The Trickiness of Mother's Day

I love Mother's Day. But I’m not the biggest Mother’s Day fan.

I'm rather conflicted about it, to tell the truth.

Why would a woman lucky enough to be a mom, who also loves her own mom, be conflicted about Mother's Day? Several reasons, but mostly I worry about how the day can be so exclusive to a heartbreaking if not cruel degree. Consider the:
  • Woman who cannot have children
  • The daughter whose mom has died
  • The mother who lost her baby to SIDs
  • The woman who miscarried her twins
  • The woman struggling with infertility treatments
  • The child whose mom neglected or abused him or her
  • The woman who gave her baby to be adopted
  • The woman who delivered a stillborn baby
And on and on and on.

That’s not a list made up of outliers. It includes lots and lots and lots of women. Millions of them—our friends, aunts, sisters, neighbors, cousins, and even . . . moms. Hell, it’s probably half my readers. To me, the pain this day inflicts on so many makes MY day on the maternal throne seem . . . foolish. Why do I need a day to celebrate my momminess? Although I admit that I ADORE the little crafts Charlotte makes at school for me each year, my real payoff as a mommy comes in eskimo kisses, full-bellied laughs, and the tight, clingy hugs of my little girl. And let's not forget my second baby who I have yet to meet but who already makes me smile as he or she flips and dips in my tummy. Right now as I write, in fact.

Frankly, although young children are a LOT of work, 99% of it thankless, I can’t help but feel like I’ve won the freaking lottery.

And, well, I don’t think many of us think a day celebrating lottery winners is the best idea ever. You know?

Now, I understand that many of us enjoy HONORING our moms on Mother’s Day, and that’s great and valuable. However, I sort of suspect that my mom values a night at the theater with her first-born or the fact that she was the first one I called—before Chris—to say, “Holy shit, do you think I’ve gone into labor?” (Her answer, by the way, was “Naaaaaaah. I’m sure it’s false, dear.” Wrong! She had a grandchild by the next morning.)

That’s not to say Mums doesn’t deserve the pink-enveloped cards and phone calls she receives each year. It just that I don’t think it’s THAT big of deal to her. Mother’s Day seems to miss the big picture of motherhood.

I’m also a little cynical about Mother’s Day, because when I was a kid, my mom had to work twice as hard on Mother’s Day, usually planning and doing all the work for a brunch in order please a mother-in-law who, if we’re being honest, was extraordinarily difficult to please. Sure, we’d give Mom flowers and cards, and in preschool we made all sorts of dopey gifts that I’m sure she treasured, but that was pretty much it. And to my knowledge, my dad did absolutely nothing, because, as he put it, “she’s your mom, not mine.” Of course, Grandma was HIS mom, not Mom’s, but now we’re splitting hairs, right?

Then, when I was a kid, there was the “Mother’s Day Sermon” each year, which of course irritated my budding feminist sensibilities. The church bulletin would be specially clad in some sort of full-color floral design (usually gladiolas—a flower my mom always had pinned as a funeral flower). The sermon might discuss the virtue of motherhood and it being the fulfillment of God’s purpose for womankind and their uteruses (again, what of those without children?), praise motherly martyrdom, or remind husbands to man up and treat the mothers of their children with the love and respect they deserved (okay, I liked the sermon that year).

Finally, there’s the fact that Hallmark—and consumerism in general—has stolen what, in its initial, purest purpose, was a simple “Hey mom, you did good. And I love you.” This year’s Hallmark commercial, with its snotty women saying “TELL ME you love me/TELL ME I’m a non-crappy mom” and so on, which verges on “SEND ME AN EFFING CARD, WOULD YOU?”  threatens to poison whatever sincere sentiment the card-sender may have, what with Mom Expecting Her Due and all. And that’s just sort of unattractive. In fact, when Chris started stressing about cards, I told him to not bother getting me one. “Seriously,” I told him. “I’m not going to be sitting there, testing you and Charlotte, to see if I can check off the ‘Received Card’ box on my Mother’s Day List of Expectations.”

But who would dare test that? Oh, I’m sure I’ll receive sweet cards from my girl and her daddy. And you what? They'll probably make me cry like they do every year. (See? I'm CONFLICTED about Mother's Day!)

Then there’s the consumerist crap beyond cards, like the jewelry commercials hocking heart-shaped this or that “to show Mom how much you really care.” First of all, if my mom received a heart-shaped necklace from me, she’d hopefully say, “Lord have mercy, where did you find this heinous thing?” More importantly, mommies don’t gauge their babies’ love for them by what they buy. It’s sort of insulting that stores and companies are trying to rob the good of Mother’s Day, trying to make the handmade-card-and-breakfast-in-bed sweetness seem cheap.

I actually feel a little bad writing this post, because I know there are tons of people who LOVE Mother’s Day. It does indeed have lots of good parts. I, for one, intend to lobby heavily for French toast on Sunday morning, and I can’t wait to hang up whatever Charlotte makes in my office, next to her Mother’s Day crafts from 2010 and 2011.

I do think these innocent, fun little traditions are valuable, and of course we should honor our mommies. I just fear that devoting a day to moms that simultaneously excludes so many women, often very painfully and in ways that so many mommies cannot comprehend, well, it just seems a little smug on the mommies’ parts. I don’t have an answer, because I’m not so sure that giving Mother’s Day the finger (like so many have with Valentine’s Day) is the right move. Some women participate in International Bereaved Mother’s Day, which I can barely type without getting choked up, and that I think is a fantastically beautiful way to honor these mothers and the little ones they’ve lost. But what about infertility? Or children whose moms abused or neglected them? Those without moms, period? Perhaps we could, in our own little ways, expand the day to celebrate women in general, high-fiving those women who helped make us so awesome, our daughters who light up our worlds, the aunts who openly adored (and spoiled) us, the girlfriends who make us laugh and who send our toddlers Easter goodies and purple monkey stuffed animals?

This year, Mother’s Day coincides with Chris’s 30th birthday. Technically, we’re celebrating Chris’s birthday at the Edgewater Hotel (our faaaaaavorite spot) in Seattle in a couple weeks. In the meantime, I’m relieved that we’re sharing May 13, because it means that neither of us have to guess what the other wants or expects. Nothing particularly special is planned, except a nice dinner on Saturday and maybe something a little extra fancy (French toast! French toast!) on Sunday morning. Oh, and Chris will open gifts. Mainly, we’re devoted just to ensuring the other person has a nice, relaxing, pleasant day. Shared.

So, until I blog again, Happy Mother's Day to the mom who raised me with oodles of love and cuddles and who is a spectacular nana to Charlotte Marie; to Chris's mom who adores and can tirelessly entertain her youngest grand girl and who raised one heck of guy to whom I'm lucky enough to be wedded; to Auntie Cheryl, who talked Mom into letting me get my ears pierced when I was 6 and who was my home away from home during the SoCal years; to the women who watched Chris grow up, who now LOVE and dote on his little brown-eyed-girl, and who eagerly await the arrival of #2; to my girls--Charlotte's faunties--who spoil Charlotte from afar and will all make amazing mommies when that day comes; to my Grandma Belle, who is willing to travel from California to Maryland at the age of 87 just to see a grandkid and great-greatkid she's not even related to; the school teachers and church c-group leaders (you know who you are!) who made me--and countless other girls--smarter and better; and to Charlotte Marie, the most amazing girl ever, who made me a mommy and who I know will be an incredible big sister. I love you all!


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