As a child I made and bought my fair share of cards for my mom to celebrate her on Mother’s Day. When I had any money I would buy her something, no matter how small, as a token of my appreciation for the work she did for me. I embraced these ‘holidays’ and felt excited to pitch in with my brothers when I got a little older to buy her something pretty or practical–a decoration for the house, a necklace, a bookcase, a microwave (it was the 80’s and a microwave was a big deal!). Many of those Sundays, I was her faithful companion to church because my brothers and Dad certainly weren’t interested in attending and I knew how much she loved to go. Eventually, I headed to college 3 hours away. I don’t recall if I traveled home each Mother’s Day, but at some point, as I was creating a life of my own away from home, I remember feeling irritated and stressed by the commercialization of “celebrating Mom”. Should I buy flowers or a necklace? Do I need to coordinate with my brothers to get her something from all three of us? Will my Dad remember to celebrate her or should I call to remind him? The pressure of “doing things right” overwhelmed me and the dread of these created holidays crept in.
It is not that I wanted to reject the sentiment behind Mother’s Day–it is that I wanted to reject the pressure to be and do on one specific day–a day I didn’t get to pick but one I was bound to recognize lest I be marked as the ungrateful, cynical daughter.
So, yeah. Mother’s Day and I have had some struggles. Then I became a mom. I fell into the trap. Can you believe it? I became sold on the message that I needed to be celebrated. The second Sunday in May. Right now. And it should be done with chocolates and pretty things and poetic words. I romanticized this day, expecting all the bells and whistles, but time and time again, I was disappointed–the day didn’t go as planned, the kids were fussy and certainly weren’t interested in the ideas I had in mind, the gifts were basic and last minute, the surprise and awe elements were severely lacking. Instead of being celebrated I was deflated. It’s just one day, I thought. Why can’t they just do something out of the ordinary for one day to express their love for me? Is it really that hard?
And here’s what I’ve come to believe–Yes, it is that hard. Why? Expectations.
No matter what my husband or children did for me, it never quite matched my expectations. Did I appreciate their gestures, the flowers, the breakfast made while I pretended to be asleep? Of course. Did I feel loved? Absolutely. But when I allowed myself to get caught up in the notion that I must be celebrated, I also allowed my thoughts to turn selfish and unrealistic. How could they ever do all the things I dreamed up if I never told them? Was it really fair to expect a perfect day when I knew such things don’t even exist? So last year, I made a decision. I turned Mother’s Day into a day to celebrate the people who call me mom. When they got up that morning, they each found a photograph of me holding them the day they were born. Surrounding the photograph were phrases listing all the things that made them special to me. My oldest hugged me and smiled. My youngest, curled up in my lap as I read the sentiments to her. We eventually went out to lunch, then to the park. Was the day rather ordinary still? You bet. There was complaining, there were disagreements but there was also love and understanding, laughter and connection. A real family, not a Hallmark version.
This year, I have expressed to my husband that I do not want gifts–I have given him a pass to relax. No rushing around at the last minute, no stress. In keeping with the original intent of Mother’s Day, I requested that we, as a family, pick a charity that would benefit mothers and children in some capacity. While I recognize that giving can be just as lovely as receiving, and I am not aiming to discourage heartfelt gifts, I can’t help but to wonder–What if a fraction of the money spent on these commercialized holidays was diverted to charities or directly to people in need? It has been estimated that Americans will spend 20 billion dollars on gifts and flowers for their moms on Mother’s Day. 20 BILLION DOLLARS! Let’s sit with that number for a few minutes. Imagine the positive impact this could have on our world.
In honor of Mother’s Day from here on out, which I now affectionately refer to as ‘mothering day’, I will divert my attention from the relentless marketing and advertising that claims I should be honored, to continuing to honor the purpose of my role–a role full of nurturing and caring, loving and doing. These beautiful children call me mom and that is truly celebration enough.
“Intense love does not measure, it just gives.” (from the mother of all mothers- Mother Teresa)