Guilt and the Modern Mother’s Day

I can’t help thinking Anna Jarvis would be proud.

Yesterday, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were flooded with meaningful posts and photographs commemorating mothers of all ages.

Many of us felt joy seeing photos showing generations of hard-working moms grouped together, younger versions of moms whose minds or bodies have suffered and tributes to those who have left us too soon.

blog - Justin mother's dayYesterday the nation’s 85 million mothers – as well as their children and spouses — celebrated the fruits of Anna Jarvis’ labors. Jarvis, a native of Webster, WV, is considered the driving force behind Mother’s Day’s founding 100 years ago.

The tenth of 13 children born to Granville and Ann Jarvis, Anna gained inspiration from her mother as she embarked on a meaningful career, and cared for her mom in her later years.

Her idea for giving mothers their day in the sun came to fruition when Jarvis was nearly 60 years old, as President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Mother’s Day.

Yes, the holiday has been over-commercialized, and many of us cringe at the sappy TV commercials, the endless racks of greeting cards and the bountiful, over-priced displays of chocolates and flowers.

Jarvis experienced the beginnings of this commercialization, and, according to the book Women Who Made a Difference, once stated that “a printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself.”

I hope Permission Slips readers were able to convey and receive meaningful messages yesterday. Most important, I hope you treasured the teacher-led classroom projects, the hand-written cards, the texts, voicemails and electronic tributes. (Pictured here is a Mother’s Day painting from my second son, a dozen years ago. It still hangs in my office.)

And, finally, I give you mothers permission to continue to struggle with this lifelong, confusing, contradictory, overwhelming and incredibly rewarding job. In my opinion, this conundrum is best explained by the esteemed essayist Anna Quindlen, who gives mothers permission to accept their imperfections and mistakes. I, for one, take solace in these words.

–       Linda Williams Rorem, 12 May 2014
To subscribe, email
Follow us on Twitter @PermissionSlips, and please “like” our Facebook page

Just Another Day in the Life

Last Saturday started much like any other. Son #3 needed to arrive at the high school by 7 am to catch a bus for a cross-country meet. Sadly, we wouldn’t see him run, as we had committed to watching #2 son’s high school football game in Idaho, just across the state line.

So, at 6:15 I woke #3 and his friend, who had spent the night, tried (unsuccessfully) to interest them in breakfast, packed a bag of protein bars, water and cheese snacks, and delivered them to the school with 30 seconds to spare.

Then, it was back home to wake my daughter and get her to a mother-daughter charity-league meeting by 8 am. There, I ate a bagel, drank a cup of decaf and communed with friends. At the meeting’s conclusion, I passed my girl off to her aunt and cousins, who would take her for the day.

My husband met me in the dog park with “son” #4 (the Golden-doodle), so we could exercise him before heading for Idaho.

Next, it was off to the airport for our noon flight to Spokane (my husband wisely suggested we fly instead of drive; because he travels for work, we have plenty of frequent-flier miles).  Lunch was a bag of trail mix purchased in the airport gift shop.

We battled traffic en route to the field (some 40 miles away), arriving just in time for the game’s start. It was a beautiful, sunny day; the team played well, but lost. Our son played well, but not as much as we had hoped. We communed with the many parents who had made the trip the prior evening, ate soft-serve ice cream and popcorn for a second lunch, and at the game’s conclusion, rushed back to the airport for our 6:30 flight home – the last one out of Spokane that evening.

Back in Seattle, we collected our daughter, checked in with #3 son, played with the dog and settled in for the evening. I gave my husband “permission” to watch the Huskies game he had taped (the team played poorly, and lost); my daughter and I rented a movie (I missed most of it; very uncharacteristically, I spent most of the time on the phone). Dinner was… hmmmmm… I think I grabbed a yogurt at about 9 pm.

Did I mention it was my birthday?

Many years ago, I would have felt very crabby about spending my birthday in such a fashion. I always had high expectations for a fantastic day, but never knew how to let others know what I wanted or anticipated. Perhaps this was because I came at the tail end of a large family, or maybe because I lacked the skills and confidence to assert my wishes; at any rate, I almost always ended my special day feeling underappreciated and disappointed.

As a mom, it was worse. I soon learned that “special days” are a myth; our duties and pressures don’t cease on Mother’s Day and birthdays, despite the best efforts of spouses and kids. So, I often felt cranky about having to chauffeur, cook, clean up, cajole and cheerlead on those “vacation days.”

Over the past few years, Carol (my friend and blogging partner) and I have worked to practice what we preach. We spend our work time discussing and writing about how women need to give themselves permission for breaks; to take care of their own mental and physical needs, so they can remain happy and healthy enough to help others.

So, a while back, we started treating each other to an annual birthday lunch (her big day comes four days after mine) in a waterfront neighborhood about 30 minutes from our homes. We would dress up, drive towards the Puget Sound, walk along the beach, soak in the sunshine and clean, salty air (Septembers in Seattle are spectacular) and then stop for a long lunch.

The change of scenery and routine always made us feel that we had taken a mini vacation.

This year, we instead rented a two-person kayak near the University. We enjoyed a picture-perfect Seattle day, paddling in calm waters under sunny skies. Those few hours served to re-energize both of us, and our personal happiness cups were filled.

I didn’t stop there, though. Knowing that Saturday would be somewhat occupied, I booked a spa visit for Friday afternoon. In all honesty, I’m a low-maintenance gal; my friends say I should spend more time on my hair, makeup, nails and skin. I do prioritize time for work outs every day, but otherwise take a very “au naturel” approach to my appearance. So, the spa trip was definitely an unusual treat.

At a lodge northeast of my home, I soaked in an outdoor hot tub while sipping herbal tea, and then underwent an “exfoliating body wrap” and an “anti-aging facial.” I felt pampered, relaxed and rejuvenated. And so, between the spa and the kayak, time with friends and time to reflect, I had taken care of me.

Others would treat me later on. My husband and kids booked a brunch for the day after my birthday, and a good friend and her daughter invited my daughter and me to dinner Sunday night. Other friends scheduled a birthday lunch for later in the week.

So, while my actual birth date wasn’t all that special, I still felt happy and well-cared for (and my skin felt fabulous). Because of that, I was able to enjoy what the day brought, instead of focusing on what was missing. And, back at home, many wonderful surprises awaited: flowers, gifts, cards, emails, texts and phone messages, and a Facebook page filled with lovely notes from good friends from throughout the years.

Yes, it was just another day, but it was a wonderful one.

 – Linda Williams Rorem, 10 Sept. 2012
To subscribe, email
Follow us on Twitter @PermissionSlips

Cherishing Mothers and Sons

In the past few weeks, a former colleague lost her 18-year-old son to a tragic bike accident, and a 17-year-old who plays football with my sons lost his mother to cancer.

I’ve heard of a spate of deaths recently – parents of good friends, the beloved grandmother of a student, the 2-year-old nephew of an acquaintance – but none hit me as hard as the teenage boy and the mom.

Perhaps that’s not surprising, because after all, I am a mom raising teenage boys.

Much has been written about the relationship between fathers and sons – often tormented, loaded with pressures and expectations. However, as the mom of three boys, I’m partial to the connection between mothers and sons.

Years ago, when I took walks or made grocery-store trips with my sons (often with one in a backpack and two in the stroller or cart), strangers would stop and say, “Oh, you’re so lucky; boys always love their mothers.”

I do feel that way. Sure, the “terrible two’s” were exhausting and we have battled over schoolwork, curfews and cars, but we haven’t endured long stretches of silence. For the most part, life with boys is drama-free: they say their peace and move on.

It’s different with daughters. From what I understand, I’m about two years away from a seismic shift in my pre-pubescent 12-year-old girl.

Although she still exudes sweetness, I know Pea will soon perfect the eye-roll and will rebel in her own way, to prove how different she is from me. At about 14, she will become a card-carrying member of the “I hate my mom club,” and will keep her membership active for about two years. I plan to spend some time appearing stupid and nerdy in her eyes.

Afterwards, I trust, she will come back and serve as my ally forever.

But between mothers and sons, that dynamic doesn’t exist. They know they’re different from me and have nothing to prove. We relate fairly well, and I take very seriously my role as a nurturing force, moral guide and “disaster-prevention specialist.”

And so, without apology I will continue to doze on the couch and await their arrival home every night. I will kiss them good night and say, “I love you.”  I will send texts when they’re out, and ask to be apprised of location changes. I will remind them to wear seatbelts, not to text behind the wheel and to use designated drivers. I will ask about their friends, and forge relationships with those they love.

I give myself permission to remain actively involved in my sons’ lives, because we need each other, and—as recent events have reinforced—no one knows how much time we’ll have together.

–        Linda Williams Rorem, 22 June 2012
To receive these posts directly, please email

French Notes

notes for French

On Loving Lucy

A father's memoir (in progress)


My experiences working with young children shared.

8766 Days and Counting!

Let's fall in love with life. :)

welcome tahome

food | drinks | friends | night life | resorts

Mind's Seat

Set your mind on the things above

Linnea Garcia

(Self) Publishing Troubles and Success

Fisticuffs and Shenanigans

It was all fun and games, until the fisticuffs and shenanigans... -Deutschmarc

Jessica L. Arrant

Blogging on Kids and Behavior [and Beyond]

cancer killing recipe

Just another site


Smile! You’re at the best site ever

%d bloggers like this: