This time of year, people all around the world pay tribute to the person who has had the most influence on their lives.
They remember the woman who brought them their greatest joys and their biggest triumphs. They fondly remember the positive impact she has had on them and how much she has taught them … You see, my birthday is next week.
Of course, I’m kidding.
Mother’s Day is coming up, and it’s this day that makes people remember the women who brought them into the world and made them who they are.
Cards, flowers, chocolates, phone calls: It’s all about Mom. She is lavished with attention. She is, in the words of the old television game show, queen for a day.
The next day, Monday, the sons and daughters head back to school and work. They forget all the joys of their childhoods, the loving words, the bedtime stories. It’s time to get on with life, and Mother is, for the time being, forgotten.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I think of the roles assigned to mothers in our world. It’s always in the back of my mind anyway since it’s pretty much a given that I will someday take on that role. I am, after all, a woman. Not to mention the fact that I currently live in the motherhood capital of the world.
For all the good that is said about it on Mother’s Day, motherhood is no picnic.
It’s hard work. Mothers put up with tantrums, food fights, stubbornness and snotty noses every day — and that’s just from their husbands. The kids are even more difficult.
I am not afraid to say that I look at the possibility of motherhood with more than a little trepidation. I’m not cut out to be a mother. I can’t stand kids.
It’s not that I don’t like them; I just can’t stand to be around them.
My few babysitting escapades ended in disaster. (I’m thinking of the time the kids ended up on the roof of the house just as their mother pulled into the driveway. I don’t know how they got there. It was very sudden.) It’s hard for anyone to get me to hold a baby. I’ll only do it if it’s the only way to keep the kid from hitting the floor.
As I neared adulthood, I began to devise ways to avoid becoming a mother. My efforts have worked so far. But someday, it might happen. And I realize that when it does, I will most likely be forced into the role that so many other women have had to enter.
The problem is that mothers have to give up their own lives in order to provide everything their children need. They must spend hours every day helping their children. They no longer have the freedom to do what they want. They must look for fulfillment in bake sales, crayon drawings and PTA meetings instead of personal, business or political accomplishments.
Men can be fathers without giving up their outside lives. But women are tied to the role of mother first; everything else comes second. Perhaps more than anything, from the time a woman conceives, she can never let her child’s well-being leave her mind. Even when mothers are not with their children, their children are with them.
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with being a mother. Quite the contrary. I agree with those who say that raising children is our society’s most important task.
I just wonder why the task must always fall so heavily on women. It sometimes seems to me that even married women are single parents.
I know many men who would make terrific care-givers. I think it’s a shame that men don’t have more influence in their children’s lives. In my perfect universe, both parents would work flexible, not-quite-full-time hours, and both parents would care for the children.
I may be dreaming, but I think this scenario would work. It would certainly benefit both parents, as well as the children. Fathers would have the chance to get to know their kids better, and mothers would be given a break from the rigors of constant parenthood. Sales of Prozac and Valium would likely decline dramatically.
Even when I do become a mother, I’m not going to want to celebrate Mother’s Day. I don’t want my kids to bring me flowers one day of the year just because someone tells them they should. Motherhood — or rather, the job of raising children — is more important than that. Besides, come May, I’d rather celebrate my birthday. Thanks, Mom!
This column orginally ran in the May 7 edition of The Daily Utah Chronicle, at the University of Utah.