Please don’t ask what my daughter got me for Mother’s Day. Every Mother’s Day, this question rises high above other inquiries, along with “did your take a few hours for yourself?” Why so much emphasis on what my child does for me on this day in particular? Why not ask for what I’m giving thanks, about an experience of exuberant joy, unexpected pain or simple act of kindness my daughter offered to another.

The young child of a solo parent, my daughter won’t be buying me anything for Mother’s Day, or any other day for a long time. From that perspective, the question is odd and without attention to my family structure. To be fair to societal norms and greeting card indoctrination, one of my family members or a friend could buy something small for my daughter to give me, but why?

In truth, our tzedakah boxes are at various levels of full to overflowing (my job to oversee when I have minute). My daughter shares funds for those in need on a regular basis, naming someone or some cause who could use our support as she puts change (from me) into the box. It’s not unusual for her to invite a babysitter (regardless of faith tradition) to do so as well. The piggy bank is a newer addition and questions about chores (from her!) have arisen. I’m not inclined to offer money for clearing her plate from the table or making her bed. Those are expectations. We’re slowly trying to figure out what might earn some money to put aside for her use. In the meantime, I don’t want my child who still can’t identify measurements of financial exchange to focus on spending money.

For years, as I worked hard to become a mother on my own, I worried who would take care of my Mother’s Day card. I was filled with sadness knowing that my child could not attend to that alone, and I wasn’t even a mother yet. I worried about having the day acknowledged and feeling left out, even as a parent. One friend assured me she would send a card from my child. And then, a miracle happened, I became a mother.

Now, every day is mother’s day, from the moment I wake up (usually much too early) until the moment I finally lie down to sleep (always too late). Full time career is paired with full time motherhood, which any mother will tell you equals more than 2 full time jobs. Laundry, meals, cleaning, arranging childcare are all part of being a mother. Even attending to responsibilities as daughter, sister, friend and community member – opportunities to teach my child by example.

A day without stitches or a trip the ER is mother’s day. A day of laughter and tears and more laughter is mother’s day. A day when my humble quesadilla is pronounced better than the chef’s at day care is mother’s day. A day where my daughter shows empathy for another child, a stranger on the street, or towards me is mother’s day. A day of rain, snow, hail, overcast skies or sunshine is mother’s day. A dance recital or a dance in the living room, training wheels – or not, a loose tooth, splashing in the bath and even (perhaps, especially) the final words of Psalm 150, Let every breath praise God, resounding from the bathroom is a day on which I give thanks for being a mother.

I haven’t hired a sitter so I can spend a few hours reading a book – or more likely running errands. I can do that on a day that suits my schedule more than Hallmark’s. We have reservations for brunch and may give them to those who called too late, opting out of a crowded and proscribed celebration and making more time for the playground. Later, we’ll engage in bikkur holim, visiting the sick. At the end of the day, when the words “Let’s go brush your teeth and get into bed to say sh’ma” are met with “and count the omer,” I’ll give thanks for a day like every other…mother’s day.

@Rabbi Lisa Gelber
May 10, 2015/21 Iyar 5775