Mothering heights

A shout-out to all of you childless singles out there, from the self-righteous mothers of the world!

Published May 10, 2009 12:18PM (EDT)

This Mother's Day, I finally know the true meaning of love. Yes, having children really does change you forever!

Most mothers volunteer this information to friends and strangers with equal enthusiasm, but personally, I tend to focus more on the gutter rat I was before I had a kid. What was wrong with me? Shuffling around in my socks all day, a sullen blur of messy hair and unraveling sweaters, plodding aimlessly over my dust bunny-covered floors, mooning over some complete jerk. I want to say to my single, childless self, Sweet Jesus, woman, have a little self-respect! Get your act together, at long last!

What excuse did I have, to be such a wreck? These days there's a perfectly good reason for my disheveled appearance and my unkempt home: I'm absolutely consumed by the love I feel for my offspring. Today my hair is a wreck and my house is filthy because I'm focused entirely on bathing my children in the white, glowing warmth of my infinite love.

But before! I cynically wrote off Mother's Day as just another corporate-sponsored greeting card holiday, simply because I was too distracted by my own self-obsession to see the truth. Did I believe in anything? No, I was skeptical and anxious to slice and dice everything, from the dysfunctional dynamics of my friend's crappy marriage to the utter repugnance of sappy holidays like Mother's Day. Did I stand for anything? Nothing that could be considered a cause, really, since I only cared about things that touched me personally: Feminism (I'm a woman), global warming (I could never stand being too warm), world peace (I hate fighting), and other minor issues, the usual array of petty concerns shared by unenlightened singles.

Now I care about children -- not just my child but the world's children, all of them, every last one. When I see a hungry child on TV, a great chasm opens up inside me, and my heart breaks right in half. It literally splits in two. I cannot tolerate the suffering of little babies! My compassion for them knows no bounds.

I also care deeply about education, because unlike most other people, I believe that children are the future. Teach them well and let them lead the way, I always tell people, but do they listen? No. They're too busy trying to find the right shade of lip gloss or the right pair of low-rise boot-cut jeans. They're as self-involved as I was back when I was a worthless, selfish drifter like them.

This Mother's Day, we deeply sensitive mothers should remind all of those self-involved, childless twerps out there that the only reason that children continue to starve is because the world isn't run by us, the deeply sensitive mothers. It's run by ignorant jerks and sewer rats (like the ones we were, before we had kids). As Sally Field once pointed out, if mothers ruled the world, there wouldn't be any goddamn wars. Instead, all of the nations of the globe would live in peace, visiting each other occasionally like good neighbors, to see the sights or borrow a tanker truck full of high-fructose corn syrup. If the world were run by mothers, we'd all have free healthcare, and we'd each have a knowledgeable, sensitive physician assigned to us, available to provide the highest quality care imaginable around the clock, at no extra charge. If mothers were at the helm, every single Katrina victim would live in his or her own safe, dry three-bedroom home, the economy would be flourishing, and organic free-range chickens wouldn't claw each other's eyes out all day, thanks to our Organic Free-Range Chicken Conflict Resolution Program. It would also be affordable for us to eat them.

But if the world continues to be run by cud-chewing childless slobs like the one I used to be, there's no hope for us. If the selfish whippersnappers of the world don't wake up and get serious, if they keep staying out late, drinking cold, delicious beer with their friends, cavorting about carelessly, laughing and laughing, flirting and having lurid little sexual encounters, their hard, firm, naked bodies fumbling up against each other, well ... then we're all in deep trouble. If those fickle fools keep giving in to the cheap, shallow lures of lively conversation and laughter and fun and hot sex, then we're all doomed.

It makes me feel so incredibly sad, this Mother's Day, to think that not only won't these unhappy singles receive a mass-produced greeting card (which I now recognize is a deeply significant expression of heartfelt emotion), but they might never know the real meaning of love, which involves doing six loads of laundry in a single day. My heart breaks to think they might never experience the indescribable joy and immense philosophical insights that arise from wiping the same little butts over and over again!

But since I'm a mother and therefore have undying compassion for all creatures, married and pathetic alike, I just want to wish a very happy Mother's Day to the lonely childless peoples of the world. While the rest of us are celebrating Mother's Day together, typically by bickering through another crappy spaghetti dinner in our overheated kitchens, we'll try to take a minute to remember the less fortunate among you, all alone out there, tossing back tequila shots with your hard, firm, sweaty young friends, no baby sitters to relieve, no Dora pull-ups to restock, no pricey life insurance premiums to pay, not a care in the world. Just keep in mind, as long as you choose the path of frivolous fun and empty sexual delights, you really have no one to blame but yourselves.

By Heather Havrilesky

Heather Havrilesky is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine, The Awl and Bookforum, and is the author of the memoir "Disaster Preparedness." You can also follow her on Twitter at @hhavrilesky.

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Family Motherhood Mother's Day