By Jill-Marie Gavin for the CUJ
This year Mother’s Day has landed in the middle of Covid-19. While our governments, communities and families brace themselves for the requirements of essential work, sheltering in place and seemingly endless extensions of stay-at-home orders there have been words of encouragement.
Some of these messages have been soothing, and some not so much. A couple of phrases have been especially problematic.
“We’re all in this together,” they say.
Well, they are wrong.
Yes, we are all facing this pandemic together, and, yes, we are all wondering when this will end, but we are not all in this together.
We are also not all in the “same boat.”
Hearing and reading these words don’t quite resonate, especially for parents at home with children in need of education, reassurance, food and love.
The mother is the well from which the spring of life flows. Some days that well is a little dry.
This year Mother’s Day is different than any other we have experienced.
Our children need a parent who can tell them everything is going to be okay. The little ones are very aware that life is not the same. They have heavy emotions and, being the person who gave them life, we must continue to breathe life into them.
That becomes difficult when there are no immediate answers to the questions. Will mom have a job? Will she be able to afford the groceries we need to get by? When will this end?
Thankfully, our community has been doing its best to make sure no one goes hungry, yet there are other worries for the matriarchs of our homes. Fathers have been tasked with this responsibility as well, but the mother has special obligations and pressures. When our babies get sick, scared or sad they call out for mama.
The comfort that a mother gives her children is a beautiful thing, but right now that comfort can be difficult to summon, especially for mothers who are doing this on their own.
Providing food, shelter and electricity has been difficult for some homes during this unprecedented time. Furthermore, we’ve had to take on additional duties. Now you’re not just a parent, now you’re a teacher, too.
I have struggled providing my children with the education they need. I see on social media, and occasionally post as well, fun-filled days with baking and outdoor adventures. It’s a wonderful thing to experience and share those days, but it’s important to acknowledge the other days as well. I don’t pretend to know the unique struggles of every family, but I do know that not every day is sunshine and rainbows. There are days when mom is tired, she is scared and she is a little sad.
Self-care is so important and preached by so many, as it should be, but it’s not always easy. Self-care is not all bubble baths and pedicures. Sometimes self-care is allowing yourself to sleep-in and wear your jammies all day. Self-care is also allowing yourself to be stressed and allowing yourself to cry, allowing yourself to feel the weight of this pandemic and letting yourself close the shades and let the house be messy, even if just for a few hours.
As much as I adore this time with my children, I haven’t spent this many days in a row with my babies and since I became a mother 11 years ago I won’t pretend we don’t have bad days in my home.
Nobody’s household is perfect, there will be days with yelling and frustration. There will be days when packets and online classes don’t get finished and that’s okay. It’s okay to forgive yourself for what you may see as failures, but are actually the everyday realities of being human.
I have been blessed to have a strong family support system and I am very thankful for this, but I know some mothers are in this on their own.
So while I can appreciate the sentiment of all “being in this together,” I know that’s not the case. We are all remaining strong and pushing to get through this, but that looks different for every family.
I have so much respect, love and admiration for Indigenous mothers.
We know struggle, we know pain and most of all we know love. Take some of that love and extend it toward yourself.
No, we’re not perfect, but we’re here, here with our children.
Treasure your children and treasure yourself because you are a gift to this earth and to your children and even when the days get rocky you are still shining bright.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Jill-Marie Gavin is the mother of four children – Penelope Gavin-Harvey, 11, Abigayle McIntosh 8, LisaFaye McIntosh, 6, and Jeremiah McIntosh, 4 – and a member of the Board of Trustees for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.