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One of the hardest parts of growing up is the change in your world view.
When you’re little, your parents can do no wrong, every holiday is a blast, and the world isn’t that scary. Some of us are forced to grow up more quickly than others, but at some point, our vision of the world changes. As we age, we begin to lose our innocence, and pain and experience shape us.
I’ve always loved holidays, and have been known to play Christmas music in the summer and request a celebratory birthday month, much to my husband’s annoyance.
But every year I gain a better understanding of why so many people struggle with holidays.
I hated my very first Mother’s Day.
As someone who yearned for years to get pregnant and have a child, I couldn’t wait for Mother’s Day. Naturally, I had an idyllic image of breakfast in bed and handmade gifts, and though I wasn’t naive enough to expect those things for my very first Mother’s Day, there was no way I could have known how awful that day would be.
My baby was four months old and in a body cast. She’d just had hip surgery a few weeks before and was still in massive amounts of pain. She was crying constantly, and I was a wreak, exhausted, and my postpartum depression was at its very worst.
Our life was a disaster. I was a disaster.
It was also the week of our fifth wedding anniversary, but we couldn’t even go on a date. We couldn’t leave my baby with anyone else because she was so distraught, and we couldn’t take her out with us because it was so overwhelming for her.
Our Mother’s Day date consisted of a brief walk.
We made it halfway to the park (where we planned to sit and chat) before my mother-in-law called saying my baby needed me. We turned around and walked back to our house as quickly as possible as tears streamed down my cheeks.
That evening I grieved the loss of my first Mother’s Day.
I’ve changed a lot since that day two years ago, and while I can recognize that my situation was unique and I was in the worst depression I’d ever experienced, it also played a role in my journey of discovering that motherhood isn’t what I thought it would be.
My rose-tinted glasses are long gone, and the newfound clarity has given me more compassion and love for others.
I’ve been through some crap, no doubt about it. And though my struggles are my own and they’re valid, I’m constantly struck by how much worse it could all be.
My heart breaks for the moms who’ve lost babies. Tears fill my eyes when women talk about their struggles with conceiving, the challenges of being a single mom, or losing their own mom at a young age and not having that support system.
Being a mom is SO FREAKING HARD, and we’re all just doing the best we can.
That’s why I’m so tired of Mother’s Day.
A couple of weeks ago in therapy, I was going over my upcoming calendar with my therapist, and she asked how I felt about Mother’s Day. I gave a noncommittal shrug and said that I just wasn’t really that excited about it.
She pressed for more, and I let loose.
The commercialization of Mother’s Day has made it completely unreasonable. What should just be a day of celebration for the hard work that you do 365 days a year has become a day that revolves around elaborate cards, jewelry, bouquets of flowers, chocolates, very expensive brunches, and breakfast in bed.
(Soapbox: what’s the deal with breakfast in bed? Movies act like it’s something all mothers want, and children are supposed to just know how to do it. This seems unnecessarily messy and sticky to me, and I don’t feel like cleaning it up.)
The reality is that moms don’t get a day off. Someone is still going to have to clean up the dishes leftover from breakfast, wrestle whiny kids into the car, and go to a big family dinner when they’d rather be in pajamas watching Netflix.
And then there are the women who can’t bear the pain of Mother’s Day.
The woman at church who aches to be a mom, and watches a child run past her to hold someone else’s hand. The mom whose children no longer speak to her, so she eats a quiet dinner alone. The young mom who never got to repair her relationship with her mother before she passed.
If Mother’s Day is hard for you, I’m so, so sorry.
But I want you to know that it’s okay to feel that way. You’re allowed to feel sad, angry, confused, or broken.
What you’re not allowed to do is let those feelings define you.
You can be sad, but you are not a sad person. You can feel broken, but that doesn’t mean you are broken. Mama, you are more than the sum total of your feelings and emotions, and you are stronger than you think.
So here’s what I’m proposing:
You decide what Mother’s Day looks like to you. You choose how, if, and with whom you will celebrate.
When my therapist asked me what my ideal Mother’s Day looked like, I replied that I’d love a day alone in a clean hotel room where I can sleep, watch TV, and eat whatever I want.
We talked about how some moms would prefer to spend Mother’s Day with their children or their own moms, and how some don’t actually know what they’d like to do – they just go along with what they think their family wants them to do on that day. My therapist even suggested that some moms might feel guilty not spending the day with their children (something I never even considered, because #worldsokayestmom).
If this is true, this needs to change now.
Take back Mother’s Day.
Mama, you get one day a year to celebrate how awesome you are. And you are awesome, in case no one has mentioned it lately.
Make a list of what you’d like for Mother’s Day.
Maybe for you, Mother’s Day means church and family brunch. If you’d love for your kids to make you breakfast in bed and give you homemade gifts, that’s awesome. Maybe you’d love jewelry and a movie with your husband. Or maybe you want to stay in your bed all day and read your mom’s diary and look at her pictures.
All of these options are completely acceptable. If you choose to break traditions, don’t let anyone make you feel bad. Talk to your spouse and/or children and discuss expectations. Help them understand what you need on Mother’s Day.
And if Mother’s Day still isn’t everything you hoped and dreamed it would be, that’s okay, too. Make a list of 10 things you’re grateful for, and say a prayer for all the other moms out there hurting that day.
You are not alone, Mama. And no matter what you’re going through or how much stress Mother’s Day causes you, you can choose joy. Even if it’s in the form of ice cream, hours of Netflix, and laugh-crying at stories from your favorite bloggers.
Leave a comment below with what you do on Mother’s Day, and if you need to grow your support system, check out How to Make Mom Friends with the Help of Social Media.
Thank you for this post. Mother’s Day is NOT something that everyone celebrates with joy. Everyone’s life circumstances are different.
Ashley McKeown says
Yes, you’re so right. It’s not an easy day, and it’s okay to acknowledge that.