what a mom wants, what a mom needs
because we can do better than brunch + real ways to support moms & an Ada Limón poem that always makes me cry
Mother’s Day is a basically fake holiday, but it can also be so tricky.
Look at this gorgeous photo from my first Mother’s Day, for example. Don’t we look glowy and blissful? Doesn’t the baby look charming and content?
What this photo doesn’t show is the scramble to get a brunch spot that day because my husband had forgotten about Mother’s Day (or maybe thought it was the following weekend?) and I huffed around the whole week before, certain he’d forgotten but not willing to actually ask for what I wanted. (Or maybe that all happened another year? My memories from 2013-2018 or so are totally jumbled by babies and sleep deprivation.)
My problem is that I know that the whole thing is a scam: it’s a made-up holiday, and brunch isn’t nearly enough to make up for the innumerable ways this country falls short of caring for its caregivers, but I still want to be seen and appreciated. I don’t want any item of clothing or piece of jewelry with mama anywhere on it, thank you. I do want the people I care for to let me know they see that work. And maybe I want a cocktail.
This year, I’ve been inspired by some of the smartest people on the internet, who’ve made really good arguments for why you should plan your own mother’s day and provided a handy guide to avoiding disappointment this year. (Thank you, Katherine Goldstein of The Double Shift and Claire Zulkey of Evil Witches!)
So I thought we’d talk today about other ways of celebrating Mother’s Day—especially by appreciating the moms in our lives and the other people who’ve made our mothering possible, and by giving to moms whose needs are more pressing than getting someone else to plan the brunch.
love notes to moms
One of the big ideas in my new book is that none of us really mother alone, or at least we shouldn’t. And I’ve been thinking a lot about the other people who’ve made my mothering possible—my mom and stepmom certainly, but also the friends who’ve shown up in big and small ways across the years. (Some of those people are moms themselves, and some aren’t—you don’t need to be a mom to be engaged in mothering!)
So this year I’m sending a couple little love notes to some of the people who’ve mothered me and loved my kids. This is slightly outside my comfort zone—yes, I’m a poet whose whole deal is writing down my feelings, but I generally hide them away in poems, instead of mailing them directly to people—but I’m going to go slightly out on a limb this year. If you like this idea, but you’re not sure where to get started, Romper has a great list of 100 things to write in a mother’s day card for all the different moms in your life.
I’m sending some photos with my cards, I think. You could also send a poem in your card! This poem won’t speak to every kind of mom relationship (I doubt it’s how my kids will think of me) but it always makes me think of how my mom cared for me and my sister in our childhoods, especially when she was a single mom and carrying burdens we didn’t know about.
(And if you’re looking for a book recommendation for the mom in your life, or for yourself, I’ve got lots of great ideas in the Write More bookshop, including a whole selection of books on motherhood.)
ways to support moms in need
This piece from the Better Life Lab, on the State of U. S. Mothers in 2022, is grim and also completely unsurprising. As its opening notes:
This year U.S. families celebrate a third Mother’s Day in the midst of an historic pandemic, one that has killed nearly one million people and forever altered the shape of work and family life for millions. Moms are struggling, at home and at work, but there are research-backed solutions to alleviate some of this pain. Instead of spending yet another Mother’s Day singing the praises of the critical and often unsung roles mothers play in society, let’s shift the conversation to understanding the burdens mothers carry for the country, and the policies and programs we can put in place to support the critical work they do and allow mothers to thrive.
In that spirit of practical solutions, I thought I’d share a few places I’ll be donating this year.
because 1 in 3 families can’t afford enough diapers to keep their babies dry, clean, and healthy . . .
give to the National Diaper Bank Network is working to make sure that families have enough diapers to keep their babies dry and healthy. You can donate to them directly, or you can find a member diaper bank near you and donate directly to the local organization.
because everyone should get to choose when to become a mother, or not, and that choice is more vulnerable now than ever . . .
give to the the National Network of Abortion Funds, or find your local abortion fund
This excerpt from Hannah Matthews’s new book, You or Someone You Love, on all the things that abortions and abortion funds make possible, is so beautiful:
Abortion funds give someone $500 — or $750, or $2,000, or $443.68, or $20 — and in doing so they create whole futures, whole people, whole lives, whole worlds.
The funding that paid for my abortion came not from my government or my health insurance company or my employer. It came from people, like you and me, from individual human beings who make up a village of care.
This village, in paying for my abortion care, was paying for my son to have all the food and clothing and books he needs, for his health care and toys, for him to have a living mother in a healthy body, with capacity and joy to spare. They paid for me to avoid falling behind on my mortgage and student loan payments. They paid for my parents to receive flowers on their birthdays. They paid for my car to have its oil replaced and transport me safely to work. They paid for me to write these words to you.
because all moms should be free to spend Mother’s Day with their families . . .
give to the #FreeBlackMamas campaign. (We’ve had a recurring monthly donation at the Bail Project for years, but I’ll be sending some extra money this month to the National Bail Out, a network of organizers, activisits, and lawyers that coordinates the Mama’s Day Bail Outs.)
And me? This year, to celebrate Mother’s Day, I’m running away. I’m taking myself to a writing retreat in Pennsylvania for a couple days. I didn’t plan it intentionally to fall over Mother’s Day—those were just the dates that were available—but it feels kind of perfect that I’ll spend the weekend working on the new book and being cared for by other people. (And my kids and husband will be just fine without me! The biggest Good Mother Myth is that mom has some kind of magic that allows her to remember the school schedule, pack the lunches, do the laundry etc etc.) I’m packing all my books and my best writing snacks. I’ll see you on the other side.
I’d love to hear from you. You can always reply to this email, comment below, or find me on twitter (@nancy_reddy) and instagram (@nancy.o.reddy).
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A particularly excellent post! thanks for all the good suggestions/reminders.
My first Mother's Day, when Ben was teeny-tiny, was at the race track, of all places, because my beloved late mother-in-law liked to bet on the horses! The brunch wasn't great, but I enjoyed scandalizing some of the other spectators with my unapologetic breastfeeding ;)
Have a fabulous retreat!
Have a wonderful retreat! I hope that not a single person asks you who is watching your kids while you are there.