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Mother’s Day Musings

May 12, 2018

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Mother’s Day: does any other holiday arrive so fraught with emotions and expectations?  It’s understandable.  After all, motherhood is in and of itself a complicated, emotional business.  Mothering and being mothered are the very foundations of humanity, a weighty distinction to be sure.

But all that weight can get…well, heavy.  Expectations can set us up for disappointment, in ourselves and others.  When Hallmark and Facebook are constantly telling us how important this day is and giving us examples of how it should be celebrated, we can begin to believe it ourselves.  We start doing the one thing guaranteed to make us miserable: comparing.

In this way, Mother’s Day really does reflect Motherhood.  We all go into it with certain ideas about what it will be like, about the kind of mothers we will be.  I remember judging parents before I was one, smugly shaking my head at the tantrumming toddler in Target, rolling my eyes at the mom bribing her preschooler with candy to make it through the checkout line, frowning at the mother who raised her voice in the parking lot when her little one wouldn’t hold her hand.  I had a degree in this shit.  I was going to totally win at momming.

Fast forward to my inevitable reality check: namely, my firstborn.  Suddenly all those classes and all those books seemed to mock my inability to help him sleep through the night.  My prior hubris bit me in the ass when he threw himself on the ground at Dillons and screamed bloody murder.  I was failing at the one thing I most wanted to excel at.

And yet…it didn’t really feel like a failure.  Sure, I may have spent my days coaching other parents on how to handle parenting challenges and my nights in survival mode, ignoring all of my own advice.  I might have lost my cool when I intended to be patient, caved when I meant to consistent.  But through it all, the guilt and the sleepless nights and the desire to burn all my parenting books in a bonfire at 2 a.m. (hey, I was already up, might as well), there was love.  Boundless, ferocious, breathtaking love.

When his sister came along, I thought I had at least the early years figured out.  After all, I’d done this before, how different could it be?  (That sound is God laughing hysterically.)  She was born pissed.  Her first four months were a blur of sleep deprivation so extreme I’m certain the Geneva Conventions would have banned it.  She wouldn’t nurse, she screamed non-stop, she couldn’t be comforted…and I fell apart.  It was a dark, lonely time for me even though I was surrounded by supportive loved ones.  And once again, I questioned whether I had what it took to be a good mom.

Eventually I found my way back to the light, and she stopped crying incessantly and made me fall completely in love with her.  Though I’d questioned how I would ever be able to feel as much emotion for anyone but my son, my daughter answered with a force of love that swept all questions away.  I might not have been a perfect mom, but I was their mom, and that was all that mattered.

My expectations were so very different than my ultimate reality.  I could have easily allowed them to make me feel less, to lower my estimation of what I was worth as a mother.  Instead, I chose to forgive myself, to commit myself to being the best mom I could be.  When I faltered, I granted myself grace and I prayed that God would give me what I needed to be what they needed.

I am fortunate in so many ways, but one of my greatest blessings is that I was born to a woman who truly lives what it means to be a Mother.  Not just to me and my sister, but to anyone who needs nurturing.  I never, ever take that for granted.  I realize there are so many who have strained or difficult relationships with their mothers.  There are those who have no contact with the women who raised them, who have suffered years of hurt and disappointment and heartbreak.

For them, Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of all that is missing.  The sappy commercials, the gushing posts on social media, they’re like barbs stuck into hearts that have never really healed.  All the flaws in their mothers and their relationships with them are brought to light in a seemingly unavoidable way once a year.

Then there are those for whom motherhood has resulted in the deepest pain imaginable: the loss of a child.  There are women who long to be mothers, whose bodies have betrayed that desire, or whose circumstances have prevented them from acting on it.  There are those for whom Mother’s Day is a day of mourning, for the mothers they loved and lost.

And there are those of us who simply feel let down if our day doesn’t look like we think it should.  We scroll through Facebook and see breakfasts in bed, pampering spa sessions, gourmet dinners, meaningful homemade gifts…we create a vision of what Mother’s Day will hold.  We grow impatient when our children still bicker, when our spouse forgets to buy a card, when we find ourselves doing the dishes and picking up socks from the living room floor.  After all, THIS IS OUR DAY AND IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE PERFECT, DAMNIT.

Just like motherhood, right?  Oh, wait…we haven’t totally nailed that, have we? Our reality doesn’t always measure up to our expectations.  Does that mean we aren’t good mamas?  Does it mean we don’t love our children?  Of course not.

So perhaps we should wake up on Mother’s Day with that same understanding.  Maybe we should acknowledge that the reality of our day may not measure up to our expectation.  It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t embrace the idea.  It doesn’t mean our families don’t appreciate us or care about us.  It just means this day is no different than any other: special, ordinary, meaningful, hopeful, disappointing, challenging, magical, mundane…a gift.

To everyone who has mothered or longed to, who has been mothered or longed to be, may your Mother’s Day have fewer expectations and more love, more grace, more forgiveness, more healing.  And more chocolate.  Because HELLO.  Chocolate.

Happy Mother’s Day, y’all.




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