A Working Mom’s First Mother’s Day

Aili & son This will be my first mother’s day. Last year at this time I was only a few months pregnant. This year I have a big, squirmy boy, nearly 7 months old who has his own ideas about what he’d like to be doing. He loves sweet potatoes and seems to be on the brink of crawling. He grabs hold of my face and gives me big slimy kisses. What a difference a year makes!

I have been back at work for almost four months now. As the weeks of my maternity leave drew shorter, and I needed to prepare myself to leave Ernie during the day, I started to remind myself that I love my job. It has been my passion and my calling. Still, my first weeks back in the office were tough.

I sat down and wrote to my partners. I had thought about their organizations a lot during my leave. When I was pregnant, people told me that becoming a mother would change everything. I didn’t believe them at first, but I’ve found it to be true. While I have always been deeply passionate about Firelight’s work supporting vulnerable children, I shared with my partners that when I looked at my son, Ernest, the preciousness and vulnerability of each child’s life seemed to affect me even more powerfully. The experience of becoming a mother had increased my respect for the loving care our partners give vulnerable children and the important work they do setting up systems in their communities to support children and strengthen families.

My partners responded in full force. Each day when I opened up my email box, it seemed like there were new words to greet me and help with the transition.

Many welcomed me to the “club” of parents. One partner had given birth at about the same time as me and decided Ernie was good looking enough to marry her daughter. One of my older partners said she “was happy to note you look after our grandson in good health.” My partners told me he looked big, healthy, clever, and energetic--all those things a mother wants to hear.

Others responded to how motherhood changes your orientation to everything. My partners, who are the most committed to child wellbeing of any people I know, told me how their sensitivity to vulnerable children also increased when they had children of their own. One partner wished Ernest a “long happy and safe life in this troubled world,” noting the rise in cases of child abuse in his area. My partners cared for our new family the same way they care for all families who cross their paths:  with concern, understanding, and love.

Firelight approaches our grantmaking as partnerships with the organizations we fund. Part of building partnership is building connections to the individual people running the organizations we support. We want to stand with our partners through good times and hard times as a source of solidarity and support. But partnership is a two-way street. We receive the same kind of support from our partners. I have drawn my inspiration from their work, their commitment, and their resourcefulness.

As I returned to the office, their words of kindness and welcome buoyed me up and reminded me of why I am spending this time each day away from my son. And, as one partner pointed out, Ernie would become a new source of inspiration for my work to support vulnerable children.

As I spend my first Mother’s Day with my son, I honor all mothers, and each person who cares for children with love, kindness, and understanding. I give thanks there are so many of these people in the world.

A group of teenage students and two women smiling outdoors