It’s 7:28 am on Mothers’ Day morning. The Ogre is snoring heavily in bed with the dark curtains drawn over every inch of the windows. He was up until 4 am last night. He has piles of writing assessments to finish before a meeting on Tuesday, but instead of finishing them he spent hours soothing coughing toddlers, rocking a teething, congested baby, and cuddling a 7 year old with a nasty ear infection while I tried to sleep off a nasty case of pneumonia and the effects of a barrage of medicine.
He did the same thing last night. And the night before. And the night before.
In fact, he does the same thing almost every night. No, the kids aren’t always sick, but Lincoln wakes up nearly every night and the Ogre takes him 19 nights out of 20. He always puts my needs first. During the school year he works from 9 to 6, comes home for an hour for dinner, and then goes straight back to the writing center until 10:30 or 11. And in that hour, he never comes home and relaxes. He comes home and helps me feed the kids dinner, get them in bed, and then cleans and sweeps the kitchen before going back to work.
And yet, a few years ago, I would have been spending this morning feeling sorry for myself because my husband didn’t do anything for me for Mothers’ Day.
I used to buy into the cultural lie that love is measured in Grand Gestures. I’m not sure why, really; I grew up with a dad who turned small, everyday, constant tokens of love and affection into an art form. But for some reason the fact that my husband is really good at the daily kind of love and not so good at the Champagne and Diamonds kind used to be an excuse for me to put on my neglected pants and nail myself to my “unappreciated martyr” cross.
Yesterday the Ogre mentioned feeling bad about not planning anything for Mothers’ Day and having to work. I laughed at him a little and said, “are you kidding? This past week has been such a nightmare, and you have been doing my job and yours. Sometimes Mothers’ Day comes at a bad time and it’s just another day. Go to work!”
He looked at my incredulously. A few years ago I would not have said such a thing. Or I might have said it, but I wouldn’t have meant it, and he would have had to pay for it later in cold shoulders or a fragile, bruised ego.
I kind of want to reach back in time and smack past me. My husband has spent all the years of our marriage making every day Mothers’ Day. The refrain of our marriage has been “what can I do to help you?”, but its been a lopsided solo. Or rather, it’s been echoed by me saying, “why don’t you do anything to help me?”
I must be getting at least a little less selfish, or I wouldn’t be able to see how lopsided the sacrificial aspect of our marriage is. It was painful to see the Ogre’s incredulity when he saw that I truly didn’t care about Mothers’ Day getting lost in the grind of illness. Is that the kind of wife I’ve been?
Well, yes, it is. But it doesn’t have to be the kind of wife I will be.
So for Mothers’ Day this year, I’m going to let my husband sleep in. I’m going to make him breakfast and make sure his coffee is hot when he wakes up, send him off to work with a smile, and welcome him home with and a kiss instead of frustration. And then I’m going to do it again tomorrow.
The funny thing about Mothers’ Day this year is that I really don’t feel unappreciated. I’ve worked harder to improve my virtue as a wife and mother in the past two years than I ever have before. I’ve genuinely tried to see my vocation as a blessing instead of a curse. And although I still struggle, I’m much happier. I’m less likely to fall to my knees and cry “woe is me!” And I’m slowly starting to pry my fingers off my martyr complex. I don’t feel like the Ogre owes me chocolate, flowers, breakfast in bed, or a day at the spa for all the sacrifices I make as a wife and mother. I just want him to get some rest today to make up for all the rest I got last night. I don’t feel like the least my ungrateful children could do for Mothers’ Day is take me out for dinner. I feel like what they should to today is what they do every day…be my children. Fight with each other, spill their milk, play dress-up, ask questions, climb into my lap, and turn their tear-stained faces up for kiss from Mommy.
Maybe that’s why Mothers’ Day has become such a big deal in our country. It seems like the less we value motherhood and the more we see it as a life of indentured servitude, the more grossly exaggerated our demands become that the ones we serve recognize our sacrifice. This year has been a year of greater sacrifice from me than I’ve ever given to motherhood before, and for the first year ever, I don’t feel entitled to an obsequious show of appreciation. I just want to spend today like I spend every day…being a mother.