Tales from the Trenches: Mother's Day Mania

by brenda maas

I don’t know that there is an entity, not even my husband, who can bring me as much simultaneous joy and frustration, laughter and anger as my children. They are an extension of me that I have absolutely no control over. I hate that. And, I love that. While they can make me so proud one moment, they can also drive me to an edge that I never knew existed.

While thinking about Mother’s Day, I wondered, “What hasn’t been said? What has not yet been written?” Then it struck, “Ah, Mother’s Day. The Hallmark-induced excuse for all mothers to bask in their most non-maternal characteristic: selfishness.” This is my serious confession.

When my boys were young, especially when they were ages one and two and Energized Wild Men every waking moment, I simply wanted to be left alone. Sounds terrible, right? Well, they were loud, demanding and in constant need of a supervising referee for both their own personal safety and for the well-being of our home. And as a new stay-at-home mother, I was that referee 24/7. I figured that on Mother’s Day a mom should get what she wants, right? But who could look at those big eyes and sticky faces and tell them to get lost for the day?

I think, in reality, that I resented all the hoop-la of a day that only gave me the ultimate guilt trip (like most moms don’t already take these ventures on a daily basis) for simply, honestly desiring that those closest to me give me peace. I simply wanted time and space to do my thing instead of constantly doing for everyone else. I confess that I am indeed selfish.

Why doesn’t someone tell how difficult motherhood really is? Why all the sappy love stories instead of the truth about the dark side? Why the big secret? I think it’s because first of all, today’s confident young women have not been told there’s something they cannot do (you’ve come a long way, baby!). They can’t fathom something bigger than themselves that they cannot control. I think it’s also because that simultaneous laughter, those unplanned moments of entrenched joy can make all the blackness fade. Just like experienced moms say, “Oh, you’ll forget about the pain of labor and delivery,” (for the record I think this is a farce) because it’s simply a matter of perspective. Like any other title, you earn your stripes, so to speak. And it takes a strong woman (and man) to mold a fragile newborn into a strong, self-sufficient adult.

When I was in the “Two under Two Club,” our oldest had sleeping issues—night terrors, specifically—and my husband sometimes traveled for work. I would nurse the baby to sleep, and then expend much time and effort to settle the toddler. An hour or two later, the baby would wake for a feeding and after he was back to sleep the toddler would wake, screaming and huddling in the corner. Sometimes the toddler’s screams would wake the baby, or vice versa, and I would have both of them awake. One day at work I realized that I had been up eight times the previous night. “And this is motherhood?” I thought?

We all have war stories of our own trials and tribulations as a mother. But, as we survive life in the trenches to see the dawn of a new day, we add yet another stripe to our powerful shield of motherhood. Like the colorful protective tools from medieval knights, it represents who we are—our stories and our triumphs—and how our families came to be.

Considering the price of all this armor, I think that all moms can be honest—and selfish—one day a year.

Brenda Maas will celebrate her 10th Mother's Day by sleeping in, eating out and staying away from the kitchen. However, she will not be alone–her husband and three sons refuse to let that happen.