Simply reading the title of this blog may elicit a plethora of emotions and expectations. Reading it knowing that this will be the first Mother’s Day I celebrate without my mom, may make some cringe and think, “Oh boy, another post about death and darkness.” I’m not feeling one way or the other about Mother’s Day this year, and maybe it’s because I’ve never been one to fully engage in what I once heard described as “Hallmark Holidays.”
A few years ago, I read an excellent blog post by Anne Lamott about Mother’s Day (Salon, 2010) and I revisited it again yesterday on the advice of a friend. Anne Lamott did not raise her son to celebrate Mother’s Day. I wish I had that insight when my kids were young, but I was too hung up on cultural norms and guilt and control. I expected my husband to perform, when the kids were too small, and make sure the kids got me a present, blah, blah blah.
I am a mother of two incredible children, but what does that mean – being a mother? Does that mean I should never leave them alone with any one that isn’t related until they are old enough to tell me if anything bad happened? Does that mean I should sacrifice things I may enjoy to be a stay at home mom? Does it mean I should put all my needs on hold while parenting my children? Does it mean I should attend every game, recital, parent visiting day at school, etc.? Well yes and no. It depends.
What if staying home with my kids makes me angry and resentful? What if finding a balance between work and home brings me peace? What if I find safe, nurturing people who enjoy being with kids 8 hours a day while I do things that make me feel confident and darn good about myself? Does this make me unworthy of Mother’s Day cards? Am I the reason the current generation is so self-centered and out of control? (As most generations feel about the younger one). Or am I simply a human being who doesn’t meet the expectations of those sickening verses on Mother’s Day cards?
My sister and I used to hate picking out Mother’s Day cards – okay maybe we didn’t hate it because we used our humor to help us through. We made fun of them and made up what a true verse would sound like coming from our family. It was difficult to find a card that was true; our childhood was not rainbows and cupcakes, but we loved and admired our mom for many things. However we didn’t love and admire her for any of the things that are written about in those verses. I don’t remember my mom being around much when I was younger. My mom struggled with many issues – and I bet a big one was trying to live up to the societal norms of motherhood – and boy oh boy – I think that one can really mess with you.
My mom and I lived together as adults; she lived with me and my family. Ninety percent of those 13 years were just fine. The last few were very, very, very difficult. I went to therapy during those years, and I remember one of my first sessions complaining about the stress in the home and saying, “I would never ask my mom to leave!” My therapist responded with something like, “That sounds like a really dangerous and unhealthy statement.” I had this Mother’s Day verse mentality. She did not tell me to kick my mom out, but she pointed out to me that in some homes, it just doesn’t work. If my mom got too sick or mentally ill, or if the tension just got to be too much, I would of course need to look at other options. Once I created some space away from the Mother’s Day verse, I was able to exhale and see how difficult and tense this Mother/Daughter Dance had become. I was then able to be kind (most of the time), lower my expectations, ask others for help, and most importantly: not feel guilty about it being so damn difficult sometimes.
It feels good to throw off the old ideas I carried for so long. Not just about Mother’s Day, but Valentine’s Day, our Wedding Anniversary, even big ones like Christmas or birthdays. I am turning 50 in a few months, and I am throwing my own party! It won’t make me feel any more or less loved or valued if you do it for me! Just like tomorrow – Mother’s Day – doesn’t mean I need to sit in a chair with my feet up – that would just feel stupid to me. Being a Mother means I birthed a child – if you didn’t – it shouldn’t make you any more or less valuable than me. In fact – having a special day just comes with baggage about how I’m supposed to act, and it gets in the way of the true me, and for me, it gets in the way of true joy.
One disclaimer: if you are a mom and feel good about being with your kids 24/7 – that is awesome for you, but not for everyone. Maybe this is just my issue, but I feel a lot of times we moms are posturing to be close to others that are just like us so that we can judge the ones that are different. Not all families need the same things emotionally. Not all kids need to be parented the same way. Not all couples need the same things for their relationships to be successful. It’s okay. It’s okay. (I say this twice as a mantra for myself). There isn’t a template for human relationships – it always all depends.
One of the best things about being a mom – is finally letting my mom off the hook. Finally realizing that those silly storybook or Hollywood or Leave It to Beaver moms where not REAL. I am not a perfect mom – nor do I want my kids to see me as perfect for that may set up some sickness in them to go out and be perfect. We are all raised by human beings and I have yet to meet one that is perfect. Real moms come with baggage . . . and personalty. The personality is what brings me joy. I laughed so hard with my mom at times that I cried. She was a goof, and I loved her. I can’t fit her into a verse on a Mother’s Day card. I certainly will take some time tomorrow to remember her, and miss her, but guess what, I kind of do that everyday.