Receiving a standing ovation when she was introduced before a comedy performance, Ellen DeGeneres wishes the rest of us could get this kind of greeting at work. Imagine, she says, going into your office and having your co-workers hail you with a standing ovation.
Celebration: This is what we wish for all you moms, each time you achieve a milestone in this love-a-thon called parenthood. Our kids get gold stars and prizes every time they turn around for doing their chores, for brushing their teeth, or for staying "on task" at school. It's high time there was a party for the women who keep whole families, finances, logistics, and value systems on task.
It's a funny thing, how modern moms are rebuked for being selfish and self-centered. Yet, all around are moms "who forgot to put themselves on the list," as Wyonna Judd once said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. A singer, boss, wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend, Wyonna's desperation to lose weight also signaled her desperate need for self-nurture to add her own needs to the list of those she was responsible for meeting.
What if, instead of feeling badly for finding the adjustment to motherhood so difficult, you commemorated your growth? What if you kept a record, not just of your child's rites of passage, but of your own? When you consider the dramatic bell curve of lessons faced in early parenthood, you deserve your own "A"-studded report card with your name on it.
Ironically, when your child reaches grade school and starts gaining more independence, the feeling of having her pull away can also be quite wrenching. Just when you conquer your adjustment disorder and start enjoying the immensity of your child's need and affection, the kid moves on. So you need to celebrate now if only to dull the ache of having to let go, little by little, of the precious child who's outgrown the tiny clothes in the toddler section.
Often you need other moms to rejoice mommy milestones. Our mompool congratulates a woman who cleans out the garage she's been trying to attend to for three years. We toast a mom for demanding that "someone else cook the holiday dinner this year." We've checked in on and lauded a mom for preserving her sanity, three months after her horrid in-laws moved to town.
Your Private Party
Honor your accomplishments on your own, too. In the time it takes for your son to locate his cleats and shin guards, or to drive your offspring back and forth to piano lessons, regard the girl in the mirror: the daughter, wife, and mom you've become. You've come a long way, baby.
In the beginning, if you're like me, you used the term mom deprecatingly among friends, making fun of the attention and care an apron-wearing sponge-brain was supposed to smother on little people. A few blink-long years later, "mom" has become adult shorthand for "I don't brake for indecision," "I shoot perfectionists on sight," or "I need pampering like you wouldn't believe."
I've grown to like my minivan and to prefer an evening spent puttering in the yard and watching the boys play in their tree house. I've gotten comfortable with not owning my identity, but with letting it be formed by tiny choices I make every day: by hydrangea I plant in the backyard, by the cashmere I find stroking the cheeks of my young boys, and by words I pick to make women feel more comfortable in their skin.
Feel the expansiveness of your own maternal heart. Isn't it amazing how much a heart can grow? Admire your stamina, as if from a few feet away. Step outside some summer night at bath time and eavesdrop on the giggles and splashes, the battles for bath toys and bubbles, and the everyday delight your kids experience in your home. That's a sound to keep repeating, to make your mantra, as you slip quietly into a deeper breathing, more peaceful mode of mothering.