Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mixed Emotions and Mother's Day.

I have mixed feelings about Mother's Day.

Let me clear about something before I wade into that:

I do not have mixed feelings about my mother, nor the fact that I should celebrate her every day, and this day in particular.

My mom is the kind of amazing woman and parent that makes me wish that every day was "Mother's Day". There are no bounds to her love, her benevolence, her drive, her spirit and her passion for life. I can not begin to adequately put into the words the kind of inspiration that she gives me, or begin to enumerate the ways in which she- by her very existence- makes this entire world a better, brighter place.

Hallmark doesn't make cards for people like her. The poem to capture my gratitude could never be written.

But I have mixed feelings about "Mother's Day".

Because not every mother is like my mother. And not every woman like her is a mother.


Throughout my life, Mother's Day has held different meanings.

As a young child, I remember the excitement I felt in handcrafting my mother the perfect mother's day gift. Of course, I never felt like it was perfect- my hands are lazy, and I have absolutely no visual ability whatsoever. I felt shame that I wasn't able to make her something beautiful, something worthy of her.

I always felt like I fell short of that goal.

But I knew, inside my heart, that she loved everything I gave her. I knew that- when it came to expressions of my love- everything I did was perfect.

My mom always had a way of making me feel special.


When my parents divorced, I was eight. It was a nasty, tumultuous divorce and it was one of the best things that could ever have happened to me. I knew how unhappy my parents were in their marriage. I knew that they could no longer love each other the way you are supposed to love your spouse.

My father remarried the woman who had been, for lack of better words, his second wife.  The one before my own mother.

And I did not love her.

To be honest, I was also very aware of the fact that she didn't love me either.

This would finally be confirmed to me when, after over ten years of marriage, my father died and she severed her relationship with absolutely everyone in my family.  She stopped talking to the children that had been born to my older siblings; children who thought of her as a grandparent. She wanted nothing to do with any of us, and I have not seen her in years.

I am not worse for the wear.

But I remember vividly being instructed by my father to make her a 'mother's day' gift.

This woman was not my mother. She never acted maternally towards me.

But I was forced to tell her how important she was to me. How my life was better for having her in it. How she was the greatest 'stepmom' in the world.

And it was a lie.

Not only was she not a great stepmom. She was a pretty horrible person to me in several ways, and I did not love her.

For those years while I was young enough to be forced to do this, Mother's Day became a fraud, an imposition on my feelings of apathy towards her, and a disrespect to the feelings of adoration that I really did have for my own mother.


For a variety of reasons, it was believed that I would never be able to carry children. My uterus had been weakened from multiple surgeries and I lived many years believing myself to be completely infertile.

But my heart so desperately wanted children.

So desperately, in fact, that- despite knowing that doing so might kill me- I kept trying to have children regardless.

I couldn't help it. In my heart, I genuinely felt that this was my calling in life.

So...miscarriage after miscarriage- nine in total- I grieved not only the babies that I lost, but the entire identity of motherhood that I believed to be outside of my reach.


And then came Sam.

I will never fully understand the shift that happened, or when it was that I first became a 'mother'. I know that it happened when he was still in my womb.

I was already a 'mother' when my doctors asked me to consider terminating the pregnancy since he would likely be born still and would likely take my life along with his.

I was already a mother when I named him "Sammie" (Samuel 1:27) so that he would have a name on his gravestone if he did not survive.

I was already a mother when, hours before my hellish emergency c-section, I asked my own mother to advocate on behalf of the child I was carrying and to save him over me, if there were that choice to be made.

I was already a mother when I placed my palm on his tiny back, his premature body smaller than my hand, and vowed to protect him through this and through everything that life would throw at us.

As you know, Samuel survived his hellish birth and is today a thriving almost-four year old. He is also a big brother to an amazing sister Charlie (whose entry into the world was only slightly less dramatic.)

So now Mother's Day is no longer only about celebrating my own mother; it is a celebration of me as well.


And you know, maybe I deserve to be celebrated...I know in my heart that I am a really good mom. Far from perfect, but absolutely committed to giving my kids everything they need in life to be happy and thriving individuals.

So I should feel all 'Yay!' about Mother's Day now, right?

Except I don't.

Because all around me I see memes and statuses extolling the virtues of mothers everywhere. It's the "hardest job in the world", they say, without lending much thought to what they are actually saying.

"Motherhood" isn't "hard".

Yes, being a good mother can be hard.

But motherhood itself is a biological imperative.

Women have babies because it is in our genetic code to do so.

That is what makes 'a mother'.

The nurturing, caring, supporting mother? That's a social construct.

A good one, I might add.

But it's one that many, many, many mothers fail at every day.

There are mothers who neglect their children, physically and emotionally. There are mothers who abuse them. There are mothers who subject them to horrible practices to try to make them into different people- a little less Autistic, a little less Gay, a little less "prepuced"- all for the sake of forcing children to conform to their own expectations. They do not consider or care about the lifelong trauma they are inflicting.

There are mothers who kill their children.

There are mothers who abandon their children on the streets.

There are mothers who are horrible people, horrible human beings.

And I can't pretend they aren't there just because Hallmark and Facebook tell me to.

I can't say that "Mothers are the most beautiful people in the world" when I know that this is not only untrue, it is a statement that hurts and harms women who choose not to be mothers or who are, for whatever reason, unable to be mothers.

Or those who have lost children.

I can't celebrate an entire group of people based solely on the fact that they pushed a human out of their womb.

Motherhood does not always equate love.

But I do welcome the chance to celebrate the good moms out there. I know many. I have been touched by many. I was raised by one.

So, I have some very mixed feelings about Mother's Day.

And I can't help but wish we had interpreted the day slightly differently.

What if- instead of a day of celebrating Motherhood- we had chosen to use this day as a day of gratitude for the privilege of motherhood?

What if, instead of talking about how hard motherhood is, we spent more time talking about ways that we can better ourselves and better our parenting journey?

What if instead of saying "Thank you, Mom!" we said "Thank you for making me your mom"?

What if the focus changed towards bettering ourselves so that we might raise better people, instead of adulating an entire group of women without an consideration of the individual experience.

What if we chose this day to talk about supports for single mothers, and for families whose parenting journeys require a little bit 'extra' to keep them at a healthy baseline?

What if this day, we chose to address the major inequities that still exist when it comes to mothers being able to access the work force?

What if we spent this day talking about how to help build a community of support around women who did not "choose" motherhood, but instead had it thrust upon them?

What if we chose to go beyond Hallmark, and step into conversations that are so desperately needed?

What if we stood as society and said 'The first law of Motherhood should be DO NO HARM', and held every mother up to that standard?

I have mixed feelings about Mother's Day.

It goes too far.

It doesn't go far enough.

It says too much.

And leaves too much unsaid.

It celebrates a title, but all too often forgets to really celebrate the people.

And, in far too many ways, it furthers the illusion that a woman's worth is the result of what she is able to produce from her womb.

I had a beautiful day today, with my wonderful husband and my amazing children. I was given beautiful gifts, and huge amounts of praise and celebration.

And in most ways, it was just another Sunday. Because, for me, the real celebration of motherhood happens every time I take my children into my arms.

And that is not something you should thank me for.

It is something I should be thankful for.

And I am.


  1. I can only imagine all the stuff you had to go through with your parents' divorce. It is unavoidable, I guess, and the least all parties could do is to ensure that it's all quickly gotten over with, and that wounds heal. I'll be praying that you find your inner peace within you. All the best!

    Jean Walsh @ New Jersey Divorce

  2. Seeing your parents get divorced is heartbreaking. Most children at the age of 8 will probably not understand what’s going on. But you managed to do so, and even saw the positive side of it. You’re truly an inspiration to many! And there’s no doubt that you will be a great mom to Sam as well, because you grew up with a great role model -- your mom.

    Sammy Jackson @ KenPhillipsLaw