When we think of a modern mom, we may picture a woman in a business suit, rushing to the door of an elementary school with her kid trailing behind. She’s got to be at work in 20 minutes. Her son is not going to be late today! She’s got her gym bag perched on the passenger side of her Lexus, and her skin is tight, her hair long and thick. Next, it’s time to drop off the baby at daycare. She’s juggling it all. She looks good. She’s more impressive than most of the ridiculous celebrities on the planet. But in reality, things are always much more profound than what we see from afar.
Later that day, after the kids have gone to sleep, she has a moment to herself. She cries a little bit because the pressure of it all makes it difficult to breathe, and her heart seems to beat so damn fast all the time. She closes her eyes and shuts it all out. She tells herself that tomorrow will be a little bit easier. I can’t handle all of this though, she thinks. I can handle this, she says out loud.
I walk up the main strip in my hood and see a mom breastfeeding her baby in a sling. She’s chatting with her bud outside of a coffee shop, laughing and using hand gestures as if there were no baby there at all. She loves her baby so much. You can tell. She just looks like the type of woman who loves her baby more than herself. She is an Earth Mother, happily working around the clock for others. How does she give everything and not go crazy?
But the night before, she was up every hour feeding and shushing. She stroked the baby’s head while singing softly to the screaming infant. At this moment, in front of the coffee shop, with her friend, she is talking about sleep schedules. This is her sanity right now; both the friend and the hope for sleep later, the plan of action. It’s not that she loves talking about baby sleep and there’s nothing else going on; it’s that she is so tired she feels like she’s going to snap. And she is not one to lose it. If she could just sleep, she could feel normal again, and her baby could have the care she wants to give.
As I walk, I see another woman with her two kids. She is always smiling. I love that she’s always smiling. I sense that it is indeed an authentic smile; she does, in fact, feel happy, maybe even content. I surmise that she’s probably really good at being in relationships, her marriage solid and unwavering.
As she walks with her children she’s thinking, Should I go to the gym? I’m too tired to go the gym. It’s boring there anyway. Maybe I’ll give up bread for a few weeks to trim down my belly. Maybe buy some lingerie. She has been married a long time and wonders how she can keep things with her husband from going stale. She questions if he really still finds her attractive.
Later that night, her husband comes up behind her and plants a kiss on her neck. Right then, she forgets all about giving up bread and remembers that love is and was never about a flat stomach and a tight ass.
As I arrive at the park, I see all the mamas there. It’s this melting pot of business owners; writers; painters; financiers; lawyers; domestic goddesses. With feet buried in the sand, they chat away, all the while trailing the toddler on the other side of the sand box. There are all kinds of individual style too. From bohemian, to plain, to comfortable, to straight up stylish. I’m struck by how beautiful they all look. There are conversations about partners, work, sex, new ventures, home renovations, schools, sushi delivery in the area, etc. They are all so different, yet the same in the sense that they are not only mothers. They are women.
I can’t spot a single one-dimensional woman for miles. They don’t exist. This woman, who lives and breathes only for her kids, who is defined by the existence of her children, doesn’t exist. The only women I see today are women who slip in and out of being a friend, a partner, a professional, a creative, the house CEO; all the while being the best mothers they can.
These women remember what it was like before the baby arrived. They call their single friends to see howthey are doing. They send a message to their little brother to ask how his job is going. They leave their kids for a weekend with the girlfriends they’ve had for 20 years. They get drunk and have sex with their husbands in peculiar places and precarious positions. They sit up with a girlfriend wiping away her tears, telling her it’s going to be OK. They have ideas and think big and fantasize about things they think they shouldn’t.
It’s easy, and even natural for us to place people we see from afar into little categories, especially mothers. We view moms from the ’50s as these one-dimensional caregivers, but in reality they never were. It was just society’s perception of them that kept them boxed up in this depthless identity.
I seriously want to throw a party for all the mothers today because even though mothers have always possessed these layers, women today just seem to own them more.
At the party, I’d raise my glass to these ladies and say, “You are my heroes. Thank you for being more than just a mom.”
And so, to all of you mothers out there today: Thank you for being more than just a mom.