facebook will give us a detailed report of what will be going on during the coming hours as people post photos of them with their mothers, some mothers share photos of great gifts they already received and some plans for celebration too... it's interesting to follow how people "facebookly" express their feelings about the day... which is fine, but it hurts when i think of all the "silent facebookers" out there, who are watching what's going on yet aren't able to join in and "celebrate"... if i categorize them into groups of motherless sons and daughters, widows, childless wives, single girls, i'd have to say that the group experiencing the hardest kind of pain would be mothers who lost a son or daughter... these coming hours won't be easy for them, i know that they carry this pain of loosing a child every hour of every day but tomorrow will sure be one of the most difficult days of the year
as a family we don't stress Mother's Day much, in my family we used to take mom out and treat her to a lunch at a nice restaurant, visit my grandmother, and bring gifts to both ladies and my aunt too, end the day with a few phone calls and that would be it. i remember at my Evangelical Church in Damascus, the Sunday before Mother's Day, a few ladies would stand at the door and hand a red flower to every mother entering the morning service (or pin it to their chest) and a white flower to "future mothers", for many years i proudly received that white flower
on March 21st of 2006 i was already engaged and that white flower meant a lot to me
March 21st of 2007 and 2008 i started celebrating in Egypt as a Mrs. and there were no more white flowers
March 21st of 2009 i was pregnant with our son so i officially started celebrating Mother's Day as a MOTHER myself (or a mother-to-be)
since then things started to change and kept doing so
March 21st of 2010 my son celebrated with us
March 21st of 2011 i was pregnant with our daughter
March 21st of 2012 my daughter joined and i celebrated as a mother of TWO.
March 21st of 2013 should be no different than the previous one, but shockingly it IS different, not because of any bad news, God forbid, but for a few subtle reasons hiding right underneath the surface, waiting for somebody to dig a little deeper than the casual "how are you" to find them
a while ago, by mere coincidence, more than one of my friends changed their profile pictures on facebook. they are all married and have kids so of course all their previous profile pictures were of either a couple or the new family or a new baby or the growing kids, but how dare they change it into a picture of themselves... all alone... as if each one of them is an unmarried princess waiting for her prince charming to come on a white horse so they could live together happily ever after!!! there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, when i joined facebook i was already married and had plenty of time to select any kind of profile picture i wanted, still i chose photos of me with my husband, then the ultra sound print out of our embryo, and the domino pieces kept falling...and since then i have never added a photo of me all by myself and never thought it was an issue.
when i saw what my friends did, i got shocked and for some reason i even thought it's inappropriate or weird... but why? WHY was that unacceptable for me? WHY did i unconsciously reject the idea of them changing their pictures this way? i was taken by surprise, i needed to stop and think: now that i have a husband and two kids, why is it hard for me (and unacceptable for others) to post a photo of a gorgeous me? a FRESH photo may i add not one from the archives of high school albums... why?
this got me thinking of my own identity, the capital "I" not the sound "aaii" which in Arabic indicates pain آي / آه / أخ mush similar to "ouch"
has motherhood gradually erased my "I" and left me with a sheer sound of pain? did i do this to myself? or is it some kind of a mama hormone that changed the wiring of my brain to think of the kids, their needs, food, the husband, the apartment, the finance, the future... the endless lists of things to do all related to OTHERS and not me, not "moi" and not "ana"... it's interesting that SELFishness in Arabic is ANAnya ... also starts with "me"... but i'm not talking about the other extreme of being a selfish mother, i'm just talking about being a mother, or actually just BEING...
so i challenged myself to get a new gift this year on Mother's Day, i'm the one who gets me gifts on my birthday and a few other special occasions, and the gift was to: change my profile picture, post one of me alone, the most recent and wonderful picture i could find of myself... and i found none
no photos taken by our camera (because usually i'm the photographer here) no photos taken by our family's friend Magui, the dear photographer (even during the recent Christmas and last Easter's photo shoots... it never occurred to me in the middle of all the detailed preparations and work i usually do for these photo shoots to say: "hey Magui, could you please take a photo of me with the kids? or ME ALONE?", no photos taken by mistake during a wedding or any recent big event... i didn't want to crop any photos, i even looked for a passport photo but we haven't applied for any document or visa recently and my last visit to a photography studio was to take shots of the two kids together...
change of plan, i thought of buying myself something nice and useful, so what do i do best? what is the thing i like the most? what am i good at? i wanted to find out one area of expertise so i could get a relevant gift but to my surprise (shock number 2) i found out that i'm not an expert at doing anything, yet at the same time i do EVERYTHING around here... well i have to say that my husband is very understanding, supportive, and helpful (hi honey) but if there's no plan and no request or no offer... then MAMA, by default, is the one who automatically jumps (or is asked) to do everything ... this is the way our family is automatically programmed, like many other families... and i'm not talking about house chores and kids' related responsibilities here, no, i also put food on the table (earn money from my work in translation and my Rihamiat project) i also drive the kids to and from their school and nursery (add to it weekends when i take them out so they could have some outdoor fun) when we have no electricity i climb 11 floors with them (tip: we do 7 floors in one shot, rest, then resume and finish the remaining and most difficult 4 floors) ...
to feel less bad (not "good" or "better" yet) i thought of my husband, he's a pastor, and in my opinion pastors are pretty much like mothers, it's a paid job, yes, but the payment is NOTHING compared to what they do 24/7 simply because it's less of a job and more of a service and sacrifice (volunteering, ministry, خدمة), mothers don't get paid (even though they save a FORTUNE out of what they do just because they do it for free) so everything a mother does is a service and a sacrifice. so both mothers and pastors do "nothing" in people's eyes but the truth is that they do EVERYTHING (at home and outside / at church and outside)
mothers have no special area of strength, even if they graduate with a BA or a BS, an MA or a PhD...they are expected (and forced) to do everything, so they become experts in cooking, baby sitting, cleaning, teaching, nursing... you name it
pastors too have no special area of expertise, they graduate from the School of Theology with a BA or an MA, even if they take a few years off to get a PhD, once they get back they do everything at church and become experts in counseling, preaching, teaching, disciplining, visiting, problem solving... you name it. sometimes when the elevator is broken at our church people call my husband!
most jobs have a certain amount of work hours, once the person gets home, then he's home (except for doctors when they are on call) but moms and pastors have no time off, day or night, summer or winter, they are always ON CALL, they get no vacations or any other kind of privileges from their work, their regular duties already fill their entire day till a very late hour into the night, not to mention conferences and emergencies that put everything else on hold
so i'd like to dedicate this post to my husband, and also to all mothers who are at the same time pastor's wives, because when a person whose whole existence is about "nurturing" marries another person whose whole existence is also about "nurturing" then you'd expect their own kids to be the most nurtured kids in the whole wide world (WWW. wel-com 2 my life), but unfortunately this is not true, it takes a great deal of awareness and hard work to maintain a healthy environment at home. roles of mom and dad in such a family can sometimes get intertwined and there comes the role of both parents to shield their kids against possible and definite negative results
men usually don't get it when it comes to mothers, why is my wife constantly exhausted? it's easy to look after the kids, my wife must be exaggerating, she was waiting her whole life to become a mother and now she's complaining... i could think of an endless number of similar sentences, so it's a fact that only a fellow-mother TRULY understands the challenges of another mother. in the same way, only a fellow-pastor and a fellow-pastor's wife TRULY understands what it's like to serve and dedicate your life to church ministry to the fullest and most faithful extent ever
now i have to get two gifts on Mother's Day, one for myself and one for my husband. Happy Mother's Day to us both...
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!