I have mixed feelings about Mother’s Day.
You’re probably thinking that I believe “every day should be Mother’s Day” or that you should “show your appreciation for your mother on any day” and not have just one day dedicated to that.
No. It’s not like that. I completely agree that one day should be set aside. My problem is in the “how” of the celebration. How we celebrate Mother’s Day has been unsettling for me since I can remember, even before I had children.
My earliest memories of Mother’s Day include handing my mom the compulsory craft and handmade card from school and a bought gift. When I was little, she had once mentioned that she liked brooches and every year after that, for about ten years, I gave her a brooch for Mother’s Day. Though she’s never outwardly admitted it, I’m pretty sure she was never really a big fan of brooches since I haven’t seen her wear one since 1985. I kept giving her one every year until the mid-90s. My poor Mom. I had no clue what my mom really wanted and we always saw my grandmother on that day, celebrating the day with her and my entire extended family.
Pregnant with my first child, I had preconceived notions of how Mother’s Day would go for me. It was going to be a day of celebrating all my motherhood feats from sunrise to sunset while Ever-Patient whisked the new babe from my arms so I could leisurely go about my day in the manner I preferred. I soon realized that it wouldn’t go that way. The commercial aspect coupled with the mandatory visitations to my grandmother, mother, and now mother-in-law, was a rude awakening.
Historically speaking, Mother’s Day is not a new festivity. Dating back to Ancient Greece and Rome, festivals were held to honour the mother goddesses. Mothering Sunday was instituted in parts of Europe when Christians attended special church service to celebrate the Virgin Mother and all mothers. The modern day mother’s day originated in America, with its roots beginning in the Civil War when Ann Reeves Jarvis organized “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” which taught mothers how to care for their children. Her daughter eventually lobbied to make it a statutory holiday. History.com explains further:
Anna Jarvis had originally conceived of Mother’s Day as a day of personal celebration between mothers and families. Her version of the day involved wearing a white carnation as a badge and visiting one’s mother or attending church services. But once Mother’s Day became a national holiday, it was not long before florists, card companies and other merchants capitalized on its popularity.
Every year I struggle to tell my eager children and husband what gift I’d like for Mother’s Day. They really want to “get” me something. And for the longest time, I yearned for a day to go at my own pace. A day split between time with the kids and time alone to read, to write, and to make. I’d make the customary phone calls to my mom and my mother-in-law but then spend the day catering to my every whim. I also wouldn’t mind a “thank you” or mind a little banner action (see below). So of course, knowing I had external commitments for this past Mother’s Day, I put these thoughts aside.
Then an unexpected thing happened.
An early morning impromptu meet-up at the cemetery to visit my grandmother turned into a picnic with my aunties, my cousins, my grandfather, and my own little family. It was a sunny day on Mother’s Day and we sat and remembered my grandmother. I was lying down on the picnic blanket by my grandmother’s grave and looked up to see my aunts staring at me with what I can only describe as the most sympathetic expressions. One aunt said, “It’s hard, isn’t? Being a mom? And you’ve got 5 of them!” I exhaled deeply and closed my eyes. Another aunt chimed in, “We get it.” Then I showered them with a barrage of maternal questions – “Does it get easier?” “Why didn’t anyone tell me how hard it gets when they’re older?” “Are your expectations different from each child?” etc. etc. etc.
This went on for a bit. They laughed. They shook their heads and shrugged in equal amounts of resignation and lamentation. They told stories. They were candid. They listened and understood. And as I got up to leave to go see my mother-in-law and mother, I was grateful for that morning, grateful for not feeling alone in this whole motherhood experiment.
This is what is missing on Mother’s Day – mothers truly celebrating other mothers and not just our own mothers but all mothers that make a difference in our life. Imagine a multi-generation gathering of mothers where we share and ask questions to all the grandmothers who have walked this path. A gathering where we solidify our support for one another by speaking honestly and openly about our experiences. A gathering where we honour the noble calling of motherhood on Mother’s Day. It means so much to have another mother honour you because they get it.
I understand that my children cannot possibly fathom the sacrifice and work that goes into mothering them. They won’t know until they themselves are parents. I took my own mother for granted and only recently have I understood the meaning behind her actions and non-actions. I don’t do what I do for external recognition or rewards though like I said, a “thank you” from time to time is always nice.
But other mothers. They know. There is an understanding.
I feel you. I’ve been there. Hang on. You’re doing great.
Forget the gifts. Forget the obligatory visits. Make it into something more. Honour all the mothers that surround you, inspire you, and support you by coming together and telling them that they are doing a kick-ass job. Honour all the mothers that have taught you and that have come before you by remembering their stories or by listening to their guidance even if it’s on the phone or over Skype.
Gather together. Write letters. Write emails. Text. Call. Send thoughts. Have an informal picnic.
Happy belated Mothers’ Day.
What are your feelings about the holiday? Any favourite memories to share? Please leave a comment below…