Mother: a job for life

All professionals retire. Doctors, lawyers, bankers, maids, secretaries, clerks, managers, housekeepers, you name the job title; there is a point when they stop practising their profession. Not mothers. Being a mother is a job for life.

We’re not talking here simply about women who give birth to children. Oh no. Any woman who has a working reproductive system can become pregnant and have a child or children. But nine months of gestation and several hours of labour do not a mother make. It’s what comes after; after the birth is when the true training starts and those who have deservingly earned the title ‘mother’ know that training never ends.

There are some who cannot take the rigours of it – what with the constant on-the-job training; the being ‘on call’ 24/7; the role model/mentor/confidant requirements – and they opt out. Pity them. They would have given up on one of life’s most satisfying careers.

That honoured title also has several other forms – mom, mommy, mum, mummy, mama, mammy, ma – and intonations. There’s the short sweet tone when our children want something; a long middle vowel is expressed when they’re embarrassed; the stretched out ending when they are hurt or crying; it comes out sharp and sweet when they’re happy or excited. Whoever has earned the title quickly learns its various forms – and how to respond to them. That’s the easy part.

Among the much more difficult tasks are maintaining consistency in discipline and teaching them as we learn, because at the end of it all we hope to have imparted to them the moral foundation they will need when they too become mothers (parents). These tasks are difficult because while all the other professionals are taught ‘how to’ at least for a period of time; mothers learn from their parents and from the everyday experience of being a mother.

We quickly find out though that what worked for our parents when we were children will most likely not work for us. The basic lessons remain but there is always need for modifications. After all, with each generation comes newer models and these days they are exposed to technologies which our mothers’ mothers (parents) would never have even heard of. Playing catch up is part of the deal.

There’s a good reason why Mother’s Day – despite all the frowning about its commercialization – will always remain a hit: it allows us adult children to salve our consciences. It’s only when we become mothers (parents) that we realize what we would have put ours through – and we marvel at the fact that not only they but we also survived to become adults. We know then that one day a year is simply not enough to make up for all we have done (and in some instances are still doing). We thank our mothers for staying the course.

In closing, a little humour:

You know you are a mother when:

►      You master ‘kitchen equations’: cake is cut in equal slices without the aid of measurements – in fact you can do it blindfolded with one hand tied behind your back;

►      ‘Me time’ is when you take your bath at night – after everyone is asleep;

►      Your child throws up and you catch it;

►      You have mastered the art of placing food on a plate without the meat touching the rice or the vegetables;

►      You hope ketchup is a vegetable because it’s the only one your child eats;

►      You obsess when your child clings to you upon parting during his/her first month at school, then you obsess when s/he skips in without looking back;

►      You can’t bear to give away baby clothes—it’s so final;

►      You hear your mother’s voice coming out of your mouth when you say, “not in your good clothes”;

►      You learn that the average five-year old asks 437 questions a day and you know for sure that your child is way above average;

►    You hear “mom” at the supermarket/store and you turn around instinctively before you remember that you left yours at home.

►    “Don’t play with your food” and “Drink your milk” are phrases you say everyday.

And finally:

“A little boy forgot his lines in a Sunday school presentation. His mother was in the front row to prompt him. She gestured and formed the words silently with her lips, but it did not help. Her son’s memory was blank. Finally, she leaned forward and whispered the cue, “I am the light of the world.” The child beamed and with great feeling and a loud clear voice said, “My mother is the light of the world.” (Bits and Pieces, 1989)

Happy Mother’s Day to our moms and yours!


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