-Mothers have a tough job.
-I have never worked so hard in my life as I did as a stay-at-home-mother.
-Motherhood is underrated, undervalued, and underappreciated.
-If you added up the salaries of every job a mother does, you still wouldn’t compensate her for a day’s work.
-I know I couldn’t do it.
I’ve heard a few commiserating comments about motherhood in my day. They’re scattered here and there amongst the glares when my children scream, or the *tsk* *tsk* looks when I reprimand the screaming, or the slight lift of nose-in-air as they walk by with their dressed and not-brawling children.
When I’ve had brain and time to think, however, I can’t help but wonder: if motherhood is so great, why don’t you do it? You could all support it, at least.
Instead, I feel abandoned. I feel I sit in the muddy gutter of life with my little, half-me guttersnipes and get shown exactly what the negative voice inside says:
-Your children are monsters, and it’s because of you.
-The house is a mess; guess who gets to clean it forevermore?
-Don’t raise your kids this way, that way, or -for heaven’s sake!- that other way or you will screw up their entire future.
-Besides raising decent humans, keeping floors spotless, maintaining bills, finding everyone’s lost pants, and feeding the local inhabitants; you must also be cheerful, inspirational, encouraging, loving, and a whole person.
-If you are sad and depressed, it’s because you simply don’t believe in you.
Some parents (again, with brain and time to think) lobby for government support to fill the gaps. They ask for extended maternity leaves, an in-home nanny, free preschool, and childcare centers at workplaces. That’s all well and good and job-saving, but is not the real answer.
The real answer is always more difficult. It’s not a bill to pass nor a wad of money to throw. I believe the answer is a need for actual, hands-on, real-life support.
Think about my idea in relation to other problems that don’t go away with a friendly comment; like needing help with moving house, requiring an organ donation, or being trapped beneath a fallen timber at a logging camp. Does it help that poor lumberjack for his workmates to pass by, smile in commiseration, and say, “Been there, mate. Bit of a rough spot, eh?,” and keep walking?
In the same way, it does little to tell a mother who is struggling to restrain her toddler at the grocery store that, “Mothers have a tough job.” I think she’s aware of it at that point.
I don’t mean to make anyone feel too shy to speak up at all. Instead, I suggest alternate reactions based on what a few, kind souls have actually done for me:
If commenting is your thing; try what an older couple did. A grandmotherly woman and her husband approached me in the grocery store and said, “You are a wonderful mother. You may not feel like it some days, but I know it and I know your boys know it.”
Another time, a fellow mom came up to me in the parking lot while I was putting children and groceries into the car. “Can I take your shopping cart for you?” she asked. Receiving a nod since I couldn’t manage much else, she smiled and pushed hers and mine over to the return.
Twice now when we were on vacation, an older man at the breakfast table near ours said something like, “What fine boys you are! I’ll bet you help your mom out, don’t you?” Then, he dug into his wallet and handed each of my boys a silver dollar.
Not only have these behaviors actually improved my spirits and helped me to feel supported, they have been examples to my children. There’s an old adage that it takes a village to raise a child; one that many people look over in these technological times. Thing is, that adage is still true. As much as I try to micromanage my children’s behavior, they simply do not listen to only me. Sometimes they do not listen to me at all.
Occasionally a boy will come home, bursting with a lesson taught at school, on fire with how it’s changed his thinking. It’s a lesson I’ve tried to hammer into his head before -but do I resent the teacher for it? A bit. Still, it’s more than worth biting my tongue because my son learned it.
If you want to support a mother, do so. Oftentimes we parents are hesitant to receive help because of child-molester fears or judging-my-parenting fears. Don’t worry; start small. Work on turning the judgy face into a sincere smile. Think about offering a hand or an honest compliment. Remember your own childhood or your own children.
And, if you’re feeling really generous, I’m open for that in-home nanny or wad of cash as well.