I like Mother’s Day. I’m still pretty new at it; I’ve had a great one, a not-so-great-one (poor destination choice), and an out-of-the-country one. So I’m still figuring out what to actually do on Mother’s Day to celebrate, and this year I feel like I’ve gotten the closest to what I want out of the day. First, here’s how I got to this realization.
It feels like an extra rough year for this holiday. My social media feeds just blew up with anti-Mother’s Day think pieces, stories of childless women, those who have lost children, those who had terrible mothers. I know that it’s not a joyful holiday for everyone, and the “Hallmark holiday” quotient is a problem (but seriously, can we think of something else to call these holidays when we’re criticizing? Am I the only one who hates that phrase? It’s just the WORST). I don’t expect it to be a great day for everyone, I truly don’t. It is flawed, and as women so much of our feelings about our own worth or society’s expectations of what we should be revolve around what’s up in our uterus. Uteruses. Uterusi?
But it does seem like Father’s Day isn’t so loaded, so rife with divisive emotions. Dads just get a day to be guys who receive BBQ gear as a gift and can play video games all day if that’s what they so desire. So why are all the women on teams, standing across a hostile playing field from each other? Dads do not care about this s**t so deeply, so why do we? This year it almost felt like mom-shaming, like I should be embarrassed to celebrate because so many others can’t. I feel for those who have a tough time today, but I also see value in Mother’s Day.
I didn’t come to motherhood with a terrible amount of drama or yearning. I didn’t even know if I liked kids until I was in college, I just wasn’t around many of them as the youngest in my family. I didn’t seriously think I might want one until I was in my 20s. Now, kids are my career and my life. But, I’ve never felt defined by my ability or desire to have them.
And it turns out, now that I am a mom no matter what I do professionally or personally for the rest of my life, she will be my best accomplishment. If I didn’t have her I would do other truly amazing things to be proud of, but since I DO have her, she trumps it all. That’s the same for her dad. Adam’s achieved a lot in his career, and it’s an awesome career, but I’m pretty sure he’d agree that the 3-year-old who tears up our house and is covered in food 90% of the time is also his best accomplishment.
BUT. That doesn’t mean either of us look around at the other members of our gender and judge their non-parenting successes as less than. It’s like running a marathon. If you run, you’re incredibly proud and show off the medals to everyone you see, but not everyone is a marathoner and you don’t hold it against them. And for those who tried the marathon and didn’t finish, you’re inspired by their stories and attempts and perseverance, and you honor those journeys. But it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) stop you from running your best race.
Or maybe runners are terribly judgmental people, I have no idea. I’d basically only run if, like, a bear was chasing me, so what do I know about how marathoners behave? I just know none of my running friends have ever shoved their medals in my face and told me my life sucks in comparison, and when I see their medals I think it might be cool to run, but I like cheese and being in my pajamas too much. Their completing a marathon doesn’t define my own life. That’s how parenting feels to me. It’s my marathon, and I remember those who couldn’t or didn’t want to cross the finish line, but I’m in the race.
So this year I felt a lot of pressure to have a game plan, to have an elaborate set of activities to honor the day. Maybe this was in reaction to all of the negative and heartbreaking articles I’ve seen. Maybe it’s just feeding into the Hallmark nonsense (ugh, with that name).
But actually, this morning I woke up to a really happy child who wanted to watch a movie with me in bed. And Adam made me an awesome surprise breakfast–Taylor ham, sausage, egg, and cheese on English muffins. He made a special reconnaissance trip out yesterday to get ingredients and hide them in the fridge so he could try to make this Jersey girl the breakfast sandwich to end all breakfast sandwiches. Plus, there were Entenmann’s donuts. Which are basically chocolate covered dish sponges, but once in a while just let me live.
I never managed to make a plan, and at 3pm I was still in my PJs, in bed with Hannah watching My Neighbor Totoro. It was like our 3rd or 4th movie of the day. And since I’d cleared my desk of all work and responsibilities for the day, and because on Mother’s Day you’re not supposed to worry about housework or your To Do list, I actually felt free to not to do anything but be near her. I didn’t need to check my phone, nothing needed to get done, because it was Mother’s Day.
Listen, my mom knows I love her every day of the year, and I count my motherhood blessings every day. So I realized while I was snuggled up and smelling H’s hair (yes, this is a creepy and wondrous thing that mothers really, truly do) that for me, this holiday isn’t about everyone telling me I’m great because I gave birth, or me telling every mom I know she’s great (and you all are, each and every one of you).
It’s about the gift of a day when I didn’t have any other expectations or responsibilities outside of spending time with my family. It is so hard to shove all the multi-tasking voices out of your head in every day life and just laugh at what your kid thinks is funny for 5 hours straight. When do you get to do that? There is always something pulling for your time and attention, and sometimes those things are much louder than your child.
But on Mother’s Day, it’s like a forcefield goes up between you and All the Things You Must Get Done. This forcefield exists for things like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but really time with family is often replaced by time to get everything prepared to celebrate for those occasions. Moms don’t do any prep on Mother’s Day, they just have to show up. Sometimes their husbands go to adorable and hilarious lengths to make breakfast. It’s amazing, without gifts (although I did get a Nintendo 2DS) or cards or fancy brunches (which are way too much work).
We did finally leave the house, the 3 of us looking adorable and refreshed. We ate at the diner and went to one of our favorite playgrounds. It was practically idyllic, with Adam and I holding hands along the path while Hannah looked for dandelions in the grass with the fading sun. If it was any other Sunday, I’d probably be fretting about the week ahead and how to get ready for it. But today was Mother’s Day, and my forcefield was up, and so I just had zero f***s to give about whatever was happening on the other side of it. THAT is what it’s about for me.
And that’s how I’ll be spending it from now on.