Stephanie Hayes

How’s Mom doing? Not great, probably.

In many ways, things are better now than last year. There’s hope, vaccines and hugs. If you are lucky enough to have a mom, be a mom or know a mom, celebrate as best you can.

Still, it’s going to be a hard one. We lost so many mothers in this wretched year, and those families are aching. The mothers who are still with us have lost something, too.

Mother’s Day is shellacked in perfection, all flowers and presents and smiling photos, not to mention odd brunch combinations like crab legs and pudding parfaits in shot glasses. You know, brunch, pick a lane.

The holiday’s history is as complicated as the buffet. A woman named Anna Jarvis founded the event we celebrate in the United States. She wanted to bring attention to the unsung work of mothering — her own mom worked to fight childhood mortality — and boost women in a male-dominated world.

The interesting thing, though? Jarvis came to despise the holiday after corporations got their (crab) claws into it. She tried to remove it from the calendar and decried the cha-ching version of Mother’s Day to her death. Maybe it’s how the creators of “Baby Shark” feel.

What would Jarvis think of the stage set for moms now?

Things are not good, to be honest. A recent report from the World Economic Forum found the COVID-19 pandemic set gender parity back decades, and it was already behind.

Millions of women left the workforce, outpacing men. The COVID-19 crisis highlighted persistent problems, from disproportionate parenting demands to a lack of leave, child care or support from employers.

Moms have been pushed to their limits, and not just by trying to explain: If Josie has 456 blood oranges and Gustavo has 532 blood oranges, how many blood oranges does Peter have, and who is Peter, and when did he even get here?

If she struggled but tried, she made it.

If she spent the year working remotely, teaching science while taking Zoom calls. If she ventured out, working on the front lines. If she chose to stay home.

If she had help or did it alone. If she found joy in the garbage heap or couldn’t stop being sad.

If she brought life into the burning world. If she wanted to but couldn’t. If she conceived and lost.

If she was a grandmother separated from little ones or a stepmom meshed with a pod that suddenly meant something new.

If she was a foster mom, giving love to the poorest souls. If she was a chosen mom, taking in those rejected by their families.

If she was the best freaking mom to dogs in the world.

And what if she messed it up, and the whole situation seems beyond repair? What if she wants to try again? That’s the most generous part of life. Each day starts over.

So, have the brunch. There’s nothing wrong with brunch, other than some things people put inside quiche. But if Mom is worn out, not ready to perform for Instagram, let it be.

Maybe just check your email while she closes her eyes at the table.

She deserves a moment of peace.

— Stephanie Hayes is a columnist at the Tampa Bay Times in Florida. Follow her on Twitter: @StephHayes and Instagram: @StephHayes. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.