Unseen: Mother’s Day Matters

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There was a wonderful episode of the TV show The Middle where the mom just wants to be alone for Mother’s Day. Her family plans a big day out so she can stay home and have time to herself. She uses her time to clean. Then when her family returns and talks about the fun day they had, she feels sad and left out.

This is the basic catch-22 of Mother’s Day. Moms are so tired, especially this year, we often feel overlooked and overwhelmed. We think about all of the mental, financial, and physical planning we do for all of the other holidays. No one day can possibly pay us back for all that we do throughout the year, and yet for many of us, Mother’s Day is still important. We have expectations, yet we are burnt out and don’t feel like we should have to plan our own day. We just want a break, and yet we want our kiddos included.

We might be celebrating “our day” while also honoring our mothers and mother-in-laws. We might be celebrating our day while also mourning mothers who have passed away, or mothers we no longer have contact with.

Mother’s day can come with mixed up emotions. So many moms end up crying on Mother’s Day. If you google “bad Mother’s Day,” there are thousands of stories of sad mamas. A big common thread, apart from grief, is that these women don’t feel seen and valued by their partners. Their “lame” holiday is indicative of a much bigger issue: they feel invisible. So much of the domestic labor women do is invisible and never-ending.

If a woman changes all the clothes in her kids’ closets, what are the odds that anyone notices? Zero. Unless she brings it up, that work was pretty much invisible. If she reads her kids 10 books and nobody saw it, that work was invisible. If she cleans up thirty messes trough out the day, her partner might walk in the door and just see a house that looks the same as when they left. If she researches birthday gifts for hours and then purchases them and wraps them, much of that process was invisible. The toy can be seen, but the research can’t. There are a million little examples like this that most women can immediately relate to, but most men can’t.

I submit to you two tests: the shoe test and the appointment test. For the first one, you ask dads if they know their children’s current shoe sizes. You might be shocked by how many have no idea. For the second one, you ask if they know when their kids last attended a medical appointment and when their next appointment should take place.

It’s not like if a dad fails the shoe test or the appointment test that he’s a bad dad or partner. That’s probably not at all the case. The point isn’t to catch them, it’s to demonstrate the unseen labor that women primarily provide by becoming walking encyclopedias of family facts. It’s also not necessarily your partner’s fault that so much of domestic work is invisible. Yet the reality is that many moms feel isolated and disconnected because the things that stress them out and burden them aren’t even on their partner’s radar.

As Taylor Swift sang, “You didn’t even read the signs.”

So what do we do? I challenge you, for Mother’s Day, to talk to your partner (if you have one and these feeling apply to you) about the weight of your domestic labor. Maybe you’re happy with the amount of domestic labor you do, and you find true joy in it, but you just want to make all that a bit more visible to them. Maybe you feel the labor is too much and you want to talk about dividing it more or changing the household budget to take some of it off your shoulders. Maybe you just need to hear, “Thank you,” more often. Maybe a date night once a month would be enough for you to feel like you again, apart from the kids.

Every situation is different, but please don’t spend your night crying in the bathroom. The only way to make the invisible, visible is to speak it into existence. If you have a good partner, they probably want to understand and to make you feel valued.

From one mom to another, I see you and I celebrate you! Never forget that what is invisible to some can be vitally important to others. Everything you do helps provide a strong foundation for your kids and your family. You matter so much.