Mothers are remarkable creatures.
I was recently asked by a dear friend, currently in the throes of new-second-child-momhood, how I “did it.” How did I mother two small children alone? How did I maintain sanity? How did I…whatever. You get it.
My answer to this sweet and beautiful woman was simple: I didn’t.
In the past two years, I have carried several titles– Stay-At-Home-Mom, Divorcee, Empowered…ish Woman, Single Mom, Working Mom, and if you ask my four-year-old, I am more affectionately known as Mean Mom or “Mom-I-Want-A-Waffle.” I have learned more about myself and mothering my two young children in those years than any other time in my life.
I have been stretched to limits I never knew existed and I’ve cried enough tears to give Meryl Streep a run for her money. I have kicked the “something” out of a car while trying to fix it myself and save money, and when that didn’t work, I ate Instant Oatmeal. I have unearthed WWF lessons I had as a young girl with four brothers, in order to satiate my son’s need to tackle things. I have experienced, first-hand, that soul crushing realization that the weight of loving my children and raising my children is on my shoulders, alone.
Then I take a few breaths and a nap and realize that:
A. I’m OK. Crazy, certainly, but OK.
B. My kids are OK.
C. I’m not doing it alone, at all.
First of all, nobody, not even single moms raise children alone. None of us. Neighbors, family, friends, grocery store clerks, daycare and pre-school teachers (God bless them), male/female, whatever–all of us are moms when it comes to raising children. It really does take a village, and even if you sometimes despise that village or that village is a well-meaning mother/neighbor/friend with more advice than you ever wanted about raising functional children, the village is our lifeline.
Second, and I feel most important, single or working, adoptive, step, or birth parents, the best thing you can do is be your own cheerleader. That was easily the most difficult aspect of being a Single Mom. I had to be both my own critic and my own cheerleader. The first comes naturally to all mothers and women. The second…well, that requires a push and a lot of practice, but when I forced myself to appreciate my efforts, in spite of my failures, I gained a valuable self-awareness and deeper satisfaction in my parenting.
Examples that may or may not be directly pulled from my life:
1. Yes, you yelled at Liam 1,000 times today, but you did a load of laundry AND switched it over to the dryer, you didn’t quit your job, you made cookies and…you still got it, girl, you ate 20 of them! Go you.
2. So your work day ate your soul today and you came home a husk of a human. You still managed to get dinner on the table, and you made Adelaide’s night, because chicken nuggets and apple slices are the shiznit when you’re two, and you still managed to catch up on _____. (Television series left out to protect the dignity of yours truly. It might be a teen drama. We don’t know.) Go you.
It’s a work in progress.
Regardless, I’ve come to embrace myself, my strengths and my weaknesses, my limits, my milestones, and my sweet children in a much more meaningful way, and while I still beat myself up about my failures as a mother, I find that my days are filled with hope that I can get better, that I can raise children to adulthood and maybe even make them decent humans. And that is something.
That is really all the somethings in the world.
Thus, in the spirit of cheering on mothers and women, and “I am woman, hear me roar,” etc., I have decided to declare a new holiday. In honor of women and mothers and village-type mothers everywhere, I declare this International All Mother’s Day. (Not to be confused with Mother’s Day, which is in May, and celebrates a certain type of perfect, even-tempered, wholesome, graceful mother that makes us all hate ourselves a little bit.)
So there it is. Happy IAMD, everybody!
Happy IAMD to the women in our lives who can’t have children but desperately want them.
Happy IAMD to the women in our lives who desperately love our children and want none of their own.
Happy IAMD to the single or otherwise village-type fathers in the world that are just as much mothers as the rest of us.
Happy IAMD to the whole food mothers. We’re jealous. And to the chicken nugget mothers. We’re jealous.
Happy IAMD to the working mothers who cry themselves to sleep at night, because they are missing out on so much of their children’s lives.
Happy IAMD to the stay-at-home mothers who cry themselves to sleep at night, because they could really stand to miss out on just a little bit more of their children’s lives.
Happy IAMD to all of the people in our lives who make the “How do you do it?” possible.
Amy Milne, mother of (super lucky) Liam & Adelaide; Salt Lake City, UT