This Sunday, as we all pause to honor the mothers in our lives, I have words of advice for men observing the day with the mother of their children: Do more. If you’re debating between a spa gift certificate and flowers, get both. If you were planning to take the kids out in the morning so she could rest, take them out for the afternoon, too.
Mother’s Day should be the biggest holiday of the year, and it’s time moms said so.
Think about the great dads you know. Easy, right? You probably could come up with some right away. The ones who stand out because they do drop-off at school or cheer at Little League games. The ones who give baths or read books. Now think of the great moms. Harder, right? It’s not because there are so few great moms it’s because, barring a few bad apples, most moms are pretty great. Most moms do drop-off AND cheer at the games AND give baths AND read books and do about a million other tiny things that dads get so congratulated for doing. The bar is set so high for moms that a “great dad” is a dad who is somewhat involved in their kid’s life, but a “great mom” would have to go far beyond that to get her accolades.
As a mom, I worry about so many things. What if my kids get sick? What if I get sick? Do I focus too much on my first-born daughter at the expense of my two younger sons? Do I spend enough time with all of them individually? Are they happy? Can my too-sweet daughter stand up for herself? Am I on the phone too much around them? When is picture day? When is our day to bring in snack? Who’s that mom waving at me? Oh she’s not waving at me, phew. Are they making friends? Are they kind? Are they challenged in school? Oh no, I’m wearing denim on denim! How did I leave the house like this? Is it because I only sleep two hours at a time? And so on.
As a dad, my husband worries that raising them in Brooklyn might lead to them becoming Nets fans instead of his preferred Knicks. The end.
I don’t begrudge his lack of worry, and if I didn’t exist I’m sure he’d have the burden of thinking about most of the things with which I concern myself. But that means that yes, once a year I expect my husband to bring it and celebrate me as the mother of his children. That means he can’t just wake up on the day of and pick a restaurant, it has to be somewhere special, and while I don’t expect a gift (though, it doesn’t hurt), I do expect a nice card with words of appreciation for all I do. It’s not about spending money on me. I’d be just as happy with a nice dinner at home, or other free gestures, but I better see real effort.
Being a mom has changed me completely. It’s not just the corny “I’ve never felt this kind of love” thing which, obviously, is true. It changed the way I am in the world. I have a gravitational pull toward home that precludes me from going too far or staying away too long. I’m more interested in what my son drew at school than I am in world affairs. I think more about my daughter’s social calendar than my own. And that’s not even getting into the physical changes that motherhood has wrought.
My husband gets to stay mostly the same man he was, and that’s in large part because of me. He’s an amazing dad, what with his cheering and bath-giving, but fatherhood is just not as involved as motherhood. If there’s an issue with the kids, he hears about it — but the details of our kids’ lives get filtered through me.
Of course there are dads out there who are full-time parents in the way that has long been the mom’s role. And they should absolutely be commended for it. But for most men, Father’s Day isn’t so much a celebration of what they do as an encouragement to keep doing it. Mother’s Day is different, and it’s ok to say so. It’s not crazy that one day of the year the extreme sacrifices mothers make are noted with serious celebration.
It’s really the least everyone could do.