I’m ambivalent about holidays. They are often more anxiety than they’re worth with the need to make the day go smoothly and perfectly and give the right gifts and make the right food and take the right pictures. I don’t really like that approach to life in general so holidays and I are not exactly tight.
But Mother’s Day is a holiday I just don’t like. Mother’s Day is even worse than a birthday, instead of being just a celebration of you as a person (which is a bit silly), it celebrates one particular thing you do regardless of how well you do it. But worst of all, I hate the rules involved. Mother’s Day has such a specific script and I’ve never been comfortable with it.
The Mother’s Day script is: father of children (and children over a certain age) showers mother with love and appreciation through gifts.
There is no other script. Sure, you can have variations within the script. If a child has 2 moms, for example. Or if one mother’s idea of gifts of love and appreciation involves everyone leaving her alone for a while.
The single mom is kind of up a creek here.
But even though this will be my first Mother’s Day as a single parent, it won’t be a big change. There are plenty of mothers out there whose version of Mother’s Day is like mine was the past couple years: a pretty big nothing. If your marriage is not going well, if your partner is not happy with you, if respect and love and appreciation are things that don’t make much of an appearance in your life anymore, you don’t exactly get that picture perfect Mother’s Day.
You may have supportive friends or family members who try to make it up to you, but it is still off script. It is different when it’s the person you share your life with. It just is. It’s not the same when there’s no one there to give it to you, or that person in your life doesn’t come through.
I have had only four Mother’s Days, and not one of them has been good. Some of them have been downright bad. And I struggle to take ownership of that day, whether it’s by ignoring it all together or by trying to find a way to go off script. I don’t know that I’ll be successful this year. It is particularly hard when you live a good chunk of your life online and your Mother’s Day social media is nothing but pictures of all the beautiful flowers and smiling faces of everyone else’s on-script holiday.
I think it’s one reason why I’m glad to be a part of Listen To Your Mother this year. It gives me a way to give my Mother’s Day a little bit of a makeover, it gives me something to think about besides my own lackluster history with the holiday. It helps remind me that it is really a stupid thing to complain about. That life is complex and imperfect, motherhood is complex and imperfect, and it’s silly to expect any day to be simple and happy and celebrated.
I like the complexity in life. That’s why I like the experience of watching a Listen To Your Mother show so much. It reminds me how vast and strange and beautiful and terrible life and family can be. Having a perfect Mother’s Day wouldn’t change that. And it wouldn’t change me or my kids or my family or how I feel about any of it. So I’m going to do my best to shake it off and just coast on through this time of year as best I can.
And hey, after this I’ve got a nice 7 months or so in the clear before my birthday shows up and I get all stuck in my own head again.