This is not the Mother’s Day I expected.
I didn’t expect a global pandemic, for one. I didn’t expect that instead of sharing and juggling family events with the other mothers in my family, I would be sending them love via my phone screen. Again. I didn’t expect that I would have the day off, that’s for sure. After all, Mother’s Day is usually when Embrace celebrates with Mother’s Day Connect, which means I expected to spend the day working, joining volunteers at maternity units around the city in celebrating and spoiling new mothers. I expected I’d hold at least one newborn baby to whom I am not related. I expected I would look into the eyes of a newly postpartum mother, and see myself in them, as I was 5 long years ago, and as I sometimes still am.
I expected to spend my day with the only other people on the planet who know the distinct ebbs and flows of this world of motherhood and all it brings and takes with it and leaves in its wake. Reader, I expected other mothers. In person, and in living colour.
Instead, I am marking my first quarantined Mother’s Day. I will spend the day with my husband and two children, as I’ve spent the last 40 plus days of this strange new life we’re all living. And while I am truly looking forward to my day ‘off’ (plus-minus a few loads of laundry), and am grateful for the continuing gift of working full-time whilst also being here for my children’s everyday lives, I am going to miss the chance to celebrate other mothers in person. Since becoming a mother, I find myself varyingly overwhelmed and enraged by the empty lip service paid to mothers and motherhood. The other day, I sat down at my make-shift work-from-home station to open yet another marketing email declaring mothers ‘superheroes!’ and ‘angels’. It’s overwhelming because I am just one mortal woman, trying to keep two little lives moving forward to meet their incredible potential, without neglecting my own. It’s frustrating because by labelling us super-human and otherworldly, society continues to excuse the ways in which it lets very real human mothers down.
Yes, mothers are incredible. It takes an incredible person in an incredible body to grow and birth new life. But that body needs access to good care before, during and after their pregnancy. That person needs assurances that they will be held and cared for and will be kept back from brink of avoidable death. Yes, mothering requires feats that feel super-human. On days like today, when I am wrung out from housework, a one-year-old who refuses to nap and the fresh demands of home-schooling my energetic five-year-old, all before I even get to my make-shift ‘office’, I feel super-human when I hit ‘send’ on a single email. But you know what would feel SO much better? An end to obstetric violence. Subsidised childcare. Flexi-time for all parents of all genders. Full parental leave for my husband so we can figure out the work of building our family together.
Ask any mother on Mother’s Day, and I guarantee you, we will take a world that properly values and supports us over flowers, cards and free unlimited Zoom or WhatsApp calls any day of the year. I know we won’t get that this year or the next. So, my next best gift to myself is the joy of other mothers. Hugging my own mom and mom-in-law and watching their joy at celebrating Mother’s Day as grandmothers. High-fiving my sister-in-law who is raising the coolest almost two-year-old you’ve ever met. Watching my friends and colleagues and comrades in motherhood put aside their brunch and tea and breakfast-in-bed so we can hold a new mother’s hands and remind her that she is incredible and super-human and she is never alone.
I’m sad that we don’t get that this year. But I hope you, fellow mother, know that you are a part of an incredible community and we see you – ALL of you – and all your struggles and your triumphs and the roaring strength and beauty of what you are achieving each day, against all odds.
Happy Mother’s Day.