There’s a little anecdote about mothers that’s been going around the internet for some time, and it pops up in many variations. It goes something like this:
When I was a child, my mother would always run back into the house when we were getting ready to leave for vacation. Everyone else was in the car, but she’d always go back and spend such a long time. I never could figure out what she was doing.
Then, I became a mother and I realized what she was doing.
She was doing everything.
Moms are the keepers of everything. There are a thousand little things that they take care of that kids and other adults even don’t see. They are the invisible hand that makes sure there’s always food in the pantry and the magical beings that poof birthday cakes out of nowhere.
Need a pair of socks? Mom knows where to find them.
A snack in the middle of night when you wake up with a nightmare? Mom will pull one out of a hiding spot.
Dropped a lump of burrito on your fencing jacket while eating between bouts at competition? Mom can get the stain out before the next round.
Knee scraped? Headache? Tummy troubles? Mom will come out with a solution to ease your ailments.
It doesn’t matter where they are or what their child needs, moms always have a way of finding a solution. It’s why we come back to them again and again, not just as children but as adults, too. Though moms can’t fix all of the things in the world that are wrong, they do always offer us hope that there is a solution.
When the problems are too big for mom
Mother’s Day is celebrated all over the world, including in the Ukraine. In Ukraine, it’s held on the second Sunday in May, just as it is in the United States. Normally, the sidewalks are covered in chalk messages and gatherings are held in public squares to show appreciation for the mothers of the country.
The problem of the war against Ukraine is one that we wish desperately could be fixed simply, but it’s so massive and ongoing that there is no simple solution. Instead, families are left to make their way as much as they can.
In times of war, including what we are seeing in Ukraine, mothers are ripped from their support systems and pushed to care for their children in the most horrendous and arduous circumstances. Women choose to leave their husbands behind and go it on their own for the safety of their children. In Ukraine, fighting-age men are not allowed to leave the country. This means that mothers are on their own. It’s a terrible situation for everyone.
Refugee mothers are among the biggest problem solvers in the world. They must find a way to feed and clothe their children, to soothe them in a foreign place that is nothing like home. We see this in refugee camps for those fleeing any conflict zone in the world. Mothers with young children walk out into a world that is totally foreign to them, unsure if their children will ever make it back home.
If you hear the bombs dropping, how do you find a place to go? We think of the mothers in Kyiv who hid with their children in bomb shelters, and are still hiding, playing games and singing songs to quell those fears. They do the best they can for their children and hope that they will see the sunlight again.
When you and your child cannot speak the language of the country you are taking refuge in, how do you find a way to feed your little one? There are stories of mothers from Ukraine living in other countries as refugees. Women who are finding schooling and financial support to get their children through the crisis on a timeline that they are so unsure about.
We encourage you to read their stories. Here are some links where you can find the tales of refugee mothers in Ukraine and elsewhere.
- Generations of Ukrainian Women Flee War, Share Their Stories
- Ukrainian women share the realities of caregiving on the front lines of war
- The strength of a mother’s love: Extraordinary stories of refugee women and girls caring for others
- Inside the Harrowing Journeys of Refugee Mothers
The ultimate connection between mothers
Refugee mothers in Ukraine and elsewhere can seem very far away, but they are not that different from our own mothers right here at AFM. We are very lucky to have a stable and safe place to nurture our children, where support networks are out there and where we can build a future for them.
The situations are different, but the heart of motherhood is the same.
We see reflections of mothers who travel with their children to fencing tournaments, looking after every detail with care. We see it in mothers who have walked their children through pandemic lockdowns and a tumultuous couple of years that redefined how our society interacts. We see the same heart of motherhood in families challenged by financial strain, illness, and built in bias that exist right here in America. All the while, we watch mothers juggle all of the things and keep their children afloat.
Mothers are the thread that runs through culture, no matter where you are. They are the foundation that takes care of every detail, and most of the time it goes unnoticed. When it’s time to hit the road for a road trip, get ready for the school dance, or prepare for a fencing competition, moms are there to ensure that it all goes smoothly.
Why do they do this? Why take care of everything and magic the world together? There is only one answer – it’s a mother’s love. Mom is in the kitchen loading the dishwasher so the house is “magically” clean the next morning because she wants the family to have a beautiful space. A Ukrainian mom maneuvers her way through border after border, carrying diapers and washing clothes in a sink when everyone is asleep because she wants her children to have a future.
If you’re a mom, we hope that you can put your feet up and let someone else do all of the things for a day. If you love a mom, we ask that you give that mom some space to sit down and you can do all of the things for a day. Maybe, just maybe, we can all keep doing more of the things so that mom doesn’t have to do everything.
This Mother’s Day, what we have to say to every mother out there is that we see you. We appreciate you. We recognize all of the millions of things that you do, and we see the impact that they have on our lives. Here’s the other thing we want you to know – you matter, just because you’re you. We don’t love you because you *poof* all of the positive things into existence, we love you because you are you.