Posted by: deadmousediaries | May 12, 2017

The Motherhood Contract: Always Check the Fine Print

Motherhood. Funny lady Erma Bombeck called it the second oldest profession. Unfortunately, unlike the oldest profession, you don’t get paid. In fact, some would say motherhood is more like a Bernie Madoff promise; you invest, invest and invest, yet your bank account continues to dwindle. 

When I was a young mom and our beautiful baby girl arrived as little sister for our son, people would smile and tell us we had a million dollar family. That expression was intended as a compliment. What it really meant was that it would take a million bucks to raise them.

There’s no shortage of money being circulated where mothers and kids are involved. When we celebrate Mother’s Day again on Sunday, May 14, 2017, the National Retail Federation reports Americans will spend more than $23 billion (23 and nine zeroes), to honor our moms. That’s more than we spend on Valentine’s Day so I guess we know who our true loves really are.

Despite the urban legend, this American tradition was not invented by Hallmark. The event we celebrate today has roots in the Civil War and is credited to Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia and later, her daughter Anna. The duo became champions for the idea of creating an event to honor mothers after other organizers tested a few false starts.

On May 9, 1868, three years to the day after the end of the Civil War, Ann and her committee launched Mother’s Friendship Day, an event intended to reunite families divided by the war. Ann continued her activism and when she died in 1905, her daughter Anna picked up the charge. Anna pushed successfully to establish a national observance of mothers and in 1910, West Virginia became the first state to recognize an official Mother’s Day. Other states quickly followed suit.

In 1914, the U.S. Congress enacted a law designating the second Sunday in May as national Mother’s Day. Six years later, Hallmark began selling Mother’s Day cards. Oddly, Anna Jarvis quickly became a vocal opponent to all the hoopla and lobbied for the event’s abolition, arguing that the day had become too commercial. Perhaps she should have seen that coming when she enlisted the help of retail magnate John Wanamaker and entrepreneur H. J. Heinz to create awareness for her cause and build nationwide support. 

In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt commemorated Mother’s Day by approving a new three-cent postage stamp. He sketched the design personally after the idea for a stamp was brought to him by Mrs. H.H. McCluer, a past national president of the American War Mothers. The violet-colored stamp featured an adaptation of the famous portrait known as Whistler’s Mother. It included the words: In Memory and in Honor of the Mothers of America. 

Reports from friends indicate that even now, 87 years after Hallmark stepped in to make it easy, grown kids have trouble making a card and a stamp come together in time for that second Sunday in May. The good news is, Mother’s Day continues to see the highest phone call volumes of any day in the year.

Mothers deserve at least one day of recognition. I remember what I really wanted for Mother’s Day back then was a nap I could enjoy for a week. 

There are a lot of clauses in the motherhood contract and if you’re the party of the first part when the endorphins are flowing, it’s tough to be a careful reader. If you are a mother, you know now there was a lot of fine print at the bottom of the page when you signed on and it was easily overlooked. Here are some items commonly missed:

1. Alone time will be a problem. From the moment babies are born, life as you know it is over. It’s nearly impossible to put newborns down long enough to simply take a shower and before you know it, the only privacy you’ll ever get is if you have a lock on the bathroom door. Even then, little voices will always be outside pleading Mom? Mom! Mommy, mommy, mommy!!!  Fast forward 18 years (and it will be fast forward), and they’re off on their own doing exactly what you taught them: creating their own happy, satisfying, productive lives and finding new people who’ll share them. Then one day very suddenly, you can’t remember why you ever wanted to lock that door. Yes, alone time will be a problem. 

2. You will no longer recognize yourself in the mirrorI remember the first time I looked at my reflection and truly wondered when the middle-aged mom had swallowed the girl I used to be. The sleepless nights and worrisome moments of motherhood take their toll. Crows feet and pucker lines suddenly decorate your face and an unruly silver fringe encircles it. That’s the day you realize you don’t need a mirror to see your reflection; you can see yourself best in your kids’ faces. 

“Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you,” wrote H. Jackson Brown, Jr., author of Life’s Little Instruction Book.  If you’ve done your job as a mom, your kids will show you a more beautiful image of the real you than you’ll get with any great lighting or magic mirror. Choose to be reflected there.

3. Your heart will get broken. From the moment they are laid in our arms, our kids begin to battle us for independence. A mother’s heart survives a thousand tiny fractures along the way. I’ve come to realize that’s a critical phase of a mom’s journey, too. Hearts don’t really break. They crack and heal. And whether it’s love that rushes in to fill the gap or just a patch of rubbery stuff like what’s inside Stretch Armstrong, a mother’s heart expands a bit with every repair. That’s an important part of the process. Without that gradual expansion, how would we ever grow enough room to continually love our children more?



  1. I like what you said: “…a mother’s heart expands a bit with every repair.” I never quite thought of it like that before. As a fellow mom of three, I loved this post! And it’s all so true. But it’s hard to grasp until you’ve been a mom. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Karen! I’m happiest with my writing when it really resonates with someone. Hope your family does something special for you Sunday!

  2. Another wonderful writing. Thank you!!!

  3. You are such a great friend, Karin- thank you! No one makes the time to comment as often as you do and I appreciate every one of them!

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