The Circle of Moms

Mom. Mother. Mama. Madre. Magician. Ringmaster. Call her what you will, but know that she is one of the strongest, most sought out people on earth. Talk to most mothers and if they still have kids under the roof, you’ll find they can’t get a second of peace without someone needing them. My mom would yell at my brothers and me from behind the bathroom door, “Can’t you kids give me just a few minutes?!”

“Okay, when will dinner be ready?” we’d whine.

It’s difficult to write about the work that goes into being a mother without making her sound like a superhero. She creates meals from practically nothing in a single bound. You want to talk about faster than a speeding bullet? Watch a mother run after her erratic toddler in a public place. Mom can sure as heck be more powerful than a locomotive when her cubs are in danger. Or, when the house is a disaster and she utilizes that strength to wrangle everyone to assist with cleaning, like Wonder Woman and her golden lasso.

My mother was the queen at delegating chores—so much so, we used to hide from her. “San, Mar, Michael, Ken… get in here!” she’d holler from the front porch for one or all of us to do our chores. Names were always butchered into humorous combinations—I called my oldest brother Markle for a better part of my childhood. Eventually, reluctantly, we’d make our way to the house to accept our cleaning fate—always rolling our eyes, frustrated at having to stop our game of kickball. “Didn’t she get it?” I used to think.

It took me 20 years and two children to let go of the resentment I felt toward my mom for not spending much quality time with us. I can only recall a handful of evenings my mother sat on the couch to watch a movie with the rest of us. She used that “downtime” to finish the evening’s dishes, prepare tomorrow’s lunches, write grocery lists, and fold some of the never-ending laundry. Her cigarettes would burn down to the filter in the burgundy ashtray I made her for Mother’s Day. The remaining 3 inches of snake-like ash was indicative of the amount of household duties she had to complete that day. She was a fantastic caretaker and I never truly appreciated her efforts until I became a mother myself.

Mom used to say, “You’ll start keeping your house clean when someone you barely know does a surprise pop-in. You’ll see.” Luckily, I live in the mountains for the sake of the rare pop-in. Ironically, this happened to me just yesterday. I was painting in the most disgusting clothes, my hair was up in the same frazzled, weeping bun it had been in for three days and the angry Corona pimple that developed on my chin was glaring. “Oh, you’d like to see what we’ve done with the house? Um… oh, sure,” I say, as I hesitantly walk through the door to give her the grand tour. Our dwellings looked like an army of savage teenagers pillaged the kitchen while tossing random articles of clothing about the rest of the rooms. I couldn’t help but to smile up at my mom and say, “Yep. I know… I know.”

I now completely understand her inability to relax as there is always a “to-do” list. However, while my mom taught me the art of homecooked meals, shiny surfaces and perfectly folded t-shirts, I learned other more valuable lessons from her. You see, I can cook an amazing dinner and leave a sinkful of dishes to curl up on the couch with my family. It is certain my mother just rolled over in her grave as I typed that last sentence.

While my mother didn’t necessarily spend a ton of time entertaining her kids, she was a thoughtful woman with a huge heart. She would bring me to visit with older relatives who could use company and homemade banana bread. I spent countless hours in dated, hot living rooms with handmade afghans and crystal bowls full of strange candies. I’d smile, sip my bitter tea, nod my head and accept pinches on my cheeks willingly. This simple act of showing someone you care has influenced me to volunteer regularly and ensure those near to me are well and looked after.

I believe my mother only knew what she was taught by her mother: be a good housewife and take care of your family. She married at the tender age of 18. It seems preposterous nowadays, but it was a norm in the ’50s. I can’t fault my mom. She didn’t even have time to cultivate a passion or go to school to pursue it. Tending to a home and family was her passion, I suppose. Fortunately, I did go to college and developed my own interests. Even though soon after, I became a stay-at-home mom, I always had a career path I could revisit when I was ready. But with that came a whole different set of issues my mom never had to deal with—the most prominent being the balance of work and home—the elusive challenge of the working mom.

It’s quite possible mom encouraged me to spread my wings because she wanted a different life for me? The awful part about a mother passing too soon is that so many questions go unanswered. Yet, it makes me think—what am I indirectly teaching my daughter about being a mom? If she decides to become one, I hope she leaves the dishes in the sink, carves time for friends, visits the elderly and reads books in the sunshine until words wiggle on the page. I hope she finds peace in nature and not closet cleaning. I wish for her to develop a passion that is just hers, and most of all, I truly long for her to find the beauty in being a mother. It’s a difficult, heart-wrenching, blissful experience that I wouldn’t trade for a warm tray of brownies. And that is saying something!

Even though Mother’s Day has already happened by the time you are reading this, moms should be celebrated for more than just a day. Happy Mother’s Month to all of the selfless, loving, inspiring mamas out there! Take pride in the world you have created for your family—the gratitude will probably not come for years, but the love is always there.