All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.
The 16th President of these United States held this country together with chicken wire and duct tape during the Civil War. Then he freed the slaves. That was plenty. He could have just stopped right there.
But no, the man had to go and set expectations unachievably high for motherhood. You want your kid to be President? Find yourself some angel wings. Good enough will not be good enough. You must be glorious.
Not to dash any hopes and dreams around this house, but if my son’s career aspirations are pinned to my angelic nature, he should probably look for something a little more attainable, like dogcatcher.
It’s not Abe’s fault entirely. Hallmark has to shoulder some of the blame. The notion of a sainted mother is deeply entrenched in our culture. Often to the detriment of women.
Let me explain. Somewhere along the line, really well-intentioned people realized that statistically speaking, most girls grow up to be wives and mothers, and therefore should be trained appropriately for these roles. Super. No problem there.
But somehow the teaching in some places is that wife and mother are the *only* acceptable roles for girls. In fact, too many girls are taught a woman’s very worth is derived from her uterus.
Think I’m exaggerating? Stop me if you’ve heard these lines before:
No woman, ever, is a chewed up piece of gum. No woman is a cup of spit. No woman is a used car or a dirty rag or a used-up piece of duct tape or a plucked rose or a licked cupcake. No matter what she’s done.
Spend any time in shame-based sex education, you’ll hear all of them. Is it valuable to teach girls (and boys, for that matter) to make wise choices? Absolutely. Is she less of person if she chooses differently than we wish she would? Absolutely NOT.
But as she ages, it gets even trickier. Let’s say she doesn’t get married or doesn’t have children. Maybe she has a child, but places it for adoption. Maybe she had an abortion. Maybe multiple pregnancies ended in miscarriage, and she doesn’t know what to do anymore.
Don’t worry, Mother’s Day comes rolling around every May with all its hype to remind her she doesn’t fit in. If she goes to church, maybe a preacher can make her feel even more uncomfortable.
A pastor asked all mothers to stand. On my immediate right, my mother stood and on my immediate left, a dear friend stood. I, a woman in her late 30s, sat. I don’t know how others saw me, but I felt dehumanized, gutted as a woman. Real women stood, empty shells sat. I do not normally feel this way. I do not like feeling this way. I want no woman to ever feel this way in church again.
Now look, I wouldn’t be a preacher on Mother’s Day for nothing. That’s like looking down the barrel of loaded gun. You’ve got the Abe Lincolns in the crowd with his angel mother smiling piously, sitting beside the misfits, derelicts and outcasts.
Go ahead. Make all those people happy. Oh, and be done early enough to beat the Baptists to the Mother’s Day brunch. May the Lord be with you. Just a suggestion, we could do away with the standing. It’s awful. Really.
But just in case she happens to make it through her single years chaste, she has babies easily and is undamaged by the process, all she did was get entered in the Mommy Olympics, where she will feel judged and like a failure every.single.day. So there’s that to look forward to.
We all need to admit that one of the casualties specific to our information saturated culture is that we have sky-scraper standards for parenting, where we feel like we’re failing horribly if we feed our children chicken nuggets and we let them watch TV in the morning.
So let me type this as clearly as I can because I spent a small fortune in therapy to learn it: Women, your value is not in your uterus or your ability to rear children. You are a child of God. You are worthy because you exchange oxygen. You are enough, just as you are.
This past weekend, a kind older woman at church saw our little family and remarked how special these days are. “Enjoy every minute of it,” she advised us. Charlie spoke up, “We enjoy most of them. Others, well, those are not so special.”
There are no angels in this house. There are no martyrs either. There are some human beings living flawed, imperfect, mostly lovely lives. And that’s really the best any of us can hope for.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I hope I’m teaching my son that while I’m no angel, that’s not in the job description. I am again thankful for my mother. She’s been a good parent to my sister and me. She is certainly no angel.
Of course, I’m not President either. That’s probably all her fault. I’ll have to chat with my therapist about that.