I read something once when both my boys were a lot smaller — a sweet, encouraging post about how no one noticed what moms do. “No one noticed that Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel and then nearly a decade later, there was his legacy forever,” was the writer’s gist. At the time, I just skimmed it and thought about the legacy I was building in my two sons: hopefully they will be good people, hopefully they won’t grow up to be serial killers, hopefully my youngest would sleep through the night before he left for college. Unlike the woman the author wrote about though, I was a single, working mother. I didn’t go unnoticed — in fact, most everyone bragged on my seeming ease of “doing it all.”
Fast forward to several years later. I stay home now. And I feel like the mother in that piece I read so long ago…
You know, looking back, I’m pretty sure people noticed some dude, belly up toward the ceiling, painting a mural for, oh I don’t know, nearly a decade, on some rickety scaffolding in a church. How could they not? He was working on a tangible object that yielded progress daily. Yes, it was a beautiful, magical, and painstaking work that I’m sure at times crawled along, but at the end of the day Ole Mikey could look up and say to himself, “Okay I got that arm done.” Passersby could see that he did something that day, no matter how futile their 16th century minds felt that something was.
Parenting though, especially as a mother, yields little to no instant gratification. Sure, there are times when milestones occur and I beam with pride because my oldest learned to tie his shoe or my youngest can now write his name, but in the day-to-day we really aren’t rewarded as a whole for being someone’s (or several someones’) mother.
What the heck am I doing? Does anyone see me? Does anyone see the legions of other women just like me? Being a mother, stay at home, working, or otherwise, has to be the most invisible and unseen job on the planet.
I got a lot of gift cards for Christmas this year, mainly to Target since I am roughly 21,658,265 weeks pregnant and hard to shop for. Off my oldest son and I went to Target one faithful evening, where I spent nearly $300 in gift cards…on him and his brother. I didn’t think twice about it, after all, they needed snow pants and new tennis shoes for school, and a few other things here and there, but it got me thinking about all the other unseen things we, as moms, do daily with no mark or imprint to be shown.
If I forget to buy toothpaste for the kids, they won’t have any and they won’t brush their teeth. If I don’t run the dishwasher, there will be no plates for dinnertime. If I don’t go over spelling words, Maddox won’t keep his all A report card trend for the year. The list could stretch for miles, from mundane house chores all the way to high stakes life lessons, but they share a common thread — no one notices them until they aren’t done.
Have you guys seen Sing yet? The mom pig builds a robotic assembly line to get her kids and husband ready for the day every morning so she can get ready for a singing competition in a separate rehearsal space and no one noticed that she wasn’t physically at home herself. It wasn’t until the machine backfired that they noticed she was missing…it wasn’t until she donned a feathery get up and sang a Taylor Swift mashup on stage that her husband even remembered she was alive…yes, it was supposed to be a funny caricature, but how telling was her story line as to the invisibility so many of us feel?
Being a mom is wonderful, but we aren’t praised and applauded for all that we do in a day. No one has ever come over to marvel at how I spend my time between kids, errands, housework, and general life. So I guess, I just want to say, I hope someone out there sees you, mama, just like I’m sure people saw Michelangelo up there painting his little heart out.
I see you in all your pride and exhaustion and in all those moments where you wonder what you’re even doing. I see you sacrificing a career, a social life, your own wants and needs for little people who look to you for every last thing. I see you being touched and pulled and sat on and locking yourself in the bathroom for five minutes to be alone while little hands reach for you under the threshold like zombies from The Walking Dead. I see you at sport practices and school meetings trying to be an active participant while going over a mile-long to do list in your head.
I see you stressing about public school, private school, homeschool, how to afford a car for your teenager, and praying that while your kids are trying to dig up the stone sidewalk maybe they’ll strike oil to pay for college tuition. I see how hurt you are when your husband comes home and jokes that FEMA should have met him at the door with a hazmat suit by the looks of the house, or when he tells a stranger who compliments you that he’s just happy to see you in real clothes and not your pajamas. I see you making the transition from actively parenting every day to having grown kids to having grandkids and trying to walk that delicate tightrope of helpfulness without being pushy.