Happy {Mother's} Day from HerKentucky

I don't usually give Mother's Day too much thought. We get a little gift for my mom, and one for my granny. There's a special meal or two. Usually a trip to the Red Lobster. And, usually, one of those church services where they hand out gifts to the oldest, youngest, and most prolific mamas. And that's that. By Sunday night, the whole exercise is over for another year.

This year, I've thought a lot about Mother's Day. Maybe it's more than my own WASPy approach to the holiday, which generally entails finishing up family obligations as quickly as possible so I can get home to a glass of wine and an episode of Mad Men. Like virtually every other American woman who has Internet access, I recently ran across this article about the emotional impact of Mother's Day on non-moms. Normally, I'd nod my head and go on. But, for the first time, I really thought about those women who'd love to be celebrating on Mother's Day, but aren't.

Recently, one of the dearest people in my life suffered pregnancy loss. It seems like so many friends and acquaintances have experienced similar heartbreaks lately. I know that so many of them would love to wear the $5 Wal-Mart orchid corsages that proudly proclaim "I'm a Mama on my way to church on the Second Sunday in May!" Something so simple and tacky is, for many, the symbol of a dream come true.

Sometimes, Mother's Day is a celebration. It's the weekend that all the kids come home to visit and bring sweet, if impractical, presents. But, for so many others, Mother's Day carries a profound sadness. There are the women who want desperately to become mothers and those who've lost children. There are women who've had to say goodbye to their own mothers, those who serve as tireless caregivers for sick or aging mothers, and those who don't have a relationship with their mothers. There are so many women out there who are carrying around burdens we can't see. I wish that HerKentucky had the budget to send a dozen roses and an hour-long massage to them all. Instead, we're extending well wishes to y'all in a way that takes some of the hard-and-fast tradition out of the holiday. We wish a Happy {Mother's} Day to you all. It's a little softer, a little less technical, and a little more inclusive. 
Whether the holiday brings sorrow or joy, we want to hear how you're doing. You deserve the spotlight for a few minutes. All of you. Those of you who are moms, who dream of becoming moms, or who've decided motherhood isn't for them. Those of you who'll be celebrating your moms and those who are missing your moms.  While we can't send you all a present, we'd love to hear your {Mother's} Day story, be it happy, bittersweet, or just plain stressful. If you have a blog, please feel free to post there and add a link to the linkup gadget below. Or, you can share what you like in the comments section below.

Most of all, know that the HerKentucky team wishes you all a Happy Day!

My Mom's Best Lesson

Mothering is one of those things I never know if I'm doing right. I often find myself saying, "I'll do it better next time." 

Next year, I'll send out the birthday invitations earlier. 

Next month, I will make amazing colorful, healthy lunches for Lauren every day. 

Next week, I'll make a homemade dinner every night. 

Tomorrow, I won't lose my patience with Ella over something silly.

I find myself worrying about the most random little details. I want my girls to have this beautiful childhood filled with incredible memories, and I put a silly amount of pressure on myself to be some kind of Nick at Nite mom.

The reality is, I get so caught up in planning the decor and cake and presents for birthdays that I often forget to send out invitations at all. I have yet to make a single school lunch for Lauren. (My husband does it. Actually my goal should be to be a better mother than my husband is.) We're lucky if we have 2-3 homemade dinners a week. As for losing my patience, well, Ella's three years old. 

My mom will sometimes talk about the regrets she has about things she did when my brother and I were younger. She can name all kinds of things that she wishes she could undo or do over, and she'll describe them in great detail. 

And you know what? I don't remember a single one of them.

My mom is an amazing mother. She's fiercely protective of her children, but she lets us fight our own battles. She challenges me to do my best, but never cripples me with her high expectations. She calls me out when I'm being a jerk, but she's always my number one fan. She knows when I need her to hold me and when I need her to let me go.

Most of all, she lets me be who I am, even when I know it isn't always easy. I've never felt like I had to do any certain thing to make my mother proud of me. She's simply thrilled that I wake up and breathe every day. That means more to me than anything--to know that no matter what anyone else may think of me, my mom thinks I'm basically the best thing ever. It sounds silly, especially because I am well aware of my flaws, but knowing I've always got her in my corner is one of my greatest comforts.

Maybe that's what I should strive for with Lauren and Ella. Instead of worrying so much about these picture-perfect details of a storybook childhood, my energy is better spent on making sure they're becoming the people they're supposed to be. I have no idea what they'll become--right now Lauren wants to be a rock star and Ella wants to drive an ice cream truck--but I can help lay the groundwork to help them get there.  

I have two very funny, smart, strong-willed girls. As long as I teach them to be confident, to appreciate what they have, to constantly look for things to be happy about, and to, quite simply, love others...what else matters? They're not going to remember all these dumb things I consider failures, but they'll remember how absolutely crazy I am about them. They'll know I've got their backs no matter what, and that the sound of their voices is all I need to be happy.

My mom taught me that, but she'd never take credit for it.

Mothering in Kentucky

I returned to Kentucky to become a mother. I've written before about how important it was to me that my children be Kentuckians. However, I've come to believe that it was essential not only that they begin their journeys as people in the Bluegrass State but also that I begin my journey as a mother.

First and foremost, I wanted to be home - among my people, among the mothers who mothered me. I knew in my weakest moments as a mother having my mother and my mother's mother and my father's mother mere moments away would make me stronger.

However, it was more than that. Kentucky called to me not only as the place of my birth but as a culture and a way of life that made me the person I am today. I remember long discussions with my husband before we decided to move back to my small hometown. He was concerned about the lack of diversity and opportunity. There would be no museums (beyond the quilt variety of course). No foreign language immersion programs. No art appreciation field trips.

My response was always you have your entire adult life to experience diversity and art and all the big city has to offer.

You only have one childhood.

Kentucky gave me a very specific type of childhood - a childhood built around community and culture. I always had the profound sense that I was being looked out for and supported. I knew the people in my community were rooting for me.

Do children who grow up in different locales experience that?

Of course and I like to think my children would have turned out well no matter where we lived. However, I'm not sure I would have been as good as a mother. I am a striver, a doer, an achiever. The siren song of the big city and all the ambition it symbolizes wouldn't have served me well in my role as a mother.

I need the slow living of my Kentucky home. I need to see the faces and places of my childhood to remind me regularly of what really matters. I need a place where the first thing people ask you is "Do you have any kids?" not "Who do you work for?" in order to be the best mother I can be.

I needed to be in Kentucky.

~ Sarah Stewart Holland