Friday, April 9, 2010

Why You Should Stop Saying "Happy Mothers' Day"

I don't actually hate Mothers' Day any more (it was not high on my list of holidays after losing a child), but I totally understand why some of my friends do.

My unscientific poll last year found that more people feel sad on Mothers' Day (MD) than happy. Many people feel ambivalence or even dread as MD approaches, for many reasons: having lost a child, desiring a baby, having a sick child, having a strained relationship with your child or your mother, wanting to be married, having a mother who hurt or disappointed you (aka, being human), experiencing the death of your mother, dealing with your mother's serious illness, and on and on.

So for all of you out there who don't feel particularly thrilled about the prospect of yet another crummy mother's day approaching--I'm sorry for your pain. I get it.

Why does there need to be an official mother's day on the calendar, anyway? I've decided that I want to be the kind of mother that has zero expectations around the day. What I really want is to have a great relationship with my kids, such that every day we have loving interactions, and That Sunday in May is just another typical day.

When they've grown up and established their own households, if they want to send me a card or a potted geranium or take me out for a meal, great. (Although I'm not particularly fond of geraniums. But whatever.) I will never decline kindness or attention. But if they forget, or they're not good at getting a card in the mail, or they've had a busy week--so what? If we continue to have fun together, and good conversations, and reciprocal expressions of love and appreciation, then one Day on the calendar means very little.

(BTW, this logic does NOT apply to my birthday.)

If, however, by the time my kids are out on their own I've screwed them up enough that they don't feel any tenderness or appreciation toward me, then our problems are larger than an M-Day card can fix. (God protect them, please, from my mistakes and selfishness.)

And what about dads? Should they be off the hook? Mr. Peevie's job, I believe, is to help the kids, while they're still young, to say "I love you mom" and "Thanks, mom"--but not just on M-Day. If he does it on M-Day, great; but as long as he's setting this example the rest of the year, then I'm totally cool with minimal fanfare on That Day.

I don't dread the Day; and I don't want my family to dread it either. Do you want to join me in my Quest to Take the Expectations Out of Mother's Day?

And I really want to address the issue of the ubiquitous, relentless, and somewhat mindless Mothers' Day greetings. The only person you really need to acknowledge the Day to is your own mother. You don't need to say it to me or to any other woman, whether she's a mother or not. It's not like Christmas/Hanukkah, or Independence Day, or Halloween, where the celebration and acknowledgement includes everyone.

I'm not trying to be mean here, and if you say HMD to me, I won't bite your head off. But be aware: saying "Happy Mothers' Day!" does not make it happy. Before popping out the cliched holiday salutation to someone who is not your mother, look into her eyes, and try to discern whether it is, in fact, a happy day for her. Maybe a better thing to say is, "How are you today?"--and really mean it.

And I will leave you with this Anne Lamott essay in Salon about her not-June-Cleaver-mother. It's not pertinent to Mothers' Day, per se; but it's Anne Lamott, so it's entertaining, touching, and truth-telling, and I think you will enjoy it.

NOTE: I really wanted to include a picture of June Cleaver with this post, but for some reason Blogger won't let me. Stupid Blogger.


Leslie Wolf said...

I am not sure whether you noticed this, but there have been several ads on your website recently for Mothers' Day gifts. I found that amusing. And great post btw!

Anonymous said...

I'm with you. I neither hate nor love Mother's Day. I celebrate my birthday in May also and THAT is my day. When still married, on HMD, after breakfast, I wanted to be left alone to enjoy "my" supposed day. Since separating last HMD fell on his weekend and I did NOT ask to keep my kids. This year, it also falls on his weekend. Not asking for them that day either. Although, HMD is so hyped up in school, they feel bad that they aren't with me to give me the gifts they made. Maybe I'll let them come over in the morning but only to drop them off as I run out the door for my own private celebration. Is this day really relished by any mother? I didn't look forward to having children, but here they are and I'm doing it well. Every day is mother's day.

E. Peevie said...

Les--Ha! I had not noticed. I heart irony. And thanks.

Elbee--I agree. I'm totally happy to have time away from my kids on mothers' day to garden or read or shoot up.