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What Mother’s Day Cards Don’t Say

collage of mothers and families

We mom it, every single day. Here’s what the greeting cards (and our resumes) don’t say about what moms do every day.

It’s almost Mother’s Day. Time for breakfast in bed and a chance to be recognized for all we do and all we are to our families. For a moment let’s forget the wave of essays recently comparing parents in the 80s (or whenever) with parents today. The truth is that none of the mothers I know today want to be helicopters, or bulldozers, or tigers, or whatever unflattering metaphor the media has come up with to describe us. The moms I know just want to be the best parent they can be: engaged, connected, present, and loving. Here’s what the greeting cards (and our resumes) don’t say about what moms do every day.

Moms are builders and architects.

The research is clear—the way young children are treated by their parents and other caregivers shapes the way their brain develops and the connections that are made.

Traditions don’t just happen. They’re built.

Besides building brains, we also build the daily schedule—with as many moving pieces as some military operations. We get a bunch of people, big and small, from place A to place B in one piece and (mostly) on time. [Full disclosure: We did leave our son at a soccer field once–my husband and I came in separate cars and each thought the other had him–but he was ten and probably would have called an Uber on his own if our friends hadn’t noticed him standing alone in the parking lot.]

We also build a sense of family and security. Traditions don’t just happen. They’re built. One friend’s child wakes up to a bunch of balloons tied to her bed on birthdays, another makes waffles with whipped cream for birthday breakfasts. Holiday traditions, bedtime traditions, family traditions—like “Sunday Sundaes” in our house—take a patient architect and a builder who is ready for almost any unforeseen problem (no vanilla ice cream?).

Moms are operations and logistics experts.

I ran into a friend at the grocery store the other day. We stared at each other with the hollow eyes of people who have spent WAYYY too many hours on way too many days wondering what to make for dinner. And yet—everybody gets fed, every day, three meals a day—plus the snacks that end up in car-seats and under couch cushions. We make sure they have shoes that fit, socks in pairs (matching optional), snow-boots, Halloween costumes and holiday dresses. We figure out child care, sick day coverage, and carpools. We RSVP, we send thank you notes and we organize goody bags even though we hate goody bags. We return library books, make the next well-child appointment and sign permission slips. Our to-do lists are what a third-grader might call a “chapter book.”

And sometimes at the end of a rough week, it’s cheese and crackers for dinner. That’s okay, too.

Moms are the best salespeople around.

We solve any marketing problem with lightning-quick thinking, like the time I told my son he wasn’t eating turkey (which he hated), but “white ham” (which, apparently, he loved).

We say, “Say thank you” more times than it seems almost possible for a human being to say in one lifetime.

We focus on the silver linings and try to be a role model for gratefulness even if it means we say, “Say thank you” more times than it seems almost possible for a human being to say in one lifetime. But one day you realize that some of it stuck, because your 13-year-old turns to you after she has had a particularly bad day and asks you, “So what do you think the silver lining is?” and she isn’t being sarcastic. She really thinks you know.

Moms are sponges.

We sop up messes—from spilled cereal to emotional upheaval. You are the one who gets the I HATE YOU at the supermarket when you won’t buy some overpriced junk. You are the one they run to with a bloody lip from falling off the swing. You are the only one they want when they’re throwing up or burning up with a three-day fever. You are the one who comforts when the world gets scary. You are the safe home base for broken hearts when their best friend says “I don’t like you anymore.”

We take in all the biggest feelings, the most intense feelings, the angriest, scariest, saddest feelings and we just expand to make them fit. We give a kiss, fold that child up in our arms, whisper I’m here, bandage, rub backs, hold buckets, protect, tell stories, promise it gets better (it does), pull out the ice pack, remember the words to “that song you sung me that time” and maybe bribe with a cookie.

We sponge it all up, take a deep breath, and make it all better.

We mom it, every single day.


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