Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mothering at Midnight

by Tamara Passey

Some professionals have pagers, well, now it’s a cell phone that rings. Or is that sings? Maybe buzzes or beeps. And the doctor or the tow truck operator listens to a message that determines how much sleep they will or will not get for the night. The wake-up call for a mother bypasses the technology and comes in the form of that universal night-time cry of a child in need. Hungry. Sick. Or Scared. A mother wakes and arrives on the scene. In minutes. We change, feed, console. We’re mothers. It’s what we do. I’ve known this since my earliest days. I heard my mother repeat this often. Usually at odd hours.
A man's work is from sun to sun, but a mother's work is never done. ~Author Unknown (really? Couldn’t we accurately name all mothers as having said this at least once in their career?)
There were months when my youngest preferred my shoulder to the mattress in her crib. One day in the midst of feeling like I’d never have another decent night’s sleep, I came across these words and even though it said nothing about how quickly the time would pass, I sensed there might come a day when she wouldn’t want me to rock her to sleep. And I would miss it.

A mother's arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them. ~Victor Hugo
For one of my children, turning the lights down and signing hymns was what worked, often. Many nights I’d slip out of the room after the second or third song. Some nights, maybe out of my own exhaustion, I’d rest a little longer on the bed. Once, I wondered how much of my time was being spent waiting in a dark room at the end of a busy day –when I could be doing any number of other things. And then I read this quote.

Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
Now my goal in life is to recognize life’s ‘blessings in disguise’ a little sooner.

Finally, most mothers I know don’t spend their days looking for recognition. Mothering is busy, so busy that most of us at some point get over ourselves and stop thinking about any potential audience. That’s kind of the irony. That point in a mother’s life usually coincides with time her child or children become teenagers. I have no way of knowing what conclusions my children are coming to –watching me. I can only hope they see things in the kind of light that Mr. Fulghum did:

One of the very few reasons I had any respect for my mother when I was thirteen was because she would reach into the sink with her bare hands - bare hands - and pick up that lethal gunk and drop it into the garbage. To top that, I saw her reach into the wet garbage bag and fish around in there looking for a lost teaspoon. Bare hands - a kind of mad courage.
Thank you for coming along on my journey.
Me, meditating on being a mom. At midnight.
Probably a little too heavy on the alliterations.
But thank you for reading.
And here is one more of my favorite mom sayings.
Only it’s a poem and it’s more like a letter.
For when life feels a little bare.
It keeps me going.
Mother to Son, by Langston Hughes
Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now—
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.


  1. That was beautiful Tamara! Thank you so much for posting those wonderful thoughts. I especially appreciate the quote about the butterfly.

  2. Those quotes were awesome, as were your thoughts. Bare hands and courage. I love it. Thanks!

  3. Thanks for the reminder of what a blessing it is to be the mom.

  4. Oh my goodness, Tamara. How can one post make me laugh till I cried and cry till I laughed all at the same time? I love all the quotes--especially the one about the mad courage. That is crazy funny. And the last poem--wow! Thanks!!

  5. Oh, oh...and the Victor Hugo quote? I love to give it as a baby shower gift done in vinyl lettering. It's a good one.

  6. Loved the quotes. Children do grow up fast. I am sure yours will have lots of good memories to build a solid foundation for their adult lives.

  7. Can I just say that mothering has definitely led me to touch things with my bare hands that I'm certain four star generals would run from. :)

    I love this reminder, Tamara. It is definitely an honor to be a mother, and I need to remember to enjoy it more.



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