Labor Day is a holiday that pays tribute to the American worker, and rightly so, for without the labor movement, the United States wouldn’t enjoy strength and prosperity today. Labor means hard work, a physical and mental effort. This certainly applies to the American worker. It also applies to every mother.
First we have Labor, with a capital L. You know what I’m talking about–the hard work of physically bringing a child into the world. Every mother has a different story, but every story has a theme of endurance, strength, pain, and love–this applies to natural births, cesarean sections, epidural births, water births, etc. We all birthed a child, so we can all be united in our stories of Labor. Only mothers know what Labor means.
Then come the physical and mental requirements of late-night feedings, all-night bouts with colic, the constant onslaught of dirty everything (diapers, bottles, onesies, burp clothes, sheets, and on and on), and unsure responses to cries that, at first, all sound the same. Labor during this time is both emotionally and physically exhausting, yet we endure. We say we don’t have a choice and that’s what we mean. We could never imagine it any other way even if we wanted to, which we don’t.
As our child grows, we live a labor of love and mom becomes a word that encompasses a wide range of jobs: nurse, chef, driver, accountant, adviser, jester, nurturer, tooth fairy, entertainment director, punishment coordinator, teacher, etc. Unlike jobs in the outside world, these do not come with schooling, checklists, supervision, and protocols. We figure things out as we go and do the absolute best we can. Our labor costs us a lot emotionally and physically. The rewards are immeasurable.
And then they leave us–at least it feels that way. They become teenagers, the in-between time of uncertainty. Our emotional labor becomes greater than our physical labor. We must put forth so much effort, and we often doubt ourselves and even them. We don’t understand; they don’t understand. We may be tempted even to quit our jobs, but unemployment is out of the question.
And suddenly we’re demoted. After all the blood, sweat, tears, and poop, we’re relegated to a consulting position only. We are still emotionally invested, of course, but have less direct contact and influence.
Motherhood is the ultimate labor of love. Happy Labor Day to all the moms out there.