While in college, I was asked to help a neighbor make a fruit salad for an upcoming barbecue. Due to conflicting schedules, we agreed to buy ingredients on our own. Then, we would meet up before dinner to make the salads.
The night of the barbecue arrived. The steaks were sizzling, and the crowd was gathering. I placed walnuts and fruit cocktail in a bowl and was gradually folding in cool whip and marshmallows when the guy asked, "What's that supposed to be?"
"It's a fruit salad."
"That's not a fruit salad," he said as he poured pineapple juice over a bowl filled with watermelon, cantaloupe, and grapes. "Now, this is a fruit salad."
Feeling confident that I had popular local culture on my side with my recipe, I explained to him that this is what our host probably had in mind when she requested a fruit salad. "Besides, I have always made fruit salads this way."
Both salads made it to the table. Both were enjoyed. I discovered that neither salad was wrong. Instead, we were simply acting on the influence of our mothers.
It's the simple things that have the biggest impact
While many of us consider our mothers a tremendous example in a number of ways, sometimes, it's the simple things that make long-lasting impressions. From the method we use to fry an egg to how we celebrate holidays, our mother's example can be found in each of us. Yet, having that much influence over someone else seems rather intimidating.
As a mother, I'm not convinced that spending the day convincing my young son not to place a jelly bean up his nose will have eternal repercussions in his life. However, I do realize my daily choices and example will influence the way my children value themselves.
The notable child psychologist, Bruno Bettelheim said, "You can't teach children to be good. The best you can do for your child is to live a good life yourself. What a parent knows and believes, the child will lean on."
Motherhood is not a single role
Rather, it is a collection of many we play throughout each day. We handle accounts payable. We facilitate custodial and general maintenance duties. We are culinary "artists." Unfortunately, my cooking ability encourages me to place "artist" within quotation marks. We are motivational speakers, emergency healthcare technicians, and transportation specialists. We are often both judge and jury. Of course, that's mainly due to lack of impartial and readily available staff. We play referee, recreation coordinator, mediator and, sometimes, zookeeper.
Society has a nasty habit of telling women we should be able to do it all, and look super cute in the process. I happen to agree — just, not at the same time. I'm a mom, but I also have a host of personal goals. Yet, when I am tempted to try my hand at playing "supermom" or "super-community-minded model citizen," I get frustrated. These are the times when I have to remind myself that there is an ideal moment for everything. Right now, my main purpose is to be a positive and supportive influence in the lives of those I know and love. Yes, it lacks glamour. Moreover, it's teeming with sacrifice. When is this life going to be about me? It largely depends on your point of view.
It's about perspective
Let's face it. Mother's Day certainly has its share of critics. Why do I need a "day" that will only draw attention to my inadequacies? Why do I need to be reminded that I don't fit the traditional ideal mother image? To answer that question, I turn to my own mother. She was a busy woman who hated housework and shopping for groceries. She wasn't above swiping a dirty T-shirt from the floor and throwing it back at her son to wear one more day until she could get to the laundry. Nevertheless, she spent hours sitting through basketball games, track meets, choir concerts and school plays. She would spend all evening helping with homework. Then, she would stay up late finishing her own in pursuit of a college degree.
It's about progress
My most cherished gift from her was recognizing progression amid the sacrifice. She didn't fix elaborate meals because she was paying for school and saving for a family vacation. She didn't do laundry because she wanted us to learn how to care for ourselves. She didn't like housework because — who does, really? While she wasn't the "perfect mother" by society's standards, she was a strong, intelligent woman whose focus remained on what mattered.
It's a new way of thinking
Starting today, let's look at Mother's Day in a new light. This shouldn't be a day limited to getting a potted plant, or hoping for some validation and breakfast in bed. Instead, let's consider using this day as a new beginning for ourselves as women. Take a moment and think of one thing you would like to improve about yourself, your surroundings, or the way you interact with others. Select one thing that will make this day better than the day before. Now, put forth a real effort to achieve it. Then, next week, next month or next Mother's Day — choose another.
The success of motherhood does not rely on a grand finale where a woman stands up and declares, "I've mastered it. Look at my perfect children, and my successful career. Just look at my perfect life." Sometimes, the greatest success lies in the simple promise to oneself to be better today than yesterday.
On Mother's Day this year, celebrate the things you have accomplished in your various roles. Those personal triumphs are what builds the proud legacy we call "motherhood."
J'Nel is a Contributing Editor at FamilyShare.com. When she isn't writing or editing, she is strongly encouraging uncooperative family members to pose for photos, golfing, playing outdoors or reading. While working on degrees in English and Social Work, she visited French Polynesia, parts of South America, Egypt, Indonesia, Europe, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, and much of the United States. She remained in town long enough to earn a BA in English from the University of Utah. J'Nel's motto: Have suitcase. Will travel.