They have done so much more, so many little things that have made our lives better, and they seem to go unnoticed. I talk, of course, of mom.
March is National Women’s History Month, and as the month comes softly to a close, I wanted to take a moment and write a brief article about women in history that are often overlooked, underappreciated, and yet, we’d be lost without them.
This month we honor the women who have shaped history and made considerable contributions to science, medicine, mathematics, literature, and more. We hailed the front women of rock ‘n roll; we honor the women of color who broke barriers so the rest of us could understand what potential was being missed. We honor women who have done what was, at one time, men’s work. They proved that there is really no work that men do that women cannot do as well. This month there are many women to remember and honor, and we here at ThoughtLab know how vital they are to our lives.
But this one is closer to home. Perhaps these women haven’t made huge strides in science or medicine, but they have done so much more, so many little things that have made our lives better, and they seem to go unnoticed. I talk, of course, of mom.
Mom or mother
Back in 2017, I lost my mom. I hate the way that sounds; it’s like I misplaced her. Like I threw her on the dresser with my keys, and she somehow slipped behind, and now I cannot find her. No, I didn’t misplace mom; she died. She struggled with dementia; she had two strokes; she was a shadow of the woman that raised me, fed me, clothed me, taught me to do laundry, iron a shirt, sew a button, and so much more. There is no part of my life, as I live it now, that isn’t colored with my mom’s love and influence.
We have mother’s day, of course, and that’s great for breakfast in bed, which my mother hated. Why the hell would I want to eat breakfast in bed? She once said; I have to wash the sheets and get rid of the crumbs. Meh, let me sit at the table like a person does and have breakfast.
That was my mom. And, on mother’s day, I sent flowers, cards, weird notes, phone calls, and you know, those calls were, ostensibly, to wish her a happy day and tell her how important she was too, but the calls always turned into her asking how are you, and whatever was going on in my life, she wanted to know. She calmed me if things were bad, rejoiced with me when they were good, and it was her day.
You can look at the stats for Women’s History month and see who did what and, what percentage of the population was affected, and how many hours it took to do this, pass that, open people’s eyes. What I’m saying is there are stats. There are lots of stats to support and heighten how great women are this month. History keeps excellent records of what these exceptional women have done for us, as it should be.
There are stats that are not recorded for moms. I grew up in the Boston area, and we went to school 185 days a year. From grade one to grade twelve, I carried my lunch. We didn’t have the money for us to buy a school lunch. We started with lunch boxes and then graduated to the brown bag. So, that means 185 lunches times twelve years, which comes to about 2,220 lunches. Times two because she made lunch for me and my brother, which comes to about 4,440 lunches. Rain or shine, sick or healthy, mom made us lunch every morning. That’s a stat.
How about dinners? Three hundred and sixty-five days a year, mom made dinner. She and dad were married for about 60 years, so that’s roughly 21,900 dinners. And we didn’t have pizza night or fast food night. She made meals from scratch every night. Of course, there would be a restaurant dinner or a pizza now and then, but mostly it was mom, recipe book open, in the kitchen, making dinner for her family. That’s a stat.
There are no stat records for this kind of stuff. How many loads of laundry did she do, how many shirts did she iron, how many rips did she sew, hems did she mend? And, might I add, all while working a regular job. There was no quiet quitting, no four-day work week, no calling in sick. She was mom, morning, noon, and night. That’s an unbeatable stat.
A demanding job
Is anyone ever ready to be a mother? Sure, you can read and listen to stories from other mothers, but it’s a pretty singular event. A woman gives birth, and then, without an owner’s manual, she has to raise this being. She has to provide it with love no matter how tired she is; a mother's job is 24/7, 365 days a year. In theory, most women understand that, but it’s a different thing in practice.
My mom had no idea how I was going to turn out. She had particular views on what her kid would do. She instilled in me good manners, kindness, and social awareness, and she assumed I would grow up to be a useful member of society. But I turned out to be an actor. She had no idea how to deal with any of that, yet she did.
There is no retirement date, gold watch, or going away party with cake and jokes. She was my mother, always. From the day I was pushed into this world, a mewling sobbing, wiggling, pile of skin and slop, she was mom until she looked at me for the last time and didn’t recognize me; she was still mom.
I am sure there were days when she wished she could just quit, walk away, say, take this job, and shove it. But she didn’t. There are no written rules for being a mother, but mothers seem to understand what is required and how to do it. How is that possible? Even the checkout girl at the 7-11 has a few days of training and a month or so to get a handle on things. Mothers give birth, and there it is, day one, off you go, welcome to this new life; we’d like to provide you with information, a how-to seminar, a week of training, but, no, you’re on your own with this new life. Good luck, and for God’s sake, don't fuck it up.
I cannot imagine that if any mother gave a Yelp review for her job or posted about her job on Glassdoor, anyone would want to do this job, and yet, 385,000 babies show up daily on the planet. That’s a lot of work to be done. And the rewards are not a great paycheck or a sweet benefits package. The rewards are personal and individual for each mom. They are secret and special. They are hard-earned rewards that cannot be bought with Bitcoin. And most mothers cherish these rewards.
If you were born, you have a mom. Maybe it's not a traditional mom, whatever the hell that means. But, it takes a mom, a woman, to give birth.
Three hundred eighty-five thousand women become a mom each day. The world does not continue unless women give birth. Our population decreases unless women give birth. Societies fold and fade unless women give birth. There would be no one to declare National Women’s History Month this month if women didn’t give birth.
We celebrate and honor so many incredible women this month, but none of them would even exist if someone didn’t give birth to them.
From reproductive rights to the vote to discovering radium, fighting for equal rights, to better working conditions, what the great women achieved, gave to the world, and are now being celebrated for wouldn’t be unless a woman gave birth.
On my fridge is a picture of my mom. I say good morning to her, kiss my fingertips, and touch her picture before I go to bed. When I have had a bad day, I still wish my mom was here to listen and tell me that all would be well. It means more when your mom says it; she somehow knows.
From sandwiches and a snack in a brown paper bag to new school clothes, a face in the audience at one of my shows, or an I love you at the end of a phone call, there are things that moms do that my mom did, that would take so much more than one month to celebrate.
So, if you need some women to celebrate this month, here’s an excellent place to start. There are more, and there are more women who are worthy of celebration being born every day. If we listen to women, pay attention to what they offer, and respect them for what they can do and who they are, our celebrations should last for centuries on end. But, just to start, why not celebrate that unique woman who brought you to the planet and gave you a chance.
During National Women’s History Month, remember the history of your life and your mom, and celebrate a woman who has given so much, quietly and constantly, with no thought of reward or celebration. She was a mom. Even if she isn’t in the history books for some outstanding achievement, she brought you to this place and allowed you to do or be anything. That’s a stat. That’s something to celebrate. And you can do it quite simply. Like this,
Thanks, Mom. I miss you every day.