I've said it before and I'll say it again: being a mom can be a tough gig. Every year as Mother's Day approaches, I think of all you other moms out there and wonder how it's going for you. Even with support from playgroups and chat rooms, the days can be long and, yes, dull (unless you thrive on playing with alphabet blocks or Disney tea sets all day long, in which case, can I please share some of what you are on?!) and the nights sometimes worse. I know my two kids' early years were exhausting, even with family and a good support system nearby.
Last year in this column, I reflected on my grandmother's experience of motherhood in the 1940's in rural New York. She took care of four children while recovering from one of the polio epidemics that were so tragically common in those days. (Read the article here.)
In the year since, my thoughts have gone again to another mother, this one living as a new bride in Rio de Janerio, Brazil a few decades after my grandmother's time. Married at 22, a new mom at 24 and an ocean away from any family or close friends, she had to figure out all the new mom basics without the ease of an inexpensive phone call to her mother, Facebook, chat rooms or email. Airmail letters were about as good as it got for communication or a quick, very expensive phone call on rare occasions.
Cloth diapers, bottles sterilizing on the stove, a new language to learn and a baby crying on her hip, her new mom experience must have been awful at times. Maybe there were some other expatriate moms she could lean on and learn from, but as a stranger in strange land in every sense of the word, she must have struggled through those early days.
When baby was 18 months old, her husband was relocated again and they moved to London. Language was no longer such a hurdle, but coping with yet another new culture, a new home and new life must have been taxing.
When I think of myself in my mid-20's, I absolutely cannot imagine tackling all that. I was in graduate school, working a part-time job and basically enjoying life during most of this period. Sure, I worried about finding a job, but my responsibilities were pretty minor; my cares few. When I did get a job out-of-state, my dad drove with me there and then flew back to Virginia. Left alone, I cried like a baby that night in my small apartment. How would I have coped as a new wife and newer mom, responsible for a tiny, helpless life and thousands of miles away from all that was familiar?
As you may have guessed by now, this was my mother's experience, and I was the baby born in Rio. While I often think I've struggled as a mom, my "worst" days as a mom in the early 2000's probably were better than many of my mom or grandmother's "average" days. Just the idea of a load of bottles of to scrub or a tub full of diapers to clean is enough to remind me how easy I have had it, even before I consider the other struggles they both had.
So here we are again, coming up on Mother's Day, and I wish all of you and the mothers who came before you a wonderful one! Most of all, though, I want to thank my mom, who raised me in challenging circumstances, who worked tirelessly, who was endlessly patient and who ultimately helped inspire me to become the mom I strive to be. Thanks, Mom—I love you!
Mary Becilia lives with her family in southern Stafford.