Considering Mother’s Day by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

It’s Mother’s Day at 4:00am Santa Fe time or 3:00am Arizona time. I have just finished driving five hours—the last leg of our trip—from Arizona to Santa Fe so that my daughter can participate in a recital today, Mother’s Day.

On the drive I was thinking about “what is Mother’s Day?” Mostly it’s the honoring of women who are mothers. But maybe it could be the honoring of the practice of mothering, a skill that is developed over time.

Friday, my daughter let me know that I was not being supportive of her in regards to her recital. Earlier in the day she was struggling in her practice and crying. We have more drama and crying these days as the shifting moods of hormones in my 11 year old are regularly seeping in and out of our days. I did my best to listen to the angst and of course gave a suggestion of how to practice, but I’m just now realizing that what was needed was a big hug and a vote of confidence. That I did not give. My attempt was half-hearted.

In fact, I was very much distracted on Friday, as a momentous event was taking place as my parents were considering an offer from a buyer to purchase their home of 22 years. And they were pondering life in a retirement community. In that moment, I was dealing with the hidden tears of my mother that were coming out in the form of an irritation with my daughter and husband who were cooking while the meeting with the realtor was happening. My mom was feeling very emotional. And I will admit that I was focused on her because she needs mothering too, to make it safe to feel all of her emotions including sadness.

My husband was needing a bit of mothering also. My hard working man has been away for three months. He is home for just a short week. The fireworks were exploding on every front. He was feeling his own emotions as my parents’ possible move would directly impact what we do next, which is still unfolding for us.

As the emotions were bubbling up on every front, including for myself, I finally released my daughter from continuing her practice, but not in a way that was soothing or comforting. That evening as I was doing laundry so that I could pack for the trip, she confronted me with her observation that I was not as supportive to her for this recital as I have been for other recitals. When she said that I almost burst into tears, but instead I stopped the washing machine and stated I was going for a drive as calmly as I could.

Right now driving is the only private solace I have as we are living in an unusual situation. I have no privacy and no real emotional space—system overload for me to say the least. After I got out on the road—where we are at is quite rural: 20 miles in two directions to sleepy little eye blink locations—I felt like I could take a breath. As road stretched before me, I decided to do my 30 mile circle. Five miles gone and I started to feel like I had some perspective. 15 miles gone, I remembered that I am the mom and so needed to address my daughter without being defensive. At 20 miles, I decided to explain how I have been focused on my own mom’s needs during this transitional time. As I turned down our road towards home, I realized that I wanted to apologize and let my daughter know how excited I am to hear her surprise piece for me.

A typical day for any mom: change the details and the players, but the intensity remains the same, day after day.

It’s easy to get caught up in feeling unappreciated…

“I’m unsupportive, really?”

OMG, we are driving 1200 miles round trip for this concert with my husband, who is a truck driver (and really wants to be not moving for a few days)…

But there it is: MOTHERING.

Years ago, I spent every Saturday for a year complaining in my blog posts on this site. A deep unhappiness was permeating everything for me. There was some joy, but it often felt elusive. What was I complaining about, what was my pain? Mostly, it was the invisibility of motherhood. The monumental task that one undertakes when having a child in a society that says, “If you aren’t getting paid and you don’t have measurable outcomes then you aren’t really doing anything.”

12 years in and I call bullshit. MOTHERING is something, and people know when they aren’t getting it. MOTHERING is a skill that takes practice and vigilance to maintain. MOTHERING can never be measured and yet it is contributing to GDP (gross domestic product).

I am really tired of “honoring mothers” while poo pooing their work. And here’s the really sad thing: so many of us mothers secretly don’t completely value our MOTHERING either. If we did, we would stop the infighting with regard to “stay-at-home,” “work-at-home,” or “working” mother categories we have separated ourselves into.

We would instead value all MOTHERING, whatever its form, because every bit is needed!

So today, MOTHER, wherever you are, whatever your age, please hold yourself gently and know that every MOTHERING moment that transpires is needed even in all its imperfection.



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  1. 2 Responses to “Considering Mother’s Day by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan”

  2. An honest & compelling story. Thanks for having the gumption to share.

    By Tracey on May 18, 2017

  3. Such a beautiful piece Maureen, and I applaud your heartfelt candor. My beloved mom used to say everyday should be mother’s day for all that we do, and I support that philosophy. It’s so easy to judge oneself and even get lost in the caretaking mix, especially if we don’t take time for ourselves, if even to clear out heads. And, as our kids become teens…my son is now 14….there’s always new parenting challenges you don’t necessarily see coming and nothing quite prepares you for that. And, every child is different. I always tell mom friends to try to do something good for themselves, even if it’s simple, like making a cup of tea and really tasting it…and as you wrote….be gentle with yourself.

    By Robin Gorman Newman on May 18, 2017