While flowers are fashionable and appropriate for Mother’s Day, they are not the most desired item among mothers-yet they do represent an excellent reference for what most mothers do want.
While our subject is Mother’s Day and a chosen gift vs. the one thing that all mothers appear to want, these thoughts are essential for men and women both.
Men, husbands, and fathers, because every man has a mother at some point in their life and needs to hear this. Men may also have other family members such as a wife or daughter, who are mothers and deserve honor in that role as we discuss.
Women, because they too also have a mother, and also are all potential Mothers if not one already. Especially in the mother-daughter dynamic, it is important to remember this one gift we will identify.
Who is a Mother? Mothers give life. They risk their own life to deliver ours. They then sacrifice time, sleep, personal interests, opportunities, portions of their own life and relationships with others as they then care for and nurture the new life they brought into existence- You and me.
A Variety of Mothers (Moms) with added challenges and sacrifices. I’ll call it the Mom Spectrum.
While there are common themes shared across motherhood as a whole, we all know extenuating circumstances that may make a mother’s role more difficult, challenging a mothers feelings of adequacy at times. The following are a few for which we should recognize the added esteem these mothers deserve as a result. Each could be a complete story of their own but are briefly referenced in this tribute.
Traditional Moms: Moms that deliver all the care, provision, healthcare, teaching and nurture needed to sustain life, typically with the support of a father who helps alleviate and focus the mother’s role by being an active contributor in many ways. This allows them to more fully concentrate on the role of motherhood itself and be continuously present.
Working Moms: Moms that through financial necessity, or a personal fulfillment need which makes them a better mother, work outside of the home or in the home many times on top of the 24-7 tasks required of them already in being a mother. I hesitate even referring to one spectrum of mothers as “working moms” because the role of mother itself is constant work, which is unfortunately often not recognized as such. It is well documented that replacing all of the care and services a mother provides would require multiple hires ( cook, maid, teacher, chauffeur, caregiver, etc.) and would cost well over a hundred thousand dollars per year. We are blessed that many mothers regarding their mother role, love their work, and fulfill their motherly duties with love, a sweet voice and a smile. This enhances their value placed on being a mother, as the time with the time with their children for the “working mom.”
Single Moms: Moms that must take on the additional roles and responsibilities for which the traditional mom has assistance. We are all familiar with the term “single mom,” but often don’t take time to think thru the added activities this mother must engage in. Not only must she provide all the care and nurture required for the children, but must also somehow generate all the financial support and all other contributions on her own that a traditional Mom may have assistance in providing.
These are capable and strong women, who can do so. Doing so, however, does not always mean they don’t feel an added stress and heartache as they are often placed in the paradox of leaving their children in the care of another, as they go to work. Time lost, away from the children they long to be with, to generate the income needed to support that same child. This elevates their value placed on being a mother as the “one on one” time to do so is now limited.
Widowed or Elderly Widowed Moms: Moms that have lost their life partner thru life’s circumstance. The young widow perhaps as a result of a premature death of the partner due to military action, accident in the workplace or a variety of reasons. An elderly widow also finds their partner now gone, but it may have happened much later in life. Either way, the mother now is missing their life partner and in many cases, best friend and confidant. The loss leaves a void to try to fill.
Their loss is magnified in the circumstance where an elderly mother may be placed in a healthcare facility separated from remaining family. A part of their life is now missing, and the void to be filled often magnifies their focus on remaining relationships like that of their children. The void elevates their need to validate and sometimes increase the measure of being a mother, as it is one of their only remaining family roles and relationships.
Moms with Daughters (and the inverse, Daughters with Mothers): Moms that by having daughters instead of sons, create the age-old dynamic of the “clashing of mother and daughter.” As a mother, engages in her approach to provide, nurture, and protection, it starts instinctively and then adapts to become “her way” based on the child, the environment, resources at the time and to what extent if any a support system is in place.
As their daughters become mothers, the motherly instinct does not just disappear from the original mother- now the grandmother. It is her ingrained instinct to continue mothering help as she now becomes “grandma,” the Mother of the new Mom.
With the new mom, now transitioning from the role of the daughter only, to her new role of “mother,” she now also develops “her way of mothering.” Her way is based on the child, the environment, and resources at the time ( now years later then when the grandmother developed her mothering approach) and to what extent, if any a support system is in place.
While there are other factors as well, the irony that the grandmother and mother are both trying to fill the role of “mother” is often a source of this conflict as they struggle to find proper communications and boundaries, especially when the grandmother is a part of the new mother support system. This elevates value placed on being a mother for the new mom as she strives to establish her new role consistently.
Moms of Special Needs Children and Moms living in special arrangements: Motherhood itself is a special blessing many look forward to. As a woman, you are already special. Becoming a mom adds responsibility and requirement to the special person you already are. Listen close, for those who have already become a mother you are entrusted with a higher level of devotion if you receive children with special needs. Again, it is a high requirement to meet the needs of that child and moms that receive children with special needs have an increased level of nurture to deliver. These mothers have an escalated demand in the motherhood role.
I believe we all have special needs from time to time, but the term has been adopted for those who have a consistent demand for coping with their condition or environment. Things like being the mother of a child with autism, down-syndrome, type one juvenile diabetes, or an array of other things that change their needs required to exist in the same world that others do so without extra effort. It is an extraordinary mother and caregiver indeed, who can take on this added requirement of love and sacrifice to fulfill the additional needs- literally living in a state of “Evaluation, Planning, Preparation, and Constant Potential Crisis,” of some sort. These moms are exceptional among the already honorable ranks of motherhood because they do so with love and sacrifice as if it requires no extra effort or imposition.
A quick example of this is my friend Tamara who cares for her children with autism so effectively and then writes a book about it called “Normal for Me.” She is one of those Moms that is special among moms because she provides that high service of love, and considers it her “normal.”
I know another mom, Tiffany, and her support system mom, Lisa, who have on separate occasions had sleepless nights performing two a.m. checks of the blood glucose level for a type one juvenile diabetic child to ensure he lived safely thru the night.
In both cases, this raises their value placed on being a mother as it is one of their unique requirements to fulfill their specific role of motherhood with their children or being an assisting support system to their children.
Sometimes the joint family effort to provide a support system and meet economic and temporal needs creates a situation where new moms may live with their mothers as they establish themselves. This often adds the challenges of multiple maternal figures in the home and the need for clear communication, explicit scheduling, and definition of duties along with like-mindedness or what was once intended as a support system can become an added stress to the situation.
Mothers who may suffer from disease or special needs themselves: Moms who may have postpartum depression or mental illness at a young age or a disease such as dementia in their later years have a unique challenge. While their actions may not always demonstrate the love they have for their children, their act of bringing their children into life itself has not changed. The position of mother and all of the esteem it is entitled to, should not waver from the children as the disease is not the person. This can be especially challenging in cases of Dementia, or Alzheimer’s, when the children may not even be recognized by the mother- but this is from the disease. It is not the natural state or desire of the mother. Keeping the two separate can be challenging. This makes these mothers cherish being a mother, as their time of recognition and expression may limit the interaction with the children they love.
Combination of the above? Motherhood, like life, is not a static entity. As the skillsets, needs and independence levels of children change, together with the environmental and relationship ebb and flow of life, mothers may find themselves moving between several of these motherhood spectrums, and even living in more than one of them at a time, including all of the added challenges that come with each.
It is possible for a mother to find herself in the multiple spectrums as a single mom due to a separation or death, who is working outside of the home and living with family until she regains her independence. Or even a working mom who is experiencing postpartum depression. In either case, the addition of each set of spectrum challenges adds complexity and stress to fulfilling the role of mother. Which leads us to the next- to- last mom type on this list, which can include any of those mentioned above as well. It is…
Stressed Moms: Stressed moms are named because missing from this list above is the “All the Time always Perfect Mom”. She doesn’t exist. Mothers though divine in their role as they create, nurture and sustain life, are still only human. They will make mistakes from time to time. That is part of their blessing. In the mother’s role as teacher, she can teach children how to control a temper, or if losing her own in an uncharacteristic episode, how to ask for forgiveness and work thru the challenges of self-disappointment and move forward.
The last mother in this list starts heading toward understanding the one gift every mother wanted.
Here is the challenge. With the changes and challenges of life, balancing it all is hard enough as an individual. Add in, being a mother responsible for multiple needs of multiple persons, along with life’s distractions and challenges of electronic media coupled with the many difficulties above and you have a recipe for being busy to the point of reprioritizing relationships and reducing quality time spent together (even if accidentally or unintentionally). Another result may be a breakdown in communications that cause separation and rift between mother and child as they drift apart.
When this happens time passes faster than we realize and there may be extended periods of rift or being apart from one another. I’ve worked with adults who have told me they haven’t spoken with their mother in years. I’ve listened to mothers who say their children don’t call them at the frequency they would like or need, to feel the love and appreciation the mother is seeking.
The One Thing Every Mother Wants Is not to be the last mother I’ll name here…
The Forgotten Mother: What every Mother wants is “to continue to be a meaningful and relevant part of the life that they created and nurtured- the lives of their children.” It’s that simple.
This means not just an obligatory gestured Mother’s Day visit, or temporary elevated relationship for that holiday, but a presence and sincere involvement on a regular and recurring basis all year round.
Another paradox of motherhood is that when raising a self-sufficient, independent child, the child turned adult will be self-sufficient and independent- meaning they don’t need mothers involvement in the frequency and depths they once did. This transition can be challenging to maneuver successfully. Especially if any of the mentioned mother spectrums are present and create added challenges as well.
Back to the Flowers:
These thoughts all originate from the fact that my wife said,
“Don’t get me any flowers-they just die.”
I initially was not going to get her any flowers per her request. But since I was the reason she was a Mother, I thought I should acknowledge her in some way on Mother’s Day, and I eventually decided to get them for her anyway. So I could have named these thoughts,
“Why My Wife Gets Flowers that She Doesn’t Want on Mother’s Day.”
But as the thoughts evolved, it became so much bigger than just my household.
My wife’s comment caused me to think. There are so many challenges to motherhood and that women face. I hear many struggles of doubt, and concerns of self-worth, especially after passing into one or more of the previously mentioned mother spectrums.
Living in the shadows of past relationships or comparisons of social media and marketing which often set unreal expectations and comparisons for women and mothers where none should ever exist.
The value and deserved esteem of a mother are not related to, nor changed, by any of these things above.
The flowers dying, is what the flowers eventually do. My wife and all mothers are still the same person and still deserving of the esteem and appreciation for their giving us life and all of the care, instruction, nurture and provision needed to bring us to today, regardless of what the flowers do. The flowers are just a gift.
What the flowers do has absolutely no bearing on the woman/mothers value or deservedness to be honored. She deserves the gift.
Hopefully, the following lesson in the bouquet will be a reminder to accompany this gift with what your mother wants.
As the color of the flower fades, petals fall away until they are no longer a part of the original source of life-the bloom and stem. Making them a somewhat appropriate gift and analogy on Mother’s Day.
Like the flowers, so it is with mothers and children. As the need for and influence of the mother fades, like the petals, children change as they age and eventually separate, no longer attached to the original source of life.
Which Moms are a part of your life?
To those who no longer have their mothers with them, if mom has passed, honor those who are mothers in your life and still with you, such as your wife and daughter.
As Dr. Phil McGraw once said, “perception is reality.” So honoring mom in her eyes may be different than your interpretation.
Find out what frequency of visits, phone calls or activities meet the mothers in your life’s expectation of not being a “Forgotten Mom” – Then act on them. After all, anything you have on your schedule is only there because you have a schedule at all, thanks to her providing you the gift of life and nurture to the point you are today.
Then she will know she is “to continue to be a meaningful and relevant part of the life that she created and nurtured- the life of her child” – You!
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Until Next time Remember, “In Life, Family, Faith or Finance-Your Success is in the Details”- Doug