I love being a mom. I love having two amazing daughters and I’m ridiculously proud of the fact that I had a large part in creating those beautiful humans.
But I don’t love celebrating Mother’s Day.
Mother’s Day is not a happy day for everyone. It’s not always the blissful holiday florists, jewelry stores, and greeting card companies would have you believe. For some, Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of the mothers they no longer have in their life, or maybe never had. Others mourn broken relationships with their children, the loss of children, or maybe they haven’t been able to have the children they want at all.
Mother’s Day has long been bittersweet for me. Before becoming a mom myself, I spent my mother’s last few Mother’s Days visiting her in the nursing home where she lived. She suffered from Alzheimer’s and those final years of her life were not happy ones as I watched her fade from existence, one memory at a time.
Those were the darkest days I ever experienced as a daughter.
When I was pregnant with my oldest child, my mother died. I celebrated my first Mother’s Day with the painful knowledge that my mother would never get to meet my first born, or any of my future children. They would never get to know the beautiful woman she was and the loving abuela she would’ve been.
But now I was a mom and I had my own children to celebrate Mother’s Day with.
For my first seven Mother’s Days as a mom, what I thought would be a relaxing day, actually involved packing my young children into the car and driving two hours to my mother-in-law’s home. Every one of those years, we celebrated with my husband’s sister and mother without fail.
I was always a little bitter about those trips. I was often tired, especially when my daughters were very young. And even though it was a relatively short trip, it meant four hours of my special day was spent in a car, often with crying babies or cranky toddlers. I didn’t get the luxury of sleeping in and getting spoiled with breakfast in bed like other moms I knew. My breakfast was a quick one as I helped my husband load up the car with the many accessories needed to travel anywhere with little ones.
That was what was expected in my husband’s family and without my own mother to consider celebrating with, there was never a question about where we would spend the holiday.
Until one year I’d had enough. I wanted the gift of sleeping in. I wanted to spend the day with just my own children, just our little family. We tried to compromise. We celebrated with his mother on the Saturday before Mother’s Day and I got Sunday all to myself. It was beautiful.
It did not go over well with anyone else.
Tensions between my husband and my in-laws increased over the next few years over a mounting list of reasons that had little to do with me. We stopped visiting for Mother’s Day altogether.
For those three short-lived years, my Mother’s Day celebrations were almost sweet. My husband would take over the majority of the mom duties of the day. I was showered with handmade cards, breakfast in bed, and gifts my daughters had made in school. Dinner at a restaurant of my choosing usually followed.
But the continuing tension between my husband and his family meant that his anger was always simmering just beneath the surface and holidays of any kind were a trigger. I found myself walking on eggshells, playing the part of the grateful and happy wife, while feeling like a pawn in his family battles.
Then my husband was killed in a car accident and Mother’s Day celebrations took a drastic turn. Suddenly there was no one to orchestrate anything special on my behalf, no need for a big fuss. Mother’s Day was instantly simplified, reduced to just me and my children.
My daughters came home with gifts made at school and handmade cards. I made my own special breakfast and dinner. Despite the fact that Mother’s Day was now drama-free, everything was tinged with grief and it was hard to find the joy in the day.
It was a lonely time. I watched my Facebook feed with envy as friends and family shared pictures and posts about their happy Mother’s Day celebrations. As a single-mom and only-parent, I allowed myself to attend my pity party of one because I felt I’d earned it.
Now three years later, I’m remarried to a kind and loving man and once again Mother’s Day has taken on a different hue. My husband has no experience with being in charge of Mother’s Day and helping children celebrate their mom.
He wants to make me feel special, but it’s all new and foreign to him and he feels a bit overwhelmed.
In order to be helpful, I find myself in the position of having to come up with a plan to celebrate ME and it feels selfish. It feels indulgent and not in a good way. It feels like a lot of effort on my part just so I can feel celebrated and loved.
I’ve long given up on the notions of breakfast in bed (honestly that’s not as great as it’s made out to be anyway) and overpriced flowers and well-intended, but useless, trinkets with I Love Mom emblazoned on them.
All the things we are told are the keys to making Mom feel special set up expectations that are often followed by disappointment. I’m tired of the world telling me what Mother’s Day is supposed to look like or how I should feel or how my family should treat me.
I’m tired of my life never quite fitting into that perfect script.
A sincere, unsolicited I love you. A peaceful day outdoors with my family, where even the teenagers get along. That’s my wish list.
I don’t need an entire day dedicated to telling me how awesome I am as a mom. I already know I am because my amazing kids are a testament to everything I’ve managed to get right.