by myself.
I suppose I am writing the lament of the single mom, or the “do-it-all” mom, the mom who doesn’t get much help or support from her partner in bringing up baby.
Even when I was married, I did the lioness’s share of the household and child care labor, while also bringing home a paycheck that grew in time to be the larger portion of the family bacon.
My marriage foundered on my partner’s inflexibility when it came to the idea of a man doing housework, and my exhaustion and resentment over having to do it all.
In addition to working two demanding jobs for nine years straight, while also publishing two books and organizing a major annual conference and doing all the other extra labor of being a fulltime academic, I also did all the shopping, cooking, laundry, cleaning and yard work; all the supervising of homework and staying involved with my children’s schools through parent-teacher meetings, volunteer work and car pooling; I made sure all the medical appointments were taken care of, I did all the bill-paying and taxes, and if there was anything left over for a small vacation or a purchase for the house, I handled that too.
I am sure this is sounding very familiar to all those single and DIY moms out there, right? We know the list could go on and on.
My own mom did all that household stuff too, but without the added pressure of bringing home the paycheck.
It’s probably my traditional upbringing, where my dad went out to earn the money and my mom stayed home to run a smooth, highly functioning household and do her creative work on the side, that makes me feel like having to play both roles myself is somehow too much.
I should be able to do it all with grace and good cheer, without getting crabby with my children or frustrated when things don’t go quite as planned.
That’s what a mother does, right?
At least I can take some comfort in knowing I am not alone.
There were some 10 million single moms in the U.S. as of 2010, and the number keeps climbing.
This Mother’s Day, I want to give a big shout-out to all of us single moms, and the DIY moms who may someday decide that enough is enough, and go down the single mom route.
We need to keep our chins up and not let the pressures, obligations and yes, sacrifices of our position get us down.
We have to just do our best, and not beat ourselves up when we get overwhelmed.
We must remind ourselves that we are doing the most important work in this nation, bringing up the next generation to take their place responsibly and soberly in the difficult social and environmental landscape we must confront together.