At this particular moment, I was still a teenager, sitting at the dinner table of my boyfriend's family, and he, his brother and his father were making fun of his mother. Teasing her. I sat in disbelief, looking at the full meal she had prepared, remembering the monthly meal planning she did, recalling that she sewed all of his patches on his jeans jacket immediately before she did all of the laundry. And the cleaning.
I was there because in my own house, my mother rarely cooked, and if she did, we just had to grin and bare it because she was not the best cook.I had been doing my laundry since I was nine. Any meal planning happened only around major holidays. In fact, my mom was not home too much because she worked a lot. I would go to my boyfriend's house as often as I was invited, for just as you could smell the inconsistency and tension in my house, you could almost taste the consistent stability in his.
Now, I am one of those people who chose never to have children, for a myriad of reasons, but I have to say, I have always been in awe of mothers. All mothers. Even the ones, who, like my mom, were not the best at "mothering." When a woman has children, she seems to lose her mind. This craziness comes on and can eventuall leave, or, it can stay forever. This is different from the craziness that all women are taught; to put everyone else's best interest before their own. No, this craziness is different, because you suddenly realize that you are capable of loving another so fiercely that it surprises you. Again, I am not speaking from personal experience, this is what I have been told by almost every mother I have spoken with about this topic.
So what is the point of my story? The one of my boyfriend's mother, who spent her time making sure her family had everything they needed while working a very big full time job of her own? The point is, one day a year is a pittance for what women have contributed to the betterment of the human race, but still, they do it anyway. Even when the "thank you" comes in the form of a single day of the year. Even when you sit at a table full of the food you have just lovingly prepared for your family and get teased by the ones you love the most.
No matter if your mother loved you the wrong way, wasn't there for you when you needed her, whatever, the expectation of all women is that we will take care of shit, and guess what? Generally, we do. I have never held a job where I wasn't in some way making up for my inept male boss, colleague, or customer I was serving. Consistently. Or, conversely, figuring out a polite way to let a co-worker or boss know that I was not interested in fucking him.
Please don't take this as a complaint or an attack. I am better for having experienced all these events. Believe me. But when I step back and see that the world is run by men, I understand completely why all of the money goes to war and corporations and very little of it is saved for children, old people and the environment.
It is hard to be thankful for one day a year. It is challenging to thank the dudes that awarded women one month a year. On today, the day without a woman, I am very aware of the very real situation for most women; they can't afford to take a day off. Not from their job, or from being a wife, or from being a mother, or from being a community organizer or anything else they do. It just isn't feasible. They do too much. They are too badly needed.
So on this day, The Day Without a Woman, International Women's Day, I am promising myself that I will do even more. I am setting my sights on not giving up. I am going to work until a Women's Day, Women's month, or any other such ridiculous thing, is not necessary. I am working towards a world where everyone, men and women of all colors and flavors will have EVERY DAY in which to celebrate each other. I am working toward a world in which people, and not profit, will be what is valued. I am working toward a world where companies are not measured by the profits they produce for their shareholders, but by the good they do for the societies they serve.
THAT is what it means to be a mother. To fight the good fight, and care for the people you can care for against all obstacles that are deliberately put there to keep you from doing so. And to keep going. Because you have to. Because you want to. Because people matter to you. Because the people you have brought into the world, who you love fiercely, remind you of all the other people in the world who also deserve that love.
That is what I learned that day from that amazing woman. That no matter how she was treated, she wouldn't be taking a day off. She would continue to plan out the meals and cook them, clean, wash, and sew all the things, and love her family in every way she could manage it.
Not because she had to, because she wanted to.
Happy International Women's Day. Don't worry, we won't give up. We don't know how.