This is my first Mother's Day. I spent years assiduously avoiding this holiday, as I had a long and painful road to motherhood, and it felt like one more trumped-up moment to make me feel lacking, rife with clichés and shallow assumptions about what motherhood should be.
Now that I'm a mama to a glorious little 15-week-old daughter, I approach my first Mother's Day with deep gratitude. But I don't want brunch or a tea party. One of these 10 things would be more of a treat — maybe you or someone you know, as a new mom, can relate.
The Contradictions of Mother's Day
It's not just me, right? Mother's Day can feel weird. And not just because it's a twisted, commercialized version of the original holiday, which was a day of political protest against war. There's something inadequate and insulting about assigning one day to celebrate one of the most relentless, life-sustaining jobs there is; and something conflicted about a day to reward a task that is actually a privilege and a joy (and desperately desired by many like myself who had a long road to get there), implying that moms need to be petted back into submission for another year of taking care of their families.
The clichés of Mother's Day also made me wrinkle my nose: Who decreed that once a woman becomes a mother, all she wants for this yearly appreciation is a brunch with scones and flowered teapots?
The contradictions of Mother's Day make my head hurt, so my solution this year, on my first is to just ignore them. I'm making my own peace with the holiday, trying to take the weight of all those years off it and just enjoy it as another Sunday with my husband and daughter, propping her up on pillows in bed and babbling at her in baby talk, and letting my husband bring coffee (which, to be honest, he does nearly every day anyway. Lucky me.).
But I draw the line at tea parties and flowered pots. Ignore the clichés and commercialism; here are a few thoughts on what I (and maybe other brand-new moms) actually want on Mother's Day.
10 Things New Moms Actually Want for Mother's Day
These 10 things are aimed quite specifically at new moms, those in that crazy rush of the first year tending to this tiny being with all their unceasing demands. What do new moms actually want on this weird, inadequate holiday — in the kitchen and out of it?
1. For someone to wash her sheets.
From the time I brought the baby home, I would have been outwardly mortified but inwardly gleeful if someone had taken charge of my sheets — they get so gunky with baby spit-up, milk, and other unmentionable things. Truly, unmentionable. You don't want to know how gross new parents' bed sheets are. Wash them and watch them weep.
2. These cookies.
These apple-Gouda oatmeal cookies, somewhere between a sweet and a breakfast staple, were the nourishing nuggets that got me through many nights of nursing. They're filling and satisfying and sweet (but not too sweet). My own mother made me huge batches of them and they fueled me for weeks.
3. Something that will make her partner happy.
My husband is truly an equal partner — and often more — in caring for our daughter, and while Father's Day is just around the corner, on Mother's Day I also wish for him to feel refreshed and taken care of. His energy goes to care for the whole family; it's like a family asset.
4. Something fresh and cold to drink.
Fizzy water, a smoothie, fresh juice — anything hydrating and refreshing. My sister stashed a couple of smoothies in my fridge one day and I guzzled them while nursing like a special treat. A jar of kombucha, a special bottle of mineral water, a homemade juice — nursing moms are almost constantly thirsty and appreciate something fresh to drink.
5. A week of breakfast.
Everyone thinks to bring dinner to new parents, but what about breakfast? Breakfast is what we need when we're at our most vulnerable. If someone had stocked my freezer with these breakfast sandwiches (or these), I would have kissed them, sloppily.
More on Cooking for New Parents: What You Should Really Bring Someone Who Just Had a Baby
6. A nursing station tidy-up.
When you're nursing a new baby all day, you probably have your spot. It's the place you sit in half the day, hopefully with a TV remote and iPhone charger close to hand. I had a big chair in the living room with tables on either side, lip balm and burp rags stashed beside it, and this is where I ate every meal and drank my coffee. By the time the baby was a month old, the cushions and the floor beneath were littered with crumbs and in dire need of a clean-up. Next time I have a friend with a new baby, I'm going to find her nursing spot, vacuum it up, and then restock it with bottled water and treats, as my own sister-in-law did before we came home from the hospital.
7. For no one (no one!) to walk through the door without food.
This is for the newest of new moms (and dads), but look, people — if you go to visit a new parent and don't take food, you're missing the obvious. I don't care if it's a box of crackers or a bunch of bananas — just bring something edible.
8. Flowers, everywhere.
My sister-in-law left flowers all over our house when we came home from the hospital and I loved it. During my maternity leave I bought bunches of tulips to spread in little vases throughout the house, and especially in my bedroom and at my nursing station; they were little points of bright color in long days and nights.
9. Reassuring words.
As much as I wanted to be a mom, I was surprised the first few weeks at just how shaken I felt, how overwhelmed and completely out of my depth. I felt like I had lost some mojo essential to feeling like an independent, capable woman. Would I ever be able to go back to work? Would I ever feel like myself again? In hindsight this sounds a little dramatic, but those first weeks are uniquely engulfing. I would have been so grateful to have someone say, "You don't feel like yourself, but you will. You don't feel capable of anything now, but you will."
10. And OK, fine ... a night of sleep.
I was trying to get through this list without acknowledging that greatest of clichés associated with Mother's Day: sleep for the sleep-deprived. But just this morning I looked my husband dead in the eye and said: "All I want for Mother's Day is to sleep all night. Like, for six hours." And he looked back in my eyes and promised me. And I don't care if it's a cliché — those six hours will be so sweet.
These are just my own little wishes for Mother's Day, spoken as someone new to the game. What about you? Do you have a new mom in your life, and if so, what's on your gift list?