Does anyone remember the old Jeff Foxworthy bit about “You might be a redneck”? Like, “If you mow your lawn and find three trucks up on cinder blocks, you might be a redneck?” I used to think these were so funny. Anyway, I have my own version now. #Shesamom. For example, if that woman is carrying a baby, three grocery bags, a diaper bag, a purse, and a “very important rock” for a 5-year-old, #shesamom.
Why is that lady arguing with a small child in front of Target about why he needs to wear shoes? #Shesamom.
Why is that lady wearing a gaudy cupcake liner with ribbons and a picture of a kid’s face clipped to her dress out to lunch? #Shesamom.
Why did that lady leave a full grocery cart at the checkout and walk out of the store with a kid under her arm like a surfboard? #Shesamom.
Why is that woman driving around in an SUV blasting show tunes in the middle of the day? #Shesamom. Though come to think of it, this might be a little too specific to me. So… #guilty.
Why is that lady crying while watching a sappy commercial on the tv? Most likely, #shesamom, though it could be #auntflo’s fault.
The woman staring wistfully at the sushi restaurant across the street from McDonalds? No guarantees, but probably #shesamom who got out-voted on dinner.
Why is that lady walking around with what looks like a coffee stain, a throw-up stain, and potentially drool marks on her shoulder at 9 p.m. with only a chocolate bar and some diapers in the cart? #Shesamom and she has escaped for the evening. Give her space. She hasn’t seen people over two feet tall in a while besides her partner.
#Shesamom is more than a punchline though. We aren’t all jokes. There is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that go into this motherhood thing, and, really, a lot of it goes unappreciated or underappreciated. We often go out of our way to make other people’s special days extra special. We spend lavishly (if we can) on the gifts for others but debate with ourselves on the five dollar shirt or ten dollar leggings for ourselves. If you see a lady walking around with kids that look like magazine models and she herself looks a hot mess, #shesamom who ran out of time to take care of herself. She opted to make her kids look their best instead of taking time to make herself look her best.
Sometimes you won’t ever see the things that make our motherhood “real” to others. Some moms look like their lives are perfect from the outside, but #shesamom who cries herself to sleep at night over the baby she lost. Or she hides in the closet and binge eats chocolate while hiding from her 5-year-old so she can get a minute of peace.
Moms are so much of what it takes to make the world go around. In my house, if I’m sick for a week, I know I will have at least two weeks’ worth of things to catch up on when I’m well. This isn’t because my husband is incompetent. He works full time and is an amazing dad. The fact of the matter is, I do the laundry, shopping, meal planning, activity organization, cooking, cleaning, organizing, school paper signing, appointment remembering, therapy appointment setting, and other various things that will fall through the cracks if I’m not there to get them done. I used to resent this. Sometimes I still do. But in the division of labor, it is usually me that gets the stuff involving the caretaking of the kids, pets, and house done. If I’m unable to do any of those things, they more than likely won’t get done. My kids are mostly still little and can only do so much without direct supervision. I think it took a pandemic shut down for my husband to really appreciate all that I do. He was finally home to see it all. He saw me organize the kids’ schoolwork, clean the house around them, plan the meals, order the food, and contact the teachers for more information. He saw me organize fun things to do that weren’t going to expose us or others to the pandemic. For the first time in our marriage, I think he understood what it is I do. He has always appreciated me. I think seeing me actively doing all these things made a difference.
#Shesamom if she gave birth. #Shesamom if she got pregnant. #Shesamom if she has mentored a child who needed love. #Shesamom if she’s adopted her kids. #Shesamom if she teaches. Not every mom will get celebrated on Mother’s Day. Not every mom will be appreciated for everything she does for her family and the people around her. However, #shesamom anyway. She loves her people with ferocity and hope. She goes about her days working for their best lives possible. Maybe she works full time out of the home and wishes she could stay home. Maybe she stays at home full time and wishes she worked outside the home. Maybe she has a full-time career that she loves, a nanny she trusts like family, and is working her hardest to do the best job she can. #Shesamom. Maybe she’s a doctor, a lawyer, a banker, or a nurse. Maybe she works as a secretary, a cashier, or a truck driver. What makes her a mom isn’t what she does for a career. It is who she is in her soul. It is her drive to care for the children in her life with a passion that cannot be matched. She works to fulfill dreams big and small. She teaches little hands to tie shoelaces, write their name, read a book, and put together a puzzle. She helps with math homework, spelling homework, science homework, and punts the rest to Dad so she can help the middle schooler find a dress for her first dance. She drives to soccer practice, gymnastics practice, mathlete practice, chess practice, baseball practice, and the McDonald’s drive-thru because she cannot even think about making dinner after she gets home from being the taxi driver all day.
What makes her a mom isn’t biology. It isn’t a piece of paper that says the baby is hers. I have been a mom to kids I won’t ever see again and kids who claim they will live with me when I’m 100. A mom is a big deal. If you don’t have a great relationship with yours, you’ll find yourself searching the faces of women your whole life, hoping to find someone to fill that role. If your mom didn’t meet your expectations in some way, you will spend most of your parenthood trying to not be that way in your child’s life. In doing so, you’ll probably miss the mark for them in a different way. Such is the circle of life.
A mom is the 16-year-old who got pregnant and made the most mature decision she could to place her baby for adoption.
A mom is the 30-year-old who does IVF and has a c-section to finally get to hold a baby in her lap.
A mom is a foster mom who has fostered 60 kids and never adopted one.
A mom is a foster mom who closes her house after the first placement becomes her forever child.
A mom is an adoptive mom who waited years to finally fly across the ocean and meet her 3-year-old daughter who doesn’t speak her language. A mom is that same woman who will spend the next years learning her daughter’s native culture, language, and heritage so she won’t feel alone in her new home.
A mom is a birth mom who lost custody of her kids forever but still wrestles with herself every day to stay clean so one day her kids will be proud of her.
A mom is a birth mom who lost custody of her kids forever but can’t fight the demons of addiction and loses the battle, weeping for her babies the whole time.
A mom is an adoptive mom who took her son to a residential treatment facility knowing he would never be able to come home. She still loves him and writes to him, but she’ll never live with him again. She’ll struggle to ever trust her own judgment again.
A mom can be any of those things or none of those things. A mom is who you make her out to be. Even if your mom was perfect, you might still feel like she did it wrong. Even if you as a mom think you did everything wrong, your kid might think you’re perfect.
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Motherhood is the strangest thing. I’ve heard it described as watching your heart walk around outside your chest, and that is perhaps the closest thing I can think of to the truth. I want the best for my little ones. I want to fulfill all of their hopes and dreams, but I know if I do it all for them, I’ll ruin them forever. It means letting them fall, letting them fail, and being a soft place to land when they do.
#Shesamom if she takes a silly, simple hashtag and somehow feels the need to turn it into a soliloquy on what makes a mom, instead of just rolling with the jokes. #Shesamom if she probably takes herself too seriously and too lightly by turns.
If you watch a woman speed away from the school on the first day of middle school, you can bet #shesamom of a tween/teen, and she’s so over “togetherness,” she’d take an isolation chamber over one more day of dealing with the eye-rolling.
If you see a woman sitting in her car sobbing convulsively on the first day of kindergarten, #shesamom whose baby grew up way faster than she could have ever imagined.
If you see a woman gripping a car door handle while her teen slaloms through traffic like an Olympic skier on speed and she’s trying her hardest to not scream and upset the teen, #shesamom teaching a kid to drive. Keep a good distance so you don’t get run into.
If you watch a woman walk all through the store, slowly and without purpose, picking things up and putting them back down with a shake of her head, she’s not shoplifting. #Shesamom who has some alone time and doesn’t know what to do with herself.
If you see someone at a restaurant getting up and walking to the bathroom 30 times, look more closely. She doesn’t have the world’s smallest bladder. Chances are great that #shesamom, and she probably has a small child (or two or three) who “need to go potty” every five minutes, or at the very least whenever she wants to take a bite of her warm food.
The lady in a coffee shop with her hair in a weird bun, a dazed look on her face, bags under her eyes, and clothes that look like they sat on the floor for a week? Could be a university student studying for exams. Also could be that #shesamom looking for mommy fuel but they changed the menu on her, and now she’s not sure how to order a humongous coffee with 20 shots of espresso.
The truth is there are lots of ways to tell that #shesamom, some more overt than others. If you notice she’s looking a bit shabby, try not to call attention to it but do tell her she’s doing a good job. She’s probably exhausted and didn’t have time or patience to make sure her clothes matched or were the right side out (guilty).
#Shesamom, and she deserves all of the cards, cookies, and applause for all that she does all of the time. Seen and unseen, she is working for the family she loves.