If you are anything like me, you have a complicated relationship with the holiday. There is a sense of being manipulated by the media and marketing geared towards consumerism in addition to the worry of feeling great all day long and also celebrating your own maternal figure.
On one hand, the idea of celebrating motherhood is special. It is nice to think that we (and our maternal caregivers) would be the center of attention for one whole day, that our husbands would shower us with appreciation, and our children would be perfectly behaved, adoring cherubs.
On the other hand. . . there is reality.
Look. If you have a husband who gave you a spa day and took the children to the playground while you slept in, then that is great for you. He nailed it. If you have those mythical “easy” children who behaved all day, got along with each other, and did not get sassy even once, I’m happy for you.
For most of us, the reality of motherhood is an all-consuming love that’s dirty, smelly, chaotic, and constant, meaning it doesn’t necessarily stand still for one day each year while you are adored like the Goddess you are.
I’ve been trying to write this post without sounding like an ungrateful harpy, but the Mother’s Day of my dreams would have gone a lot differently.
If I had been asked, I would have said I did not want the Pandora charms, lovely as they are. I would have foregone the bouquet of roses and the breakfast.
I would have done without the orange juice that my husband spiked with white wine at 7:30 a.m. without me knowing, so when I drank it I thought the juice had gone off and didn’t realize I had moved beyond “day-drinking” to “early morning drinking.”
Not to sound ungrateful, but what I wanted for Mother’s Day wasn’t elaborate, at least it didn’t cost anything.
First of all, I would have been totally content with the cards the kids made me, rather than trying to create something unrealistic.
But. . . it would have been nice if someone else did my laundry and grocery shopping.
I also wanted someone else to notice, for once, that the dining room table is encrusted with maple syrup, jelly, pizza crumbs and moldering cheese and wipe it up, and then wring out the sponge instead of tossing it back into the sink to wallow in its own decrepitude.
I wanted the tub to be magically cleaned because Sunday is “cleaning day” even though it was also Mother’s Day and there is still a ton of crap to do even though Hallmark says “go buy a card.”
It would have been heavenly to not worry about work all weekend.
I wanted my kids to get along and not start dueling tantrums in the car on the way home from our picnic.
Speaking of our picnic, I would have loved not to have been the person to do all the shopping, food prep, and packing for it because I was trying to do something special for my own mother by giving her a picnic and my sister blew us off and my brother is mentally ill and missing, so I was left with the entire responsibility to “bring it”.
I wanted to not be making toast for and cleaning up after the kids at 7 p.m. because they did not want to eat any of our picnic fare.
Most of all, I wanted to go to bed not feeling like a bitter wench about all of the above.
It I were one of those kicky bloggers who has it all together, I would end this post by saying, “Hey look at me, I spent Mother’s Day being a mom and it was awesome to treasure every moment!”
I could do that, but I will not because it would not be authentic. My blog is all for mindfulness, but I will stop short of lying to you.
What I realized as I was falling asleep (deliriously exhausted) at the end of the day, was that in some ways, my day was perfect. The hand made cards were amazing. The kids had their moments of being adorable and affectionate. My own mom seemed happy. My husband cleaned the toilet and helped me put fresh sheets on the bed. We saw the ocean and ate nice stuff. There was wine.
And I felt loved, despite all the chaos and exhaustion, I felt loved.
But what I really wanted for Mother’s Day was to not be a mom for a little bit, to be alone somewhere quiet without any responsibilities or voices asking me to get up and do one more thing, because being a working mom is relentless and so much harder than I ever imagined.
I wanted the guilt and frustration twirling in my gut like a fire tornado to simmer down because it made it so hard to think or even breathe.
I have friends who lost a baby to cancer when she was only five months old. Losing a child is unimaginable to me, and yet I am forever taking my children for granted and trying to shirk the responsibilities because I am overwhelmed and exhausted. In these moments, I think of my friends and their lovely daughter, and I try to reconnect and do better. Sometimes it works and I am humbled. But many other times, it is like telling a young child that there are starving kids in Africa so they should eat all their broccoli. It is an abstract concept.
It is an abstract concept I pray to never understand in reality.
Pema Chodron says, “The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.” She also says something about how the greatest sadness is robbing ourselves of the present moment. I felt both of these sentiments full-force as I slipped into sleep last night.
I read a lot of posts about Mother’s Day this past weekend. Some were quirky. Some were punchy. Some were raw. Some were downright annoying they were so sweet and sublime. They made me feel like I should have some deeper understanding of what it is to be a mom.
What I understood, is that I failed yet again at being in the present moment because I was frazzled and anxious. I also understood I should have left cleaning my closet and taking three loads of stuff to the consignment store for another weekend.
In spite of all my frenetic worry, grumpiness, and expectations, I was loved, and I have the construction paper and crayola cards to prove it.
So, maybe I didn’t get the Mother’s Day I wanted. But maybe I got the gift I needed.