Like many aspects of the ways in which U.S. society approaches motherhood, Mother’s Day can seem well-intentioned—and not quite land right.
If you’re a mom reading this, my guess is that you agree with me. Mother’s Day can feel cliched: flowers, cards, and dinner; mothers tasked with cleanup, childcare, and middle-of-the-night wakeups when the festivities wind down.
If you’re a mom reading this, my guess is you’d love some help tomorrow and you would’ve loved some help yesterday.
My guess is at some point or another (especially recently amidst a pandemic and a childcare crisis that pulled millions of mothers out of the workforce and toward the brink of breakdown), you’ve felt as though your role as a mother has gone uncelebrated, unnoticed, or worse, underappreciated, discriminated against.
More moms than ever are feeling burnt out
A quick look at Motherly‘s State of Motherhood Report in 2021 would suggest you’re also completely and utterly exhausted: 93% of mothers in that survey reported feeling burnt out at least “occasionally.” It’s a figure that’s up seven points from last year’s survey.
Mothers in this country feel burnt out for all sorts of reasons—not the least of which is the dated systems that weren’t built for or by us and that don’t serve us.
But another big culprit of burnout is more tangible: Moms don’t have the support they need at home.
Per that Motherly survey, 45% of mothers report being the primary caregivers for their children (a statistic that was closer to 53% for Black mothers in the survey). Very few moms (10%) have a partner who takes a fair share of the caregiving responsibilities.
What moms really want for Mother’s Day
A different survey last year found that 43% of moms said the best gift they could receive for Mother’s Day would be one night of uninterrupted sleep.
Before I was a mother, a mother I knew told me that for Mother’s Day, her husband had booked her a hotel for a night in the city alone. At the time, I didn’t understand the attraction.
But I think the gift of sleep in motherhood goes beyond hours spent sleeping.
What I think moms are yearning for is rest—healing, restorative, and truly refreshing rest.
That looks different for everyone.
In researching this story, I polled thousands of moms, asking them: What do you want for Mother’s Day as it relates to sleep? The answer wasn’t just a night away (though, now, that does sound lovely). Moms told me they craved a few mornings to sleep in—and they craved for those mornings to be guilt-free.
They told me they wanted a night out every now and then—and for that night to not come with a 5 a.m. wake-up call the next morning.
New moms told me that, sometimes, they wanted middle-of-the-night help: helping hands who were there, voices on the other end of a phone, fingers typing back to tell them they weren’t the only ones up with a baby.
Moms told me they wanted less pressure to do things a certain way at a certain time with a certain product; they wanted less judgment and more acceptance.
They wanted solace from the stress.
They wanted support.
Supporting moms year-round
When I interview experts for the stories I write, I always end the interview by asking the person I’m speaking to if there’s anything they’d like to add. More often than not, these closing comments are the most meaningful ones.
Recently, I posed this question to a professor of sociology and labor and employment relations who I was interviewing about navigating a career and motherhood in the country. She told me she thinks the United States does a really good job celebrating moms on Mother’s Day—and not so great of a job the rest of the time.
So, celebrate the mothers in your life this Mother’s Day. But celebrate and support them other days too—tomorrow and next week and next month. I love flowers and cards. I actually truly do. I also love not feeling burnt out. And petals and poems are lovely, but I know they don’t hold superpowers.