Written by Marykate OMalley, mother of three wonderful children, Gladwyne PA
I am the second oldest of 10 children, and so literally grew up around babies. And I was naturally maternal. I genuinely loved to help care for my siblings and younger cousins. I didn’t need to be asked, I wanted to help. And then, I had my first child. And suddenly all the years of helping my mom, all the years of babysitting for neighbors suddenly evaporated. I thought – what do I do? How do I do this? It felt like I was starting all over again and had never once cared for a baby. And then, the big aha followed – How did my mom do this?? 10 times?!!!
I recall in the foggy haze of newbornness, all I wanted was a cup of coffee. Desperately. I could brew it. But couldn’t drink it. I couldn’t even get to the microwave to reheat it. A cup of coffee. By the time my youngest was born I would look at her and think, “all she does is eat and sleep, what was so hard about that!?” But somehow it was. Mothers are bred you see. And conditioned. And all phases of motherhood are significant, and vital. And until you become one nothing in the world can prepare you for it. Nothing can prepare you for the love, and the sacrifice, and the feeling that everything that happens to your child, happens to you.
I love my mom greeting her grandson in this photo.
I have such deep admiration and respect for my mother and see her in a way I never would if I hadn’t become a mother myself. Becoming a mother is like going through boot camp, or some hazing ritual for a secret society, with a grace and love that is incomprehensible. And we all feel it. We all know it. The mom in the supermarket precariously strolling through with her toddler who is swiping at boxes of cereal, knocking them off shelves. Who, despite the many straps crossed over his tiny body is climbing out his buckled seat like Houdini. You smile sympathetically as if to say, I know, I have been you. The mother with the baby crying in the back of mass, or the the one on the bench at the playground next to her daughter with a skinned knee – you were her too – yesterday, last week, a few years ago. You smile warmly to to say, “it’s fine, no one cares” or offer a band-aid from your purse. The mother in the doctor’s office waiting room, standing on the soccer sideline, holding her baby’s hand as he takes shaky steps with confidence and grit – you were her too. Mothers are fluid like water, they change shape with movement but their essence remain the same.
Knowing my mother went through this rite of passage was life changing for me. And now, seeing her as a grandmother is one of life’s great gifts. My children literally cheer as she walks through the door. “Yay!”, they exclaim. “Mimom is here!” She intuitively understands them, and has the wisdom from years of being a mother to know what is important and what is not. My son, sullen at a family birthday dinner because heaven forbid needs to molt out of his athletic wear and put on a collared shirt and khakis, is amusing to her. I don’t have to say anything and she will size up the situation and know. And suddenly, I see the humor too, instead of the annoyance. She will then coax him out of his downtrodden mood and I have witnessed grandparenting at it’s best.
Someday, when I cross that rite of passage into being a grandmother I am sure I will think of my mom and say, “Amazing! This is how she felt!” There is always someone going before us, carrying the flag, leading the charge, and until you step in their shoes you can never fully comprehend all that goes into being a mom, and someday a grandmother. And as cliche as it sounds, there is truly nothing greater in the world than this tremendous and magnificent gift. Nothing.
Wishing you all a most glorious Mother’s Day! And most importantly, Mom, thank you, thank you, thank you, a million times, thank you. Happiest of Mother’s Day!!!