To all the mothers! May you celebrate today all the ways you pour your body, breathe, and blood into your families. You have a particular kind of wisdom that the country needs right now.
You know that birthing new life can feel like drowning, like dying. You can teach us how to breathe and push, and breathe again through our country’s Transition.
You know that love gives you strength you never knew you had. You love even when your nipples are bleeding or perineum torn or sleep only comes in 29 minute increments. You love even when the toddler breaks all your dishes. You love even when the teenager keeps to their room with secrets never meant for you. You love even when they don’t call you or hurt you or hurt others. You choose to love anyway.
You know that the world will judge you for how you love. Got an epidural? You must not be strong enough. Unmedicated birth? You’re backwards. Using formula? That’s why your baby is sick. Still nursing after a year? You’re weird. Stayed at home? You gave up on yourself. Working? You must not love your children enough. Single parent, divorced, or with a same-gender partner? You’re ruining your child. Husband-wife household? Something must be wrong. Public school? You’re not giving your kid her best chance. Private school? Sell out. And on and on. You choose to love anyway.
You know that love costs you. Time. Money. Freedom. Professional opportunities. And peace of mind. Will you be able to make rent this month? Save enough for college? Protect them from bullying? Prepare them for the world? Pursue your own dreams? It’s a constant cascade of questions, a crowd of sorrows. But you choose to love anyway.
You know that love brings grief. For the moment your babies are born, they are moving away from you. You will never be able to hold them as newborns again. They will never even know how you love them. They may take all your money and youth and never thank you once. Love does not promise you anything in return, for love is not an exchange economy. But you choose to love anyway.
You love because something deep in you knows that love is the greatest human experience. And Mother-Love is a fierce form of love. It’s not special or perfect. It simply offers a particular kind of magic. Each of us are capable of tapping into it, no matter who we are.
Our country needs Mother-Love right now.
At this moment, cruelty, demagoguery, and authoritarianism rule our country. Families are torn apart by deportations, detentions, border walls, pipelines, and policies that fuel hate crimes. American democracy itself is at stake. And those inoculated by their privilege are tempted to retreat into the safety afforded by wealth or white skin. Duty is not enough to sustain us in the fight for the soul of our country. Hope is not enough either.
But if we choose to love one another with a fraction of a mother’s love for her child, what might we accomplish? Love becomes revolutionary.
Our culture has denigrated love as too sentimental, too soft, too anemic, too fickle to be a political force. “Patriarchy has always seen love as women’s work, degraded and devalued labor,” says bell hooks. But our great social justice leaders from Gandhi to King talked about love as the strongest force on earth. They knew that love is a wellspring that can never run dry and can give rise to courage and strength we did not know we had. Love is the choice to extend our will for the flourishing of others, our opponents, and ourselves. Love can sustain movements.
I understand if you are suspicious of love as a public ethic. I was too. As a lawyer, I was trained to cringe at the word. But when I gave birth to a son, I saw my own mother with new eyes. I saw all the ways she had poured her body, her breath, her blood into me. I saw my mother as a warrior with lessons on love to teach me.
What can we do today on Mother’s Day? Let’s talk about love. New mothers, tell us what that first love was like. Experienced mothers, tell us how you sustain love through so many seasons. All of us, let’s ask our mothers and those who have mothered us: What does love mean to you? How can we practice love? And how can we harness the wisdom, energy, and magic of that love in the world around us? I know no better way to honor our mothers and grandmothers than to celebrate their wisdom, and share it with the world. Happy Mother’s Day!