What We Signed Up For


May 12, 2013 by Julia

Over the past five years, I’ve been trying to learn how to best enjoy being a mother on Mother’s Day. (If you’re a mother, you get it.)

I’ve realized that I can’t be around my children and “have the day off” at the same time, and searching for that perfect balance of both is so tricky that I’m better off not trying so hard. I’ve come to understand that no amount of gifts or flowers or cards can be payment for the sacrifices I make as a mother, and I shouldn’t take them that way – if I did, they would look paltry, like a mockery of what I do on a daily basis. Instead, I need to take them as gestures of appreciation. I also understand that there are lots of things that would happen for mothers on Mother’s Day, in a just world: a clean house, perfectly handmade gifts, acts of kindness. But the truth is, these things rarely all come to us on one day, and to expect them is a setup for disappointment or anger.

So, this year, I’m going to try to relax. I’ll treasure what I get on Mother’s Day, and surely whatever else I need will come to me throughout the rest of the year. It always does. My husband will come home from work and immediately take over dinner and bedtime if I’ve had an especially rough day – he does that. My daughter will snuggle with me in the early morning hours, her head tucked under my chin, and tell me I’m the best mommy ever – she does that. And Jack will give me that smile, maybe draw me a wheel or two – he does that.

We obviously didn’t sign up for this motherhood gig for the chocolates and jewelry or days off at the spa. Chances are, even if our families did everything perfectly on Mother’s Day it still couldn’t fully satisfy on its own, because that kind of currency can’t ever make things “even.”  The debt can never be repaid, just as we can never repay the debt to our own mothers (if they were good to us).

We know this already, and we are usually happy to give to our children without expecting in return, because that is the nature of motherhood. Our motherly sacrifices are for the kids to keep. They need us even more than they know – and that is what we need, too. That is what we signed up for. This love that passes between our children and us transcends debt, and it can’t be contained in one day, or summed up in one card.

My mom is as good to me now as she ever was, and at thirty-four years old, I need her in my life. Earlier this week when I posted about feeling depressed, she called to talk, and emailed me articles verifying my suspicions about springtime depression. She offered to come babysit on her day off work. Yesterday she swooped in, took both kids to the mall for three hours, and when they returned, they came bearing Mother’s Day gifts for me. This is definitely not part of her job description, as my mother. But I needed it. My mom is a superhero.

I have this memory from when I was kid, and for some reason it stands out for me – it tells me something about Mom’s personality (she’s playful), and about the goodness in mother’s hearts that reveals itself in small moments. When Mom changed the sheets on her bed, she let me lie on the bare mattress, and pretended like I wasn’t there. She’d put the fitted sheet over me, and then the top sheet, and then the covers. No doubt I was giggling and kicking and making the job much harder for her. But I loved it. I was in a cocoon. It was fun just for the sake of fun. Even as a kid I sensed this was a sacrifice she made out of love for me – she enjoyed it, too, but how much easier would it have been to shoo me out of the room, so she could just get the bed made already?

Now I cocoon Fiona under the sheets, and she expects it every time we change them. It’s hard to give in to that moment sometimes, when I am tired and I want to be done with my chores. But this realization, from this side of motherhood, just gives my own mom’s playfulness a deeper significance. I am glad for this gesture that my mom made, that I now make for my daughter. I get to carry on the legacy of making children into beds.


I am proud to carry on that legacy. I am privileged have such a mom, and to be a mother, and this is what I will celebrate.


5 thoughts on “What We Signed Up For

  1. Samantha says:

    Happy Mother’s Day!!! You are a great mama!

  2. BEAUTIFUL. I hope you had a wonderful day! xo

  3. Lara says:

    I sometimes make Mia into the bed too. 🙂 the first time we did it she was probably two and she screamed with delight. It felt like we played on that bed for hours. Happy belated Mother’s Day, mama!

    • Julia says:

      That is so funny! Of course I knew other people must do this with their kids, too, but this is the first time I’ve heard it from a friend. So cute. Happy Mother’s Day, too – hope you had a good one.

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