“I don’t want anything for Mother’s Day. That’s right. You heard me.”
My children didn’t believe me. They thought they were being set up. What’s the catch?
As the mother of three boys, I had been feeling uncomfortable with the consumer-driven concept of Mother’s Day. It felt disingenuous that they should feel pressured to show how much they appreciate me…on the second Sunday of May.
Don’t let me mislead you, however; just because I don’t want my children to treat me especially nice on Mother’s Day doesn’t let them off the hook. My expectation is that they treat me especially nice every day. When they do, there is no need to condense all of their love and gratitude into one day while potentially letting the other 364 days slide. If we all just show respect and appreciation for each other as a part of our everyday existence, there would be no need to force it upon as like an annual make-up class.
A bit of history on the day: Anna Jarvis wanted to honour her mother and the contributions of mothers around the United States. After much campaigning, her idea was heard by President Woodrow Wilson, who, in 1914, declared Mother’s Day an official national holiday. Within a few years, however, Anna’s objective had blown out of control, and she resented the commercialization of the day. Her idea had been that people could show their appreciation for their mother through simple gestures such as writing a letter or sending a single carnation. But the train had left the station and Anna spent the rest of her life (and most of her inheritance) fighting the exploitation of the day by big business.
I decided to join Anna in her protest. I didn’t want my family to feed into the artificial frenzy of it all. Instead, I made cards for my children thanking them for making it possible for me to love my job. My sons each received a card featuring either a Batmom, a Supermom or a Spidermom, all wearing Disney-like princess dresses like transvestite action heroes, each offering up a superhero quote like “With great kids comes great responsibility.” Cheesy stuff, but they were impressed by my ability to find the graphics online and to color inside the lines.
Society, however, told them they had to do something. Sheepishly, they brought forth their gifts, trying to be as minimalist as possible. Cole, the youngest, gave me a box he had made out of paper and tape. It was too delicate to hold anything that wasn’t also made of paper and tape, but it was a lovely paper box; Tanner, the middle child, gave me a beautifully painted ceramic butterfly, which was an art project at school, along with a poem, which he said his teacher forced him to write; Satchel, the eldest, brought me my favorite latte from Starbucks along with a handmade greeting card; my husband, Peter, gave me a pot of flowers (which I quickly killed by forgetting to water them–I can only handle so many dependents at a time). The day came very close to what Anna Jarvis had envisioned.
I know I’m lucky because frequently, one of my kids will approach me while I’m doing a chore around the house and ask what he can do to help. It warms my heart and I wouldn’t trade these consistent small gestures for a month of spa days and a room full of flowers. What if one of your offspring made you a thank-you card just because she was thinking about you? And, what if that happened to be on a Wednesday, any old Wednesday, in February? Just because she was thinking about you! It would send the entire Hallmark marketing department into a tizzy.
Furthermore, my opinion, and I understand it’s not a popular one, is that I don’t need to be celebrated for something I had the luxury of choosing to do. I wanted (and struggled) to have children and, while nothing could truly prepare me for the sacrifices of motherhood, I never questioned any of it, from the first thirty-three hours labor and subsequent C-section to the all-night stomach flus, to the back-to-back forehead stitches in the emergency ward. Yes, sometimes it’s hard. The pay sucks. But it’s what I signed up for.
The way I see it, I am personally rewarded every time I see my kids conduct themselves using compassion, kindness and respect. That before my very eyes, they are growing into global citizens who show resourcefulness, integrity, and humility is baffling to me, and my husband and I often joke that these traits must have skipped a generation. At the end of the day, however, this is my job and I am doing it, like everyone else, to the best of my ability, without the expectation that I will earn a bonus brunch once a year.
After all, as my kids made strides to becoming self-sufficient, like learning to use the toilet or to dress themselves, each became one less thing I had to do and I felt like I got a small promotion–kind of like moving from working on the factory floor to a supervisory position. As they get older and become helpful to me, there is another promotion, this time to manager. Eventually, grey-haired and wizened, I will end up sitting on the board of directors, watching from a safe distance and offering advice on how to maintain the family’s vision and values.
After the awkward gift exchange on the morning of my “boycott”, it was business as usual: Peter left to run a 10 km charity event, Satchel went out, and I took the two younger boys to soccer practice, then prepared dinner for Peter’s family. When my boys asked why I was making dinner for other people’s mothers on Mother’s Day, I answered in terms they could understand, cape flowing in the wind: “Because I’m Batmom.”
To me, the Batman metaphor is more relatable than, say, Superman or Spiderman because Batman doesn’t have any special powers–sure, he has some cool gadgets–but ultimately, he just works really hard and does the best he can with what he’s got without seeking recognition.
Yes, I am Batmom, the one in the Dark Nighty, signing field trip permission forms in the shadows of my kitchen, while my people sleep safely and peacefully, knowing that their world is protected by a phantom watch woman. I may not be the mom they need, but I’m the mom they deserve. It’s what I signed up for.
Queue Batmom exit music.