An Open Letter Celebrating (Birth, Adoptive, Office and “Undercover”) Mothers

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Newsroom

Each year, the calendar sets aside one day in May for acknowledging the woman who (literally) gives of her body for our entree into the world: Mom.

While fathers are clearly important, a mother’s role is so fundamental that Judaism (traditionally) designates her womb as the demarcation of acceptance into the tribe.

Moms are the family nurturers — who encourage and nag us — ensuring we grow to be self-sufficient, productive adults. And, for some, the role of mother is not defined solely through biology.

There are women who are adoptive mothers, whether by choice or circumstance, when nature goes awry. There are women who act as surrogate-type mothers — (not the paid type) — who augment maternal love. And, there are also those fathers forced to pull double duty as mothers — I call them “undercover” mothers.

The maternal ideal is held in such high esteem that society has even co-opted the term “mother” when designating genesis, largess or something of unique importance (e.g., “motherland,” “mother lode,” “Mother Nature” and “the mother of all…  fill in the blank”).

Neither is the veneration of motherhood solely humanity’s purview, as former GOP vice presidential candidate and Tea Party matriarch Sarah Palin noted, a la “mama grizzlies.”

Yet, for all this lauding, mothers too often get the short shrift. I was reminded of that recently by a compliment paid to me for my hands-on parenting. While appreciated, it underscored the steep price I’ve noticed women pay for working outside the home.

As a man, because I drive carpool and make dinner during the week, I am extolled; it is all but expected from my wife, Amy. To a large extent, the myth of the stay-at-home mom is still so entrenched that I can almost excuse those who ask what I do for a living yet don’t extend the question to her.

And, in a world where both parents often have to work, having Mom exclusively available to rear children is a line item most families can’t afford.

I’m just grateful my kids always have a parent around — whether it’s Amy or me — since many children are no longer afforded that luxury. As a litigation attorney, “billable” hours and court appearances demand more of Amy’s daylight attention whereas I can write at my dining room table into the wee hours.  (Check out RT‘s Facebook page at 1 a.m. the next time you’re up late.)

How frequently are working mothers paid compliment for their struggle to maintain a tenable work/life balance? Probably not often enough.The notion that husbands/fathers can’t drive carpool, make dinners and the like do a disservice to the fundemantal aspects of motherhood — providing unyielding patience and the salve of affection — all of which are part of a mother’s core competencies.

Even though Mom gets one measly day to be thanked for her often thankless effort, let’s remember there are 364 other days when she is still busting a hump, making sure the family is alright.

So, to my mother, Arlene Gottlieb: Words seem trite, but thank you for never shorting me on your core compentencies. (Or, selling me to the carnies.) To her mother, Gloria Dunn (hi, Nana): At 87, you are still a force to be reckoned with and have my unflinching admiration.

To my mother-in-law, Elaine Sabbota: I am in awe of your selflessness and grateful that you imbued your daughters with the qualities every woman should possess.

To my sister-in-law, Beth Adler: Thank you for being as much a mother to my children as to your own. (Now, can you give Bella a ride home from school today?)

Finally, to my wife, Amy: From the moment our family first expanded, I said (and believe) our children won the mommy lottery. You inherited the best character traits of your parents and impart those qualities to our children each day. The example you set demonstrates to me why mothers are irreplaceable. (Now, what’s for dinner?!)

P.S. To my office mother, Gail Zimmerman: Thank you for trying to ensure I don’t step in “it” too often with readers.

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