Let me donate blood. Get a mammogram. A root canal. Fill out a 30-page tax form. Anything but this. Anything but celebrate Mother’s Day.
It’s supposed to be a happy day. Never mind that I’m happy to be a mother, because every sentimental thought about mothers is like an ice pick jabbing me in the side. You don’t have a mom. You don’t have a mom. You don’t have a mom anymore. The day becomes not about who I am, but what I don’t have.
It’s supposed to be a pampered day. But I’m the kind of person that would rather not be celebrated just because Hallmark said today is the day you should do this. I appreciate the thought, I really do, but either they genuinely love me or they don’t. If they don’t, let’s not spend the day pretending. And if they do, why don’t they show it all year long? To me, the holiday simply sets up expectations that inevitably lead to disappointment. I’m not grateful enough, or my kids aren’t sincere enough. Either way, someone is disappointed. And on Mother’s Day, you’re supposed to want to spend time with your kids. What I’d really like is a break — not from them, but from responsibility. I look around at the other moms and their kids, skipping along with baskets of daffodils and giddy expressions, and I feel like I’m not enough. As though I’ve failed at this task of mothering because I don’t love it enough, don’t do it well enough.
It’s supposed to be a relaxing day. In spite of my kids’ good intentions, I am able to see through the day, over and over, how necessary I am, because even on Mother’s Day I’m needed to find a lost pair of shoes or figure out why the printer isn’t working or help decide on a topic for the paper that’s due tomorrow. I want to be necessary for my kids. I want to be the rock my mom was to me, the one person that, no matter how much she disagreed with how I spent my time or money, delighted in me.
And again, the sharp pain in my side, in my chest, in my heart. I don’t have a mom anymore.
Celebrate her anyway, some of you will say. Talk to her like she’s here. But she’s not. She’s really not. And I can’t celebrate her value and worth without an equal share of grief for what I’ve lost. I was lucky to have her. She was amazing, probably more so than I ever realized. And although she knew I loved her, I don’t think even I knew how much I loved her until she wasn’t there anymore.
And these thoughts — guess what? — lead to more feelings of failure. If I were a better mom, I wouldn’t let these things get me down. If I were a better mom, I’d be able to forget myself and let my kids celebrate me.
Immature, maybe. Irrational, probably. And still.
The thing is, I’m not a better mom. I’m just me, a woman trying to find my own way, lost without the one person who knows just how to be the mom I wish I could be to my kids. Feeling my way through each day, trying to be what my kids need me to be, trying to accept that my style of mothering doesn’t look like anyone else’s, hoping not to fail my kids even as I try to do all the other things I feel called to do. Knowing even as I make decisions day by day that they are not always ones Mom would have agreed with. Knowing she wasn’t perfect, either, and that nobody could get under my skin the way she did. Knowing that, no matter how much I fight it and try to shove down my anger, it’s all there because she was, in fact, such a stinkin’ good mom.