Mother's Day is an iconic American holiday, a day when mothers around the country are showered with love, praise, and sentimental greeting cards often accompanied by floral bouquets and Russell Stover candy.
As a mother of two grown children, I enjoy and am happy to be the recipient of all this attention. Yet I can't help but question the sincerity of those waxing ecstatic over the wonders of maternity who have no firsthand knowledge of the process.
I'm here to tell you that motherhood is not for the faint of heart. It's a lot of hard work with equal parts joy, worry, and sadness.
Indeed, pregnancy and childbirth are far from safe. Each year in this country, approximately 700 women will die as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications.
That's almost 24 women for every 100,000 births.
For black women the risk of dying is 3 to 4 times greater. Interestingly, from 1973 to 2014 legal abortions have accounted for only 437 deaths.
Accompanying the risks and responsibilities of motherhood is a lifelong commitment with an enormous price tag with sometimes dubious returns. The current cost to raise a child to age 17 is $233,619, before college.
And for those single mothers, of whom I was one, who comprise 47.6% of American families struggling to support their children on wages 20% less than their male counterparts, the task of juggling a job with ongoing issues of daycare, school, transportation, and healthcare is often a daunting and overwhelming task.
My mother, Margaret Rose was a case in point. As a long-suffering divorced parent who received a measly $75 a month in child support, meeting the physical, emotional, and financial demands entailed in raising my 2 unruly brothers and myself required enormous self-sacrifice and saint-like patience.
One specific Mother's Day when I was around 8 years old stands out in my memory. Mother was enjoying the rare luxury of sleeping in when we roused her to ask if she'd give us some money, so we could go to the nearby dime store to buy her Mother's Day present.
In her groggy state, she allowed us to take $5 from her purse and off we went. Upon our return, we happily woke Mother to proudly present our gifts which consisted of the remnants of a large Hershey candy bar, which we'd partially devoured on the way home, a Tarzan coloring book and crayons for me and Conrad, and a balsa-wood airplane kit for youngest brother Chris.
As I recall, Mom was less than impressed with our gifts, but was grateful to be able to sleep for another hour while we happily colored and assembled Chris' model airplane, which quickly came to an untimely end, the result of a fatal encounter with the backyard maple.
In hindsight, I have to wonder whether Mother given her druthers would have elected to have three children.
Since birth control wasn't available until 1962 and abortion remained illegal until 1973, she obviously had little choice in the matter, for which I am grateful. But the fact that she endured the trials and tribulations of raising three rowdy children with little fanfare and no assistance is particularly laudatory. More so since we all turned out to be reasonably happy, well-adjusted adults.
That said, I am reminded that my story is not unique.
All around the country there are women much like my mother struggling to be a good parent with few resources and very little help.
Which makes it all the more ironic to note that on this particular Mother's Day, while the virtues of Motherhood are being widely extolled and celebrated, there continues to be relentless legislative attacks aimed at depriving women of healthcare and their reproductive rights.
Not to mention the thousands of immigrant mothers who are being cruelly and routinely separated from their children by an uncaring administration.
It therefore occurs to me that if we truly want to show our love and respect for our mothers and the other women in our lives, we should dispense with the hypocrisy and platitudes glorifying motherhood, stand by those organizations working on behalf of women, and elect those individuals committed to supporting and defending the rights of all women to choose when and if they wish to become mothers.
And as for my own mom, although in later years we did far better by her, my conscience still twinges when I recall our innate selfishness as children.
Therefore, each year on Mother's Day I send her my love and appreciation along with a dozen roses to adorn and mark her gravesite in rural Iowa. And to all you ladies, who too have willingly elected to embark upon that long, arduous journey known as Motherhood, bravo and Happy Mother's Day!