Nearly two years after my mother's death, I still think of her every day. And with Mother's Day coming up Sunday and the second anniversary of her death in July, she is more on my mind than usual.
Of course, this is not surprising since thoughts of my father who died thirty years ago are also constantly with me.
When the second of two parents dies, it's a passage for each of their children. With Mom and Dad gone, siblings left behind must face—like it or not—their own mortality. And that is an intimidating task.
What has consumed me lately is the very concept of motherhood and all of its awesome responsibilities.
The word "mother" is said to be one of the two most calming English words—the other is "home"—but I wonder in the 21st Century how many mothers find comfort in their roles.
The answer I suspect is disappointing. Given the number of new births, the consequences of poor parenting—and I include fathers—may be daunting.
Conditions for effective mothering have never been more challenging.
Big business's influence is one of the primary reasons
Children have always been prey for corporations seeking to maximize their bottom lines. But today advertising and marketing to children is more aggressive than ever.
Hamburger icon Ronald McDonald once preached to children about the importance of fastening their safety belts. In 2007, with the direct and indirect spending of the under-12 market estimated at $1 trillion, McDonald's has an entirely different message: Eat more Big Macs.
What's a mother to do? With most of them working, Moms have a tough time keeping their children properly focused when those same kids are subjected to 20,000 television commercials annually.
The more money parents spend on their children, according to an advertiser's subliminal message, the better parents they become.
Nothing is further from the truth, according to the Motherhood Project that is "working toward building a mothers' renaissance."
The project's mission is noble…and daunting.
The organization seeks to correct society's obsession with market values and profit-making. Instead, the Motherhood Project values "care work"—the nurturing of human beings.
According to its website, the Motherhood Project's goal is to transform American culture so that the values that currently dominate our lives — "radical individualism, consumerism, relentless work, the quest for material success" — don't totally eliminate the role for "care, connectedness, stewardship, and other values necessary for raising healthy, caring, ethical human beings."
I wish the Motherhood Project all the success possible. Certainly if it achieves its objectives, the world will be a better place.
But what would really help would be if young women and their partners contemplated the responsibility that child rearing entails before they have children.
In parenthood, reality frequently overwhelms expectations.
Each day, at my job at the Lodi Unified School District, I see plenty of women with children in tow. But it doesn't take much observation to realize that these women are mothers only in the biological sense.
Motherhood is a sacred responsibility. A good way to enter into it would be to be fully aware.
And consciousness can be raised from the early stages of pregnancy.
Instead of saying, "I'm going to have a baby" (which is really no trick) women should repeat as often as possible, "I'm going to be a mother. And I plan to do all that I can to be the best mother in the world."
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.