Raising Richmond: Post-Mother’s Day reflections

As you know, Mother’s Day was on Sunday, so we thought it only appropriate to have our resident mamas (sure, that could be a thing) reflect on the day… and motherhood in general, really. We hope you’ll share your thoughts as well.

Editor’s note: Today’s feature is the latest installment of our parenting column written by two Richmond mothers: Patience Salgado (veteran mother of four gorgeous children), and Valerie Catrow (newish mother to a giant toddler). Check back fortnightly to watch them discuss/agree/disagree/throw down over all kinds of parenting issues, Richmond-related and beyond.

As you know, Mother’s Day was on Sunday, so we thought it only appropriate to have our resident mamas (sure, that could be a thing) reflect on the day…and motherhood in general, really. We hope you’ll share your thoughts as well.

The Mama Juggle

At precisely 3:52pm on Mother’s Day, fathers all over start to wonder how much longer the holiday will go on. It’s a long day starting with breakfast in bed at 6:32am because small children could barely contain the excitement. And mothers everywhere are keenly aware of the next morning’s post-Mother’s Day re-entry and all that is waiting after a day off.

We scrounge up breakfast, we tie shoes, we Febreeze stinky shoes, we clean up those awful missed pee streams around the toilet, we shop feverishly at Target for some thing cute, we marvel that early 90’s fashion is back, we count down from 5 (a lot!), we listen to tween woes and attitude, we read Eric Carle books 1,000 times and let small insistent people turn the pages, we make entire dinners with one hand and a baby on our hip, we finish work reports after everyone is in bed, we rewash the same sour load of laundry 3 times, we forget permission slips and drive them to school, we join running groups and feel proud, we cry, we say “see ya later alligator” to adults on accident, we leak from our boobs and rock babies in the dark night, we laugh at knock-knock jokes that have no punchline, we marvel at our children’s abilities, we believe in the people they are, we beg/bribe babysitters, we get WAY too involved at school, we do our art, we keep tabs of the progress of our quiet or growing dreams, we worry, about almost everything, we shrik our girlfriends, we pound the pavement in our day jobs, we shout loudly about causes and the things we care about, we advocate for our kids and others, we drink wine in the sacred circle of women, we hate being called soccer moms, we listen to NPR just to keep tabs on all that is happening in the world that we miss, we get lost in both frivolous and meaty books, we push kids in swings and soak up the sun, we worry about worrying, we give and love…and love and give.

At the end of every day, I rest my head on the pillow and wonder if it is enough, wonder what I missed or search for some way to do it better. I often feel as though I am half-assing everything I am holding and doing. I have no idea who threw in the fire baton in my juggling act or why I can’t seem to keep it all going. Then I realize, no one ever asked me to start juggling fire and everyone around me hates the circus anyway.

We hate it because somewhere along the way, we told mamas that life must be the show: amazing, astounding, and we are responsible for it all. We created the illusion that this role, life, and job is sequins, painted faces and perfection when really the whole gig is kinda slapstick.

We tell ourselves we must be the only one who can’t quite hack it, can’t find the balance. We try so very hard at keeping it all together. The secret truth is, there is a place for every woman — a place where there is no balance, no right way, no thoughtful response, no barrier, no fear, no perfection, no layer left. It is this place where the real beauty resides, where truth reigns, where courage begins, where our children can really see life, where we find love, where we can rest.

…and it’s about 3:52pm, mamas. We are all due for some rest.

Ask and you shall receive (and if you don’t, you won’t)

So Mother’s Day was on Sunday. I hope yours was a good one. Mine? Well, it was…fine.

OK, it kind of sucked.

I spent the morning in tears, moped through the afternoon, and went to bed with a tension headache from a day furrowing my eyebrows.

Before you wield your pitchforks and make your way to the RVANews office to run my husband through, it’s not Ross’s fault. It’s not anyone’s fault. In fact, the circumstances leading to my Mother’s Day of Woe were pretty typical of the obstacles I face on this journey of motherhood.

Let me back up a bit.

A couple weeks before Mother’s Day, as is customary, my husband asked me how I’d like to celebrate. I told him, “Oh, I’d just like a couple hours to myself.”

Here’s where I need to point out that my husband communicates more explicitly than anyone on the planet. Not surprisingly, he also (reasonably) expects others to do the same when he asks them a straight-out question. So when I said, “Oh, I’d just like a couple hours to myself” he heard “Oh, I’d just like a couple hours to myself” and made arrangements to make it happen.

I know this about my husband. And yet I woke up Sunday morning expecting…something. Sure, “Happy Mother’s Day!” and “I love you!” were the first words my husband and son said to me that day. But that was it. And I was sad.

As I saw Facebook and Twitter posts of the flowers and framed fingerpaintings other mothers were receiving throughout the day, I got sadder, immediately thinking that my husband must not value me as a mother because he didn’t get my son to create a delightfully disastrous paper-and-glue masterpiece just for me. And then when my husband took our son to church that afternoon, leaving me with almost THREE HOURS to myself — as I had specifically requested! — I got even sadder.

Now I know what some of you are thinking: “Well he should’ve known that you wanted a little something.” Personally, I don’t subscribe to that approach in our relationship because I don’t think it’s fair. I’m a big girl; if I want or need something, I need to ask for it. Even saying “I’d like you to do something special*” would’ve been enough. But I didn’t do that. And I spent the day miserable…and basically made my husband (my poor husband who actually LISTENED to me) miserable right along with me.

It wasn’t until later that evening, as I was lying in bed trying to massage the furrow-induced wrinkles out of my brow, that I saw the connection between how this Mother’s Day played out and what I do to myself in my daily life as a mother: I didn’t communicate what I needed and wanted from others (namely, my partner) and I had unfair expectations.

Typically, when it comes to parenthood and marriage, I have those unfair expectations for myself: if my child, my husband, and myself aren’t perfectly content and fabulous at all times (regardless of life’s circumstances) then I have failed. Period. On Sunday, I twisted those unreasonable expectations around to my husband, and he failed, as WE ALL DO AND WILL. Seeing how sad that made him — how miserable he was seeing me miserable — was a huge realization for me, a realization that I put myself through that pressure and self-judgment almost every single day when it comes to motherhood. And for what? A completed to-do list? Endearing/impressive anecdotes to share on Facebook? A nice pat on the back and “good job” from the universe as a whole? Hell if I know. But what I do know is that I won’t write off Mother’s Day 2011 as The Mother’s Day of Mope and Woe. Instead, I’m looking at it as the Mother’s Day when I accepted what motherhood has to mean for me if I’m going to make it through: openness, honesty, and cutting everyone a little slack…especially myself.

*Incidentally, I told him today, “Next Mother’s Day, I would like you to do something special — either a gift or something that you and JR make together that will make me say ‘Awww’ and that I can keep.” So next year, we’re golden.

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Patience Salgado

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