It is Mother’s Day, the one day of the year when we finally take a moment to honor the immense and continuing sacrifices that mothers make – first to bring babies into the world and then to raise those babies to adulthood, all the while uttering a quiet but fervent prayer that those children will have safe, healthy, happy, and fulfilling lives. Sadly, not all mothers are good mothers, and, tragically, not all children will be born into situations where they will have the opportunity to have a life that is safe, healthy, happy, and fulfilling.
But the reality is that the vast majority of the world’s mothers are good mothers. And the vast majority of them would give their lives – without a second thought – for their kids. The amount that women sacrifice for their children cannot be overstated. The great physical changes that a mother experiences within her body while carrying and delivering a baby are only the beginning of this lifelong journey. And the lifelong sacrifices of mothers who adopt babies are also immense. Stepmothers, too, often deserve a medal for the selfless gifts of love that they give to their stepkids. All of these women are heroic.
(Heroic too are women who are not mothers. It is critical in our celebration of mothers not to repeat the highly offensive cultural message that would have us believe that women who do not raise children of their own are somehow less admirable than women who do. Just because every woman had a mother does not mean that every woman must become a mother. The world is full of brilliant, amazing women who have not raised children of their own – sometimes by fate, sometimes by choice. And these women are to be celebrated, as well!)
Ways that men can celebrate mothers. But today is, after all, Mother’s Day, so let us think about how we as men can best honor on this day the women in our lives who are in fact mothers. There is so much that we can do! Start with bringing them breakfast in bed – and then continue with doing all of the cooking and cleaning and the bathing of kids and all of the other household chores so that the mothers in our lives might have a day of relaxing fun with their children. For any man who has a mother in his life – whether it is his own mother, the mother of his children, or simply a mother he knows – performing those tasks is a good starting point. But there is so much more that we can do… today and every day!
So let's get started!
1. Today, make sure that you are treating your own mother with respect and kindness. If your mother is still living, ask yourself: are you kind to her? Or are you cruel? Do you listen to her – or do you interrupt her? Do you take time to hear her stories and learn from her experiences – or do you ignore her wisdom? Mothers have so much to teach us – if only we take the time to listen.
2. Today, make sure that you are treating the mother of your children with respect and kindness. If you have children with a woman, are you kind to her? Do you give her attention, affirmation, affection, and respect? Do you help her when she struggles? Do you take on her burdens when it becomes too much for her to carry them alone? Do you try to make her life easier? Do you support her in her own hopes and dreams for the future? If not, you should. You must. Today and every day.
3. Today, make sure that you are doing your utmost to be a full partner in parenting. If you co-parent with a woman, do you do your equal share in the feeding, bathing, and cleaning up after the kids? Do you take them to their doctor and dentist appointments? Do you stay home when your kids are sick? Or is all of this left to your partner… every time? Men’s role in childrearing is steadily increasing. Just not fast enough. We should aim for truly equitable participation in raising our kids. Every day.
4. Today, if you provide child support, is it paid on time and in full? Have you thrown in a little extra money from time-to-time, aware as you are that the cost of raising children is generally far higher than whatever a court orders you to pay? Have you made sure that your investment in your kids so outweighs any resentment you may feel toward their mother that you have dropped the fight and withdrawn from the battlefield with only the best interests of your kids in mind? If not, you should do it today. And each and every day forward you should live up to your new commitment to no longer wage war on the mother of your children.
5. Today, have you ensured that you are not abusive or controlling in any way to your partner? If you are, you need to stop. Right now! No excuses! There is never any excuse for mistreating another person. Ever. If your home is not a place of peace, you need to do your part to ensure that it becomes one – even if this means removing yourself from the situation. No child deserves to grow up in a war zone. And no adult should have to live in one, either.
6. Today, have you worked to end violence and abuse against all women, whether they are mothers or not? I think we can all agree that it is wrong to abuse a child’s mother. Yet it happens all the time. And it is equally wrong to abuse any woman, regardless of her maternal status. All women deserve to be safe from mistreatment. It is simply not enough to be nonviolent yourself. (This is an essential starting point, but it is not enough.) If your home is in fact a place of peace, then focus your attention beyond your doorstep – and work to bring peace in homes where there is none. Today and every day.
7. Today, have you worked to build a better world for the children of the mothers in your life? Most mothers have beautiful dreams for their children. What have you done today to help make those dreams come true? What will you do tomorrow? How will you make the world better for kids? For all of our boys? For all of our girls? What will you do?
8. Today, have you begun to develop plans to encourage your workplace to become more family friendly? To offer decent maternity leave? And if your workplace offers paternity leave, have you made plans to encourage men to take it? Do you have a plan in place to develop spaces where women can breastfeed or use a pump in comfort and privacy in the workplace? (A room that has a shared toilet in it does not qualify as an acceptable place to nurse or to pump!) Are you working on plans to set up flexible work schedules, job sharing, and on-site childcare? If not, let it begin today. And let it continue tomorrow.
9. Today, have you worked for full equality for women everywhere?
10. And, finally, today, did you remember to get flowers and a card? If not, there’s a good chance that there’s still time! Get out there and do it… it is the right thing to do. And have a happy Mother’s Day!