mother's day: not just for mothers

i’ve long thought that hallmark has hijacked our holidays. i don’t necessarily resent them. nor do i wish them ill. i believe, quite firmly actually, that people should be celebrated and that these “people celebrations” happen too infrequently. it’s just that i don’t like the pressure large corporations exert or the expectations they set. i don’t like that they set the expectation that moms should get flowers and chocolate on mothers day and dads should go fishing on father’s day. i don’t like that valentines day is only for lovers or that those who don’t fit into certain roles don’t get celebration days like those who do.  “hallmark holidays” are rarely simple and frequently painful.
there are few people for whom mother’s day (or father’s day or valentine’s day or any of the other days promoted primarily by greeting card companies and gift retailers) isn’t conflicted. motherhood is a tricky thing. those of us who are moms realize we are flawed and every one of us was given life by a deeply human individual. the june cleavers in this world are few and far between and nowhere near as perfect as the shiny, happy television persona appeared to be.
when mother’s day approaches some people pour over card selections, trying to find a sentiment that is both honest and kind. others feel resigned to either tell their mothers lies or ignore them altogether, often reintroducing guilt and shame that have long and complex root systems in the past. many people cry, weep even, for missing mothers they have lost or for children they haven’t had. others feel insignificant, unloved, unappreciated. mothers with kids at home feel conflictedly unworthy of the gifts they are given or secretly wish for a bit more attention on this very public day. few seem settled with the day as it is. somehow hallmark never captures this side of these holidays. there aren’t ads depicting the dread that many feel or cards for women who wish for children or for those who feel left out even though they are childless by choice.
so, this weekend, what if we each took charge of our own mother’s day? rather than letting hallmark, or anyone else, set our expectations we could take time to understand our own. if we are mothers we might, then, communicate with our families about what is meaningful to us in the way of celebration without passively holding them accountable for meeting our needs. if we have mothers we might work to discover ways of honoring them without allowing ourselves to resent them (remember, we are in charge of our emotions, not them). if we are in relationship with people who may hurt on this day (such as those who may feel marginalized in our culture by, for whatever reason, not being moms or those who have lost their mothers) we might find ways of reaching out to them. not pitying or obvious ways but ways none the less.
dictionaries define motherly as “resembling, or characteristic, of a mother, especially in being caring, protective, and kind.” whether your mother by blood lived out any of these qualities consistently or not i am guessing that you can recall a time or two when she did. i’m also guessing that you can identify others who have shown care, protection, or kindness to you. how can you recognize these gifts without giving more than you can emotionally, practically, or financially afford? if you overspend in any of these areas you are likely to resent the recipient. generosity is important but only insomuch as it is tempered with reality.
the same is true for the receiver. if you are a mother, own your expectations. don’t project them out onto others. ask directly and honestly and be mature in handling the response. if you are disappointed, think, feel, and talk this through with a trusted other before unloading it onto your partner or children. little about parenting is easy. use difficulties here to learn and grow into the kind of parent who is healthy and mature.
and so i, with great intention, honor the mothers in my life. while there are plenty of cards i could buy my mom there are none for graduate school advisors turned life long mentors or important people of other stripes. so...i’ll “write” my own. i am eternally grateful to my mother for teaching me hospitality, generosity of love, and creativity. i am boundlessly thankful to nancy who, for all intents and purposes, gave birth to my intellect and therapeutic skills and nurtured the complexity that is me in ways words will never quite express. and to jo, who is teaching me a new and deeper way of love, bless you for your profoundly meaningful presence. to the many other women in my life who are caring, kind, and at times even protective of me, thank you for your “motherliness” in my life. may i share all of your influences in every one of my own mother-minded ways of being in the world.

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