Thursday, May 10, 2012

In Praise of Mothers

*Dedicated to Frances Elizabeth Flack Siems (2/10/21-3/25/95), my mother

With Mother's Day around the corner, I want to take this opportunity to tip my hat to mothers everywhere. Being a mother, whether single or married, is the hardest job in the world. That's what they say, and ain't it the truth! I certainly know that.

Every single day -- not just 9-5 like the stereotypical job -- mothers get up early (if they haven't already been woken numerous times during the night) to tend to their babies and school-aged kids. For the littlest ones, they feed from their breasts, prepare formula, change diapers, rock back to sleep, clean up vomit, take temperatures, administer medicine, put a new sheet on a crib mattress, strap into a high chair or swing, and perform so many other duties necessary to keep a baby healthy, clean, and safe. For the older children, they rouse late sleepers, serve breakfast, pack lunches and snacks, hand over lunch money, help pick out clothes, gather together homework in backpacks, walk to school, drop off by car, watch the boarding of school buses, and more.

And that's just first thing in the morning!

Every hour, every day, every week, every month, every season, and every year brings its own particular responsibilities and potential challenges for a mother. There is sickness, injury, and sometimes death. There is school suspension, teenage pregnancy, special needs, bullying, and poor grades. There is juvenile delinquency, still living at home at age thirty, unemployment, rejection from college, and suicide.

Being a mother means being present and active toward the well-being of her young one (or ones) every single day. It is an unpaid job, and that is a crime.

Fortunately, though, being a mother is also the best job in the world. It is giving birth to one's own flesh and blood, witnessing first steps and the first smile, cuddling with a sweet-smelling and warm body in the dead of winter, watching the growth of a child, helping him or her learn to read and do math, teaching swimming and skimming stones, playing board games and camping in a tent, guiding moral development, and on and on.

It is sharing one's life with another person (or persons). But unlike a roommate, partner, or spouse, he or she enters the home extremely needy. His or her personality has also not yet revealed itself. That individual is not living in the home short term. That person's ties to his or her mother are strong and permanent.

Being a mother is loving one's child. Unconditionally. Who can one turn to if not one's mother? Who is one's biggest cheerleader? One's mother. Who will always protect young people? Their mothers.

It is difficult to describe the job of a mother because it is all-encompassing. It means different tasks to different people at different times in their lives. But one thing is indisputable: a mother is The Great Protector. She would lay down her life for her son or daughter if necessary. She has his or her back for as long as she's alive.

What more could any child want?

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