Mother’s Day is purported to be a day of fresh flower bouquets and scrum-diddly-uptious breakfasts in bed. It’s a well-meaning holiday which, like most, has taken a turn toward commercialization.
For many moms, Mother’s Day is kind of a bear. While we all enjoy getting a lovely bouquet and a preschooler’s handcrafted gifts, there is the uglier side to this day which plays out internally in many a mom.
It’s a day of high expectations. A day of self-evaluation and often self-condemnation. It’s a day of introspection, which can yield an array of mothering inadequacies. It’s a day of guilt.
Today at church, I spoke with my neighbors Leanne and Becky about how hard Mother’s Day is. Becky was emotional talking about how this is a day which reminds her of just how difficult motherhood is, and how on many days she feels it’s crushing weight. Leanne said her children have known for years how much she deplores this day and warns them to just ignore it.
For several years when Jack was small, I avoided Sacrament Meeting at church on Mother’s Day because it was too painful for me to listen to the speakers and the singing children paying tribute to idealized motherhood.
Motherhood was kicking my trash.
I wept all through those programs thinking that I couldn’t even teach my special-needs son to point at something he wanted, let alone teach him everything about heaven and earth that a well-rounded child should know to live a decent life. It was a day which emphasized my inadequacy and which made me feel that for me, motherhood was a strange animal, different and definitely not domesticated (ironic, as much of being a mother is domestic).
When the primary children sang sweet songs to their mothers, I pondered sadly how Jack could not participate because of his limitations. I felt that this was a holiday for moms of typical children, who were potty trained and verbal and able to follow directions and perform as a group in front of a large congregation.
As much as I was grateful to be a mom, I didn’t want to be reminded how spectacularly formative and patient and loving and capable mothers are.
It was all too much.
At church today, I sat by my friend Jenn. She asked me the most intuitive, pointed questions about being a mother to my unique children. Then she listened, and didn’t cut me off with stories of her own (which is probably what I would have done). Talking to someone who genuinely wanted to understand my life and who listened with compassion and without judgement was a sweet Mother’s Day experience for me.
I cried poor Jenn a river. I told her about Charlie and coming to terms with a second set of different special needs. I told her about my struggle to find the energy and capacity to handle two special children. I told her that the first person who asks me if I think Truman will have deficits or issues of his own will earn a gold star followed by a punch in the face. I told her I am grateful for my family of boys and especially for the tender mercies I experience in my journey to raise them.
And because God loves me and because Jenn is a kindred spirit, this is what she said to me, “This is a day to honor you as a mother of children who are harder to raise.”
This statement validated all my struggles even as it gave credence to my efforts, regardless of their effectiveness. It included me in the ranks of Good Moms Everywhere, despite my strange family dynamic and our crazy methods of functioning.
It was a Mother’s Day gift.