There is a scene I keep coming back to, and I don’t know why because I’ve never actually seen it: my wife, Carly, who celebrates her first Mother’s Day today, alone at the kitchen table at 3 a.m., under a dim yellow light, pumping milk. I think it’s so vivid in my mind because it is one of the clearest examples of her love for our two-month-old baby. I could list countless others, of course — spending hours a day with Mayla attached to her chest, unable to perform simple, necessary tasks like eating breakfast or brushing her teeth until the baby is done feeding; rushing to wash feeding parts in the sink or eat or take care of the dogs during the precious 45 minutes that Mayla’s napping and I’m at work; putting the baby’s minor needs in front of her basic ones — but I think this one stands above the rest because of it is, to me, the perfect example of motherhood: a quiet, understated, fierce devotion to her child.
Carly, like many other moms, does not ask for praise or recognition or really anything else except the clip to the supplementer she has to use to feed Mayla. She simply goes about the business of motherhood because she feels it’s what she has to do, not a burden or a choice but a responsibility that she bears with unassuming power and grace. It’s something that’s becoming, I think, more and more endangered, this simple, consistent, no-questions-asked commitment to something bigger than yourself. She has already made the decision that this is her path, answered the nagging questions and doubts in the back of her mind, so anytime they come up, perhaps during her 3 a.m. pumping sessions, she can easily brush them aside. (In a less significant way, it reminds me of an athlete training for the Olympics or a student studying for a big exam.) Mothers, by taking care of their children every single day and night, are doing something extraordinary, something that’s sometimes beyond rationality or comprehension.
All of the responsibilities of raising a child should not be placed only on her shoulders, of course, and us spouses have an important role to play. But through two months of parenting, one of the clearest themes to emerge is a child’s dependence on their mother. Mothers and their children possess something that no one else ever will, this unspoken, clear-eyed bond that both recognize as soon as she brings them into the world. (And this does not change as they grow up, as I’ve learned from watching my own mother.) “There is something,” as my friend who also recently became a dad said, “about being in their mom’s arms.”
So, here on Mother’s Day, we should offer two words that don’t begin to suffice to capture our gratitude for the first-time and longtime mothers but we need to say regardless: Thank you. I hope Carly and all moms take some time today — and every day — to appreciate the magnitude of what they’re doing, and how they are doing it with a quiet strength that we should recognize more often than once a year.