Another Mother’s Day has come and gone. If I was a “perfect” mother, I may have had my stuff together enough to write about Mother’s Day before it happened. But I’m not the “perfect" mother.
Like many mothers, I’m “good enough.” My life is a constant juggling act: drive to karate, help with homework, get bills paid, take cat to the vet, teach the child, care for the house, care for the yard, get that birthday present, earn some cash, make healthful dinners. Every damn night.
Oh, and find some time to have the occasional date night and maybe an evening alone doing nothi… er… taking care of myself.
Some balls are in the air; some are being taken care of actively; some have fallen out of the juggling pattern, bounced on the floor, and rolled under the couch, not to be recovered until the child or cat reaches under there for some forgotten toy.
Despite all this juggling, despite doing our best, today’s society seems to find pleasure in berating the modern mom. Stay at home? Not good enough, you need to work! Working mother? Guilt! Guilt! You don’t spend enough time with your kids! One child is too few; three is too many. Your child needs a cat! No, a dog! You breastfed too long; you didn’t do it enough! Helicopter mom; tiger mom; lazy mom.
Mother’s Day is the culmination of all this mother-judging. This is the day Mom must be celebrated for all she does (sorry for the judgments the other 364 days of the year), but how? Spoil her with a day at the spa! No, take her out for a family brunch and picnic and photos and fancy dinner! The advertisements in early May are full of praises for Mom and how she deserves all this special treatment, never mind the bizarre juxtaposition of how Mom should spend the entire day being pampered (by herself) AND spend the entire day surrounded by the ones she loves who made her a mom.
In the way of that “perfect” Mother’s Day celebration is all our childhood baggage and current-life practicalities. My husband spent Mother’s Days going to church, giving his mom a card and bird collectible, and then helping his dad in the yard or working on the cars. He still equates Mother’s Day with his mother, not me, and yard work.
My own family was more chaotic. My parents spent my childhood fighting, breaking up, and making up. Mother’s Day was a great time to apologize for all that fighting. Dad got Mom extravagant bouquets of flowers and huge cards and, if the tax return was right, expensive presents. He hollered at us girls for fighting, making too much noise, not helping Mom enough—it was her day. Sometimes he’d work with us to find her a nice “from the kids” present. Sometimes not. For her part, Mom preened and sulked in equal measures. She was a “hinter” and if she didn’t get what she wanted, what she’d been hinting about for the previous weeks, she was unhappy. And she let us know about it.
I hated Mother’s Day.
For the first few years after our son was born, my husband and I celebrated Mother’s Day by ordering flowers for our mothers and sending cards. We did nothing for me and that was fine. I hated Mother’s Day and my husband didn’t think of me as a mother. Neither one of us felt the need to do more.
But we forgot about someone. We forgot Boychild was growing up. In the past few years, Boychild has wanted to do something for his mom. Me. And we’ve been letting him down.
Me, because I didn’t care. Husband because he never remembers holidays and because when I tell him it’s time to get a card for his mother, he doesn’t think of me a s a mother who also needs a card.
And then, here we run into the practicalities of life. Sometime during our eighteen years of marriage, my husband and I divided up life’s responsibilities. He mows the lawn; I do the laundry. He maintains our computers and networks; I pay the bills. He goes to work daily; I make dinner (and breakfast and lunch for Boychild) daily.
He doesn’t really like people; I make all our social plans.
I make all our social plans. Boychild wants to celebrate Mother’s Day. You start to see the problem.
But for the life of me, I couldn’t see the solution. See, I’d gotten myself in the mindset of all those advertisers who expect my poor husband to drop everything and plan this very special day, despite his complete lack of experience and skill at something like that. But I also didn’t want to be the hinter that my own mom was.
After talking to several mom friends over the years, I realized we ALL run into these types of problems. What do we want for Mother’s Day? And is it OK to ask for it? Even if we want fancy family portraits at a local park? Even if we just want to be left alone from the little people following us into the bathroom or the medium-sized people asking for us to fix their kendamas or the adult-sized people asking us for our car keys?
I heard a lot of complaints and some boasts) before Mother’s Day. My husband always forgets. He doesn’t plan anything. It’ll be just like another ordinary day. The kids don’t even care, so why should I. I bought my own present and told my husband to wrap it.
I seriously thought about just saying screw it and ignoring Mother’s Day for another year.
But then I thought some more. Mothering is a hard job. It’s constant and chronic and chaotic. Why shouldn’twe celebrate it? Or at least, acknowledge it.
So rather than make the whole day about me, and rather than expect my poor husband to plan every single thing, I did what I always do. I planned it. I made reservations for brunch at Sip and sent a meeting request to my husband. I told the family I wanted new patio furniture so we could spend some time shopping on Mother’s Day.
Over the weekend, I sent Boychild off to the card aisle at Safeway during our regular grocery run. Boychild went a step further and picked out a bouquet of flowers. Husband bought berries and shortcakes for a fancy dessert.
At brunch, Husband and Boychild said lovely things about my mothering. I opened my cards. I felt nurtured.
Boychild fetched things for me. I felt spoiled.
We walked through nearby Central Park and played. I felt connected to my family.
We came home. My husband did the laundry for me. More spoiling.
I taught Boychild to clean his bathroom, bedroom, and closet (again. Some lessons just don’t stick). And then Boychild and I cleaned his fish tank. I felt… wait a sec… I felt gross!
Why didn’t I do these things before Mother’s Day? Because I’m not that good at planning and time management. Why didn’t I do these things after Mother’s Day? Because I had my child’s undivided attention and willingness to please me simply because it was Mother’s Day.
And I’m mother enough to take advantage of Boychild’s goodwill, no matter the cause. And mother enough to know sometimes you just have to get the green algae off the tank so you can see the fish. And mother enough to know mothering doesn’t end, just because it’s Mother’s Day.
But after those chores, Husband took me to coffee at Victor’s. Back to feeling
So, while Mother’s Day was hardly just another Sunday, it wasn’t the paragon of domestic virtue advertisers suggest it should be.
But that’s OK. It was perfect for me.
Hope all you moms had the Mother’s Day you wanted.
And if you didn’t, I hope this blog post gives you the impetus to make your Mother’s Day what you want.