What do moms really want for Mother’s Day? Flowers, candy, breakfast in bed, a homemade card? Perhaps — or maybe that mom on your list has something else in mind.
Here's what's on my Mother's Day wish list this year -- and what's also making the list of a lot of other moms I know....
I know this one's hard to wrap, but it's guaranteed to be a hit, if only because it's in such chronically short supply.
One study found, in fact, that each time you add an additional child to your family, you increase your odds of not getting at least 6 hours of sleep each night by an astounding 50 percent. (Pretty mind-boggling, I know.)
Sleep deprivation tends to be more of a problem for mothers than for fathers -- and not just because mothers still tend to take the lead on middle-of-the-night parenting. Women are more likely to have difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep than men, with roughly 35 percent of women as compared to 25 percent of men reporting sleep problems. And there may be an additional factor at play as well (although the jury’s still out on this one): UK neuroscientist Jim Horne has argued that women need more sleep than men (about 20 minutes extra each day) because their brains spend more time multitasking, which means their need for recovery time is greater.
Time with our kids
We sometimes overlook this simple yet all-important fact: that what moms actually love most about motherhood is simply spending time with their kids…. Because here’s the thing: far from being the source of misery, the time spent with our kids is actually the stuff we love most about parenting. It’s the other stuff (the laundry, the grocery shopping, the endless to do list of life) that drags moms down and reduces their enjoyment of motherhood.
This is something I was speaking with Toronto mother Karen Leiva about recently. I asked her how she was planning to spend Mother’s Day and she told me how much she was looking forward to simply spending time with her son Nicolas, who is two-and-a-half year: "I guess what I really want to do is to have a day where we can kind of slow down: turn off the phones, turn off the computer, turn off the TV and get outside and play and spend some fun time together."
It's all about hitting the pause button on everyday life and making room for the fun!
A little less guilt
The job description for “mother” tends to be pretty guilt inducing. Consider the kind of messages moms receive from these two so-called inspirational quotes about motherhood.
“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” – Jacqueline Kennedy
So your entire sense of self-worth as a person should be wrapped up in the experience of being someone’s mom? That puts a lot of pressure on moms, to say nothing of their kids.
“A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” - Tenneva Jordan
So motherhood is all about self-sacrifice? What if you’re a mom who happens to really love pie? Do you always have to do without the pie?!!!
Feeling less guilty is all about getting real about motherhood—being willing to talk about the challenges as well as the joys. The more we’re willing to do that, the more we ease the pressure on ourselves—and the easier we make it for other mothers to ease up on themselves, too.
It’s the Mother’s Day gift you give to other mothers, in other words.
A "get out of parenting jail free" card
Every mom would appreciate being given a “get out of (parenting) jail free” card that could be applied to her next parenting faux pas. Because it’s not a case of whether you’re going to make a mistake as a mom. It’s simply a matter of when. And when it happens, you can simply use that “get out of (parenting) jail free” card to forgive yourself and move on.
Being a mom means experiencing many guilt-inducing moments. And as the mother of four children, I have many. One memory that really stands out is the time I sent my four-year-old son to school on a non-school day. These were the days of every-other-day kindergarten and there’d been some sort of disruption to the schedule—a school holiday or something like that. I sent Erik to school as per usual and then midday through the day, it suddenly dawned on me that this wasn’t actually a school day for him. I rushed to the school only to discover that the teacher hadn’t actually noticed the error at all. (Yes, that made me feel a lot better.) “I noticed he kept looking at me with a really quizzical expression,” the teacher told me. “I guess he was trying to figure out why the teacher was the same, the classroom was the same, but the kids in the class were all different kids. He was trying to puzzle that out.” So, yeah, that experience was more than a little humbling. I definitely could have used a “get out of (parenting) jail free” card that day!
A chance to reflect on what it means to be a mom
When you become a mom, you become a member of “the motherhood club.” You feel this strong sense of connection to every other mother you pass on the street and all the other mothers of the world.
This is something Karen Leiva thinks about a lot. For the past six years, she’s been volunteering to raise funds for children in an orphanage in Uganda. The dollars she raises help to make it possible for the children in that orphanage to pursue post-secondary education. So far, she’s managed to raise enough funds to put ten kids through school.
She told me that, on Mother’s Day, she’ll be thinking about the fact that 80% of the children in that orphanage ended up being there because their mothers died in childbirth. She’ll be thinking about global health inequities and how not having access to adequate healthcare has a huge impact on the lives of mothers and babies in other parts of the world: “We have so many opportunities in Canada. I think sometimes we take it for granted because it’s always there. We can expect that we’re going to go to the hospital or we’re going to stay home with a midwife and deliver our baby in a healthy way -- but that’s not the reality around the world.”
So, if you think about it, Mother’s Day is the perfect day to reflect on your motherhood club membership: to feel buoyed by that sense of connection and to allow it to inspire you to do your part to make the world a better place for other mothers and their children.
Not just in your neighbourhood, but around the world.
And not just on Mother’s Day.
This blog post is based on my May 2018 parenting column for CBC Radio. If you'd like to listen to the actual column, you actually have three options to choose from. Happy Mother's Day!
Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including, most recently, Parenting Through the Storm. She is also the creator of The Mother of All Books series and the weekend parenting columnist for CBC Radio.