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Why I Can’t Get Behind Mother’s Day

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This weekend I spent a lot of time with my daughters walking around town. Every single store, it seemed, had a sign out explaining why its wares were perfect for Mother’s Day. Ugh. Mother’s Day. So not my favorite holiday.

I never really cared much one way or the other. My own mother wasn’t terribly interested in the holiday. I distinctly remember the first year I grew to loathe Mother’s Day. I was at church and one of the families had done this super nice thing of buying flowers for every mother and handing them to the mothers as they walked out. I wasn’t yet a mother but I thought the flower idea was super nice. Except for the friend who had just miscarried her baby and was distraught about it. She burst into tears. Then I started looking around and realizing that Mother’s Day can be something of a horrific day for other women, too.

I mean, in my case, I am very close to my mother and I have a great relationship with my children (possibly due to the fact that they’re nowhere near their teenage years). But I have friends and acquaintances who were abandoned by their mothers, or who lost their children to Child Protective Services back when they were drinking or drugging, before they got clean. There are the women struggling with infertility and the women whose children are estranged for one reason or another. Maybe they’ve just never found the right partner for childbearing. For them, this can be a rough day. A 24-hour reminder of perceived or real failure on their part.

A friend of mine was mentioning that her own mother used to buy an over-the-top saccharine-sweet Mother’s Day card for the grandmother as a way of reminding said grandmother that she was really lackluster in the parenting department. Ooft. I don’t even know where to begin with psychoanalyzing that one.

The commercial version presented to us is of idealized families eating a brunch complete with perfectly poached eggs. And, in truth, this might describe my Mother’s Day last year. My in-laws were in town and we all went to brunch at a great restaurant. The children didn’t set the restaurant on fire, so we all considered it a success.

But I have other complaints about Mother’s Day. I’ve noticed that it seems to be celebrated most by people who simply do a bad job of showing appreciation the rest of the year. I have all these friends or colleagues who are frenzied and freaked out the week before Mother’s Day, worried about disappointing their mother if they don’t get a huge bouquet or perfect gift. I used to think it was kind of weird that the mothers put that much pressure on their kids. Then I realized that this whole dynamic was because the mothers genuinely felt under-appreciated while their children genuinely acknowledged that they’d been ungrateful. I have a friend whose mother wouldn’t talk to him for days because even though he flew cross-country to be with her on Mother’s Day, he arrived empty handed. My friend’s father acted disgusted. Because there were no flowers or chocolates. Three days later they had a knock-down, drag out fight about it.

In my family, I know my parents feel completely appreciated. Ergo, Mother’s and Father’s Day are not big deals. Frankly, I think it’s something of a cop out to give your long-suffering mother a flower arrangement as if that makes up for not calling her throughout the year or generally being an asshole to her. And yes, of course I’d be demanding these things if I felt my husband and children weren’t genuinely appreciative of what I do for them.

I know, I know, I’m over-thinking this holiday. And you’re going to go take your mother to brunch and your children are going to make you an awesome breakfast in bed. And that’s cool. Mothers can always use more appreciation. Let’s just remember to appreciate our mothers the rest of the year, too, and to encourage our children to love and respect their parents come January. But also, let’s keep in mind that for many women, this is not a day of celebration. Or, at the very least, it’s a day tinged with some sadness, too.

(Photo credit: Peter D./Shutterstock)