Second Thoughts: Mother’s Day – Today and Every Day

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08 May 2008

Spring is in the air again. Pesach preparations are behind us and the world looks wide and promising. It’s the time when our thoughts turn to budding trees, flowers, warm breezes and… Mother’s Day.

If anyone deserves to have a day, surely it’s the Mothers of the World. And spring, the time of new life, is the perfect time to have it. Of course as good Jews, we’re supposed to remember, honor, help and obey our mothers (and fathers) all year long, but a special day in their honor doesn’t seem like a bad thing.

What I’d really like to see, however, is a Mother-in-Law’s day. Most normal, functioning people love their mothers. Mothers and offspring may sometimes argue, disagree and even get downright annoyed at each other, but love eventually conquers all, and hurt feelings dissipate as soon as the spring breeze blows in. Mothers-in-Law, however, are a different story.

Being a mother-in-law is a touchy business. The slightest slight is taken as an affront of mammoth proportions. A forgotten birthday, an innocuous comment about feeding the baby or a better way to make chicken soup, or neglecting to compliment the wearer on her new dress is a sure fire recipe for hurt feelings in either direction. And when innocently inflicted by the Mother-in-law, she is automatically guilty on all counts.

Personally, I hate mother-in-law jokes. They’re highly unfair, even if they’re funny. If you admire and respect your spouse, just remember that someone brought him or her up and helped make him/her the great person you decided to marry. It’s just that you have no time to get used to the idiosyncrasies of a parent-in-law. You receive them, ready made, as is, at the time of your engagement and have no time to grow into or up with them. But they have the same problem with you!

As the mother-in-law of several marvelous young women, I’ve found that Father Time does much to alleviate the difficulties of being a mother (in-law). With a minimum of good-will, you learn what to expect, what to do or not to do, how to do it and when, and a little love is almost always returned ten-fold.

In fact, in that respect, biological mothers (and daughters) get less preferential treatment from each other. We all know that we must be a bit more diplomatic, respectful, attentive, helpful and caring with a mother- or daughter-in-law while we often take our own mothers for granted. I mean, our biological family is always around for us if we need them, aren’t they? Isn’t that what they’re there for? Come to think of it, it would be ever so much nicer if we treated our own mothers with as much diplomacy and consideration as we try to treat our spouse’s mom all year round! Designating one day a year to buy flowers or candy or a gift for a mother isn’t anything to write home about. The trick is to remember them day after day, three-hundred-and-sixty-five days a year.

But I’m getting off track. Last week was the birthday of our first-born son. I explained to one of his children that this birthday was very important day in my life. In fact the birth of his father was a transcendental experience. An utterly helpless, vulnerable baby who wasn’t able to do a thing except cry (which he did vociferously) and eat (which he did nonstop) changed my life. He did more for my status than any academic degree or public honor or international recognition. He turned me into a Mother and placed me firmly in the ranks of all those honorable women who brought life into the world since the time of Eve.

The first time I proudly pushed my miraculous first-born child in a spanking new carriage in public, I expected the sun to stop dead in its tracks as everyone gasped in wonder and awe. I mean, wasn’t it obvious that I was surrounded by Divine Clouds of Glory and that I had just experienced a major miracle? I couldn’t understand how the world just went on its way as though nothing unusual had transpired.

Motherhood has been a dizzying (and tiring) experience which has enriched my life and taught me at least one new, unexpected lesson every single day for the past several decades. I am forever surprised at how my offspring surprise me when I thought I had it all down pat. Even my grandchildren continue to surprise me to the point where all of my hard-earned knowledge on child rearing is utterly wasted. Offspring tend to think that whatever their parents did must surely be out-dated. They believe that they have discovered new and better ways of doing things, although I don’t see that they are having an easier time or doing a better job than the previous generation, despite all those How-To books people read nowadays.

But parenting is unquestionably very educational and rewarding for all concerned. I highly recommend it once the basic family set-up (i.e. one set of married parents, male and female) are in order. And remembering to tell your mother (and your Mother-in-law!) that you love and appreciate her and think she does/did a great job is always a good and wise and loving thing to do. I thoroughly recommend that as well. And of course, one of the best things about being a mother is that if you only hang in there long enough, one day you’ll be upgraded to the really ultimate in status and satisfaction. You’ll become a Grandmother!

© 2008 Yaffa Ganz. Yaffa Ganz is the award winning author of more than forty Jewish juvenile titles including Sand and Stars – a 2000 year saga of Jewish history for teen readers. Her latest book – “A Different Dimension” published by Hamodia Publishers – is an anthology of essays on contemporary Jewish life.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.