Last year was my first Mother’s Day, but in the last year I’ve come to appreciate what the holiday means even more.
Living what it is to be a mother—the millions of choices and actions and books read and songs sung and car seats buckled and tempers checked and lunches fixed and owies kissed every single day—underscores everything the mothers in my own life have done (and continue to do).
My own mom believed in me fiercely. She encouraged me to turn every interest or passion into a business, certain that someone would want to buy tiny animals sculpted out of wire or t-shirts covered in my angsty teenage poetry.
My mother-in-law has always been unequivocally welcoming and accepting. Her hugs, confidences and phone calls made me feel as if it were a given that I am one of the family. I will never, ever, ever forget or take for granted the way she embraced me as one of her own.
My mama argentina, my host mother when I studied abroad in college, welcomed me as a stranger into her home. Ana and I chatted every night as she made dinner or as I sipped a submarino—a hot chocolate—at the breakfast bar. I left, four months later, as part of the familia and continue to love that collection of characters from afar—even as they expand their families.
And my grandmothers, of course, whose mothering I feel through the generations. These strong, beautiful women raised families amid less than ideal circumstances without complaint. My Grandma Hawkins, for example, loves to tell me about the moment when she discovered she was pregnant with twins—my mom and Uncle Steve.
She already had one baby at home and not a whole lot of income or support, but when she got back from the doctor, she stood in the middle of the kitchen and hugged her just-starting-to-expand belly. Then she threw her arms out and spun around. She couldn’t contain her happiness and couldn’t believe her luck that she was carrying twins—twins!—a secret wish she’d always carried.
These are the kinds of moments that make up motherhood. Yes, parenting is also colored with frustrations and peanut butter stains and pooplosions and sleepless nights, but it’s the joy and reward and unending gratitude that stick with us.
That gratitude stretches in both directions, toward both generations. I cannot express how thankful I am to my daughter and this growing life inside me for choosing us as their family. I am also thankful to the long line of women who wiped noses and corrected homework and spun in kitchens so that I could be here.
So I’m sending love to all the mamas in my life—the ones who helped raise me, the ones who brought up my loved ones, the ones who I’ve known since they were kids, the ones who struggled so hard to become pregnant, the ones who are celebrating their first holiday as moms. You all deserve to be celebrated every day, but these 24 hours are dedicated to you.
Happy Mother’s Day.