Mother’s Day is the day when people celebrate the woman who has given them birth, the one who has loved and nurtured them, the one who caused them to feel angst and guilt and often it is the same woman. It’s also a day when children of all ages and husbands or significant others feel they must buy that woman flowers or jewelry or take her out for a meal. I have heard cynical rumblings that Mother’s Day was created by the card and flower conglomerates to offset what would normally be a slow business month. Yet even mothers have misgivings about Mother’s Day. What if your children forget or there is no expected phone call or card? What about the extra stress on her loved ones to recognize the day? Hasn’t anyone thought of mothers feeling sad or bad on Mother’s Day?
It seems a time honored tradition to have a day when children can celebrate not only their mother but their father, their grandparent and even their pet. Mother’s Day takes its tradition from ancient Rome and Greece. Indeed the term for “mother” then referred more to the spiritual goddesses who could impact fertility of humans, animals and crops and be a benevolent spirit one could offer tribute to. The modern day celebration in this country grew from the efforts of several prominent women of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to recognize the amazing mothers in their lives. This convinced President Woodrow Wilson in 1914 to proclaim Mother’s Day to be the second Sunday in May. Bring on the flowers!
I confess I have mixed feelings about Mother’s Day although I really felt the love this year. Not because I don’t crave the attention from my children. When they were young, I would get homemade necklaces, paintings of the family cat and small hand prints in clay, gifts cherished even to this day. As adults the only thing I truly relish is their connection. A phone call or a visit. Flowers and brunch are icing on the cake. But what about those who do not have children? Those whose fervent wishes and hopes were not realized? What about those who have suffered the ultimate loss? What is this day to them?
Last Mother’s Day I was gifted with the news of my son’s engagement to his long time sweetheart. This Mother’s Day we are mere weeks out from a beautiful and magical wedding that brought all of our families together. My daughter who lives nearby, spends lots of time with me and, yes, gives me beautiful gifts and flowers. I cherish this attention and her presence because who knows in a year, a month or even a day where we will all be? I don’t want my children to feel a special obligation to me just because it’s the second Sunday in May. I selfishly want it everyday. This past year I lost my own mother. In many ways she had left some time ago as Alzheimer’s slowly stole her memories and pulled her away from us and into her own world where we could not follow. Even so, the touch of her hand or her sweet hug was enough for my own memories to stay intact. I want to maintain the same connection to my own children no matter what happens.
I think what keeps mothers up at night, or at least this mother, is have I done well by my children? Have I been able to give them what they needed? I confess there have been times I have not. I have fallen short. I have allowed my own misgivings to surface so that my children have felt the need to care and protect me. And many times when I knew I needed to be the adult, I know that I was not. I was the angry, sad petulant child and I waited for them to comfort me. Sad mommy. Mad mommy. It’s okay Mommy. Yet the guilt at showing such vulnerability to my little children would stay with me for days.
There were many times when I wished I were that goddess who could seemingly live on little but praise and adoration. Yet I realize that adoration usually came out of fear. Will we have crops? Will the cow give a safe birth? If I were that benevolent goddess mother, couldn’t I guarantee the perfect life for my children? I believe when mothers first hold that tiny frail little body in their arms after hours of the intensity and violence that is giving birth, there is that fervent prayer to protect and be the perfect advocate for that child. I know I made such promises to them and to myself even as my body tried to reconcile itself with what had just happened. But mixed in the good days are the hard ones, lack of sleep, a sick child, worry and fear that translates as anger, hoping a hug will make the world tilt back again. No we are not perfect. Yes we are human. Some mothers make it look easy but all mothers know it is not.
I am so grateful for the Mother’s Day I had this year. I got exactly what I wanted which was connection to my children even though one was far away on his honeymoon. One I could hold and kiss and one I could send my love to. Time and attention. The most precious gifts of all. How very perfect is that?