The Saturday Night Live skit in which mom gets a robe for Christmas and nothing else while the rest of the family is showered with exactly what they wanted has hit a nerve. The skit is absolutely everywhere on social media.
People say that they are laughing until they cry and that’s because the best jokes are those with more than a kernel of truth. And the essence of this joke is no exception to that rule.
The kids and dad sing joyfully even aggressively about everything they’ve gotten for the holidays while mom gets a robe which, of course, she has to pretend to love because well…she’s the mom.
Even the dog does better than mom in the gift haul
It turns out that even the family pet does better than mom in the gift haul. In addition to his other gifts, the dog gets a robe just like mom, putting them on nearly level footing except for all the extra stuff that the dog gets.
The truth that is the foundation of this particular jest is so universal and so well-accepted and understood that this skit has resonated in a powerful way. Here’s the paradigm upon which it rests-mom does all the work and gets little to none of the reward, but she puts on a happy face anyway, even as her soul is hurting.
Whether explicitly taught or merely absorbed from society, women learn that their role is to sublimate their wants to those of the other members of their household, especially when they become moms. Holidays are more about fulfillment of others happiness than their own. When we think of moms- we think selflessness.
I personally got that message from my grandmothers. They would make grand holiday meals, plan them, cook them, serve them and then sit and watch with glee as we consumed every last morsel. And then they cleaned, asking for nothing, not even a helping hand.
And their joy was real, or so it seemed to me. I always felt like I was more selfish than that. I enjoy doing for my family and friends but I also enjoy having things done for me. For a long time that felt wrong or antithetical to being a good wife and mother. It’s even hard to admit it in writing as if it’s brave to say that you enjoy being gifted things.
When asked what she wanted for the holidays, grandma’s response was always, “I want you to be happy.” Did she really want nothing for herself, I wonder now? Was our happiness truly enough for her? Should my family’s happiness be enough for me?
Moms are handed these strong messages from society
We moms are given three clear messages:
- It’s unseemly to be demanding. Mom’s joy is derivative. Our true happiness should come from seeing our kids and our partners happy and we might add our parents to that list when we get into the sandwich generation years.
- The second message is that it’s not okay to want for yourself. Or maybe you can want but it’s not okay to give voice to that want.
- And finally, moms are expected to put on that mask of happiness, even when they are hurting.
But is this the legacy we want to leave our daughters? Maybe we’d rather tell them that no one needs to be aggressive with their wants, dreams, or desires but it’s okay to have them.
It’s okay to ask for what you want. It’s okay to expect to be treated like a person of value. It’s okay to put yourself first sometimes. In the family pecking order, it’s okay to come before the dog.
Let’s empower our daughters to ask, to expect, to receive with grace and to show us when they are hurting.
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