I have a hard time with Mother’s Day.
I suspect greeting card companies were in on its creation in some way. It has always seemed manufactured and awkward to me.
When I was a girl Dad mostly remembered to help us pick out a card and make our marks as best we could. There would be a carnation given to each mother in church that morning, and potted plants for the mother with the most children present, the oldest mother, and the mother with the youngest child.
I never noticed the other women who didn’t get recognized.
It became our tradition as we got older to pick out a hanging basket for Mom, usually a fuchsia, but we never got extravagant gifts, and I felt like she didn’t expect them.
But there were years Dad forgot to get the card.
I remember one time, maybe it was one of those years, when Mom cried most of the ride home from church. I was never sure if she was mad at us or him.
Or maybe she had other reasons altogether. Reasons she never shared.
Reasons many women identify with.
There have been years when I would rather have crawled back under the covers until Monday than face the onslaught of grinning-faced “Happy Mother’s Day’s” coming from every direction.
Because, no, it isn’t for every woman.
Someone, years ago, thought to honor them by having a day when everyone recognized and acknowledged their mothers.
But is this reasonable? Who is most likely to remind children to do something nice for someone? Or plan the menu or pick a restaurant where everyone will agree to eat? There are dads and extended family out there who are conscientious and thoughtful, or at least well-meaning, but I feel like moms are more invested in pulling off special days and celebrations.
And more aware of when they don’t go well. Because we hold ourselves accountable.
Just watch “Mom’s Night Out” if you want a visual.
So the day comes. Grown women hope their children will miraculously behave, and suddenly have a burning desire to speak and write and sing out their love and respect for their mother, their awe for her selflessness and sacrifices, their realization that no person could ever love them more deeply than she does.
And then they wake up.
As a child, we were our only family. Our relatives were almost all in North Carolina, so we never visited my grandmas on Mother’s Day. But as adults, there was the expectation we would spend most of the day with my mom, when I would rather have just enjoyed my children.
There’s a vulnerability about letting the rest of the family orchestrate the day. Will there be any genuine feelings expressed? Will we make some sweet memories? And with too many things on the agenda, will any of the moms involved make it through the day without some kind of breakdown?
That this is the proper, sometimes the only, day for expressions of love and appreciation to moms is too much to ask.
In my youth, I went from liking the smiles on Mom’s face, to feeling her disappointment with my impatience to move on to my own pursuits after the card was opened and the flowers presented.
Then I was married, and dreaded those well-meaning greetings that hit me like a slap in the face, making me keenly aware that I still wasn’t pregnant.
Until I was. Those few years were bliss. I could revel in the glow of motherhood glorified in my swelling belly, or leaking milk, or babes crying for me.
But then many more years followed of infertility, and no matter how I tried to avoid the well wishes, I felt like a traitor to the children I had to long for the ones not yet here.
And the bittersweet May when I was both mourning the recent loss of one child, and ecstatic at the healthy growth of another in my womb.
I sometimes think we should do away with Mother’s Day. Not because moms don’t deserve a pat on the back. But because it isn’t enough. And it doesn’t require enough.
It is too easy to share a sappy tribute to moms on Facebook, or to buy a card and sign it “love, me”, or to eat a meal out that you would have eaten anyway.
The title of this post is a direct quote from me on a long ago Mother’s Day when, yes, my husband forgot. Maybe the card, maybe the plant or the gift. Maybe to have the kids say the obligatory words. And my response was, ‘How could you?! On this day that defines me more than any other!!’
But does it? It’s not about a day. It’s about a life. It’s a hug when I’m tired or overwhelmed. It’s hot cookies after a good supper. Or doing any chore without being asked. Putting laundry away within a week of it being washed, carrying in groceries, laughing at my jokes. Cutting fresh lilacs during those brief spring weeks, filling the house with what I hope foreshadows the fragrance of heaven.
Don’t expect mothers or kids to be ready or able to celebrate this on one day in May.
But please, do celebrate. When the joy overflows, the gratitude, the contentment, don’t wait for one day. Say it, write it, sing it out.
That’s way better than a greeting card holiday.