Mothers Day. Hoo boy. This day, created simply to honor the mothers in our lives, can be loaded with all kinds of complicated emotions for us women. Some of us have complex relationships with our own moms. Some of us have chosen not to be moms. Some of us have not been given the chance to be moms. Some of us have said goodbye to our moms, or our children. Some of us think this is a bullshit holiday made up by Hallmark to sell cards.
I chose this picture of my daughter and I because we are both one month old- she as a human, me as a mom. The connection and uncertainty is evident on our faces. Motherhood has been the most challenging and supremely joyful thing I have ever done. It is both of these things at once. My mom left the house when I was 3. She stayed solidly in my life but was not my primary caregiver from that point on. My dad remarried when I was 6 and I was raised by a most loving, kind and clinically depressed mom. Both moms gave what they could. But I took a back seat to all forms of anxiety and depression. They loved me, and I them. Nurturing me was hard given their chronic emotional states. You can imagine that motherhood was not something I felt was in me intrinsically. I waited until my mid 30’s to be sure. I still wasn’t sure. I proceeded into motherhood anyway.
God forbid a woman chooses not to be a mom. Oh the judgement & disappointment society hurls her way! Shit, there are entire religions that assign childbearing as the only value females contribute. Imagine we were taught that being a mother was just an option. A wondrous and amazing option. We can go down that path, or we can choose something different, or we can wait until we are ready, really ready. Imagine what that would look like. I imagine society would freeze in panic. How would the human population endure? Trust me, humanity would persevere.
Now we have women who want to be mothers, but cannot be. They long for this gift with every fiber of their being. Instead of being helped gently through this journey, they are faced heavy expectations, invasive procedures, endless grief and more mixed messages. Medical Procedures and little emotional support. My mom (#2) tried for years but could not conceive. It became one of her greatest sources of sorrow. It remains so, and Mother’s Day is wrapped tightly into this web for her. Once all resources have been explored, why can we not guide our women to a place of acceptance? Why can we not guide our women to a place in which their value can lie elsewhere?
For those of us who are moms, by hook or by crook, here we are. Being a mother is a complex gig. If we women were allowed to nurture our own intuition, it would be a cake walk. But instead, we are taught that external sources will tell us how to be a good mother. So we end up, once again, with conflicting messages and most of the responsibility of parenting. Whether we work in or outside the home, we are bombarded with many opinions as to how we should create our role as “everybody’s everything.” When a “good” mother is described, the word selfless is usually used. Self-less. Literally a woman without a sense of self. There are no fundamental messages that include self-care in the job of being a good mom. Our value lies in fulfilling this role of motherhood to the detriment of any other roles or needs in our lives. I wish it would hold its beautiful place of value along with all of the other ways in which we contribute to our society and families.
So here we all are, mothers, daughters trying to digest all of these expectations. Every May, Mother’s Day rolls in and some of us would just like it to pass on by like any other day. Some can’t wait for it as we find pure joy and love in this day. Some of us straddle the middle. It’s all good. What matters is that we do on this day the things that bring us peace. We can reflect on our losses, disappointments. We can revel in the extra attention our families give us. Or we can proceed throughout the day like any other. Once we realize the choice is ours, it is the beginning of a path to freedom. Freedom from heavy expectations of what being a mother should look and act like. Freedom from role of motherhood being the only thing that defines us. Freedom to look in the mirror and recognize that the woman we see is the woman we should be.