I read a blog not too long about why someone didn’t hate mothers day.
It went through an organized rationalization on why many of the assumptions around celebrating such a day were misguided, unfair or inappropriate, but not offensive. The gist of it was: why do people insist on treating mothers like something special, and why do people keep going on about this unconditional mother love, like it was something that non-mothers could not experience.
The thing is, I didn’t plan on becoming a mother. I’ve always liked kids. I can even say that I am good with kids. I’m the one that charms them in the first five minutes and then spends the rest of the afternoon trying to get them off my back because, for me, those five minutes were enough. I respected motherhood and its sacrifices, but thought that given the current social rules I really wasn’t up for it. I mean it is a badly paid job, with no social security, no pension, no holidays, no recognition, no possibility for promotion and no healthcare. You can’t even call in sick for gods sake.
Babies may be cute, but it wasn’t for me.
Then I got pregnant. It was an accident. And then I lost that baby. But a very strong almost physical urge stayed with me. It wasn’t rational. I hadn’t changed my mind, I just didn't care for the rationalisation anymore. I wanted a baby. Period.
It’s also true that as much as I loved my life at the time -DINKS (double income no kids) living in the east village New York, a cool job at the UN, travelling and eating out as much and as often as we wanted... like I said, as much as I loved where I was, I kind of felt that life had a sell by date. I felt that five years down the road I no longer wanted reports and meetings to be the center of my world.
But I am digressing.
When my daughter was born, I didn’t fall in love with her at first sight like many people said I would. It took time for me to get there. In spite of all this and the fact that I am a trained psychologist, I think that biology plays a huge part. I think biology is at the root of why a mother’s love is different: because the bottom line is survival of the species depends on it.
Try having someone –anyone, no matter how much you love them- wake you up every 2 hours day and night, crying screaming, demanding... I’ve always said my daughter is the worst boss I’ve ever had. I mean really, most people let you finish a cup of coffee. Not here.
REM sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Seriously.
I digress again.
Motherhood, for me, came with a whole load of surprises. Some were good, some were bad, some were really bad, and some were out-of-this-world-downright-awesome. I still remember the shock of realising that, although all my life I'd adored my mother, it turned out that she loved me so much more, and that no matter what, I would never be able to love her as much as she loved me. I told her this and she nodded in acknowledgement. We both understood I would never be able to love her back the way she loved me, the way I loved my daughter.
Mothers should not be celebrated because they are better, but it is a darn hard job and it should be acknowledged.
For over a decade now I’ve been a “do gooder”, working in developing countries, in conflict countries, rough circumstances of all sorts, but hey, I got paid, I got holidays, I got recognition. With motherhood the recognition factor is mostly just face talk.
As much as I love my job, I would never put myself in harms way for it, not intentionally. For my child I would, any day of the week. Which brings us back to biology. It’s not about being a better human being, it’s a strong biological urge that developed over thousands of years to ensure a baby will be looked after until it is able to survive on it’s own. Even the father (and I know this statement will be polemic), but even the father does not fully understand. He’s got other duties in the mix.
Our need to look after them, and hold them and kiss them is as irrational, basic and unstoppable as the desire to have sex after foreplay.
You don’t love your lover or partner or spouse unconditionally. You shouldn’t. It’s a partnership with certain rules like honesty, loyalty and fidelity which should not be broken, but if they are, then the bond is broken. And so it should be.
Mothers love doesn’t make us better people, it does make us lucky people. Lucky to know a love so strong it knows no reason. That sometimes fills your chest so much it hurts. A love different from the rest.
It just is.
And why should we be treated as something special? Cause we keep the world -humanity- going. It is our children that will run the world -from the white house to the school buses and restaurants- when the current cohort retires.
PS post dedicated to my mom, and her mom
PPS to read a bit about the history behind the mother's day celebrations go here