Which MOM Are You?

I was at our local market yesterday, having a friendly conversation with the young lady waiting on me at the seafood counter. I was selecting my preference for Mother's Day Dinner, and during our time together she told me she had five children. She was hoping her children weren't going to 'surprise' her by taking her out to a Mother's Day Brunch Buffet. The long lines...the crowds...the so-so food...all elements which detracted from her preferred quiet Sunday morning at home before reporting for work at 11:30 a.m. I completely understood, which was why I was shopping and choosing my own Mother's Day menu.

Mother's Day has certainly outgrown the intention of the original Founder, Anna Jarvis . Ms. Jarvis lobbied government to create Mother's Day in memory of her own mother who cared for the wounded on both sides of the Civil War. President Wilson signed the bill into law creating Mother's Day in 1914. As the years went on, Ms. Jarvis, who by all accounts was a little 'eccentric', began to resent the commercialism of the Day and lobbied to get the holiday rescinded. Obviously, she was unsuccessful. Ms. Jarvis died in 1948, having spent her last years in a Sanitarium. Her funeral was partly paid for by a group of florists.

I suspect Ms. Jarvis would be appalled to see the twenty-first century commercialism of Mother's Day. The capacity for electronic communication now makes Mother's Day an unavoidable celebration - ignore it at your peril. It is no wonder I woke up this morning thinking of all the MOM roles which fit the holiday.

This category also includes Grandmothers. This is the matriarch we identify, understand and acknowledge in our culture. Mothers who are present in our lives bring us joy and pain; mothers who are no longer present, can cause the tears to flow when we think of them. It is a mixed bag to be a mother as mothers generally get the credit or the blame for child rearing. Just ask Sigmund Freud.

STEPMOTHER Stepmoms have the most challenges, by far. From the time we learn about the wicked Stepmother in Cinderella (also known as the Cinder Girl in Folk and Fairy Tale history), the Stepmother is a person children desire to avoid at all costs. Once a parent becomes a Stepmother, she spends her time proving herself as part of the new family and gaining acceptance by the children. It is a challenging job. Since over sixty percent of second marriages end in divorce, it is apparent the Stepmother role does not always end well.

SURROGATE MOTHER These are the near kin, the neighbors, the grandparents, the teachers, the community leaders and the dads who have to take on the mom duties when a mother is absent or uninterested. The mother surrogate might be childless and find gratification in filling the role where needed. These unsung heroes receive little credit. If you have one of these in your life, express your gratitude and appreciation when you can.

ESTRANGED MOM This is a relatively new, yet rising phenomenon in American culture. The term generally applies to a Boomer grandparent who is estranged from an adult child. Bay Area Psychologist Dr. Joshua Coleman is a noted authority on the topic, and he suggests family estrangement disproportionately affects middle- to higher-economic classes. Family estrangement in this century is a complex experience reflecting the complexity of modern society.

FOSTER OR ADOPTIVE MOMS Hats off to those of you who CHOOSE children who need a parent. Regardless of your family configuration, there is always room for one more.

When I taught parenting classes, I would remind parents the biological plumbing necessary to produce children did not come with an instruction manual. Parenting is hard work and most of us parent the way we were parented. Whatever the method, most parents do the best they can given their circumstances and background. I daresay the parenting successes outnumber the failures.

So on this special day, cheers to all the MOM's, regardless of your role or category. Be good to yourself. You deserve it.

In loving memory of Mary Elizabeth Gorton Perrigo.