Monday, May 9, 2016

The Other Side of Mother's Day

I know I sound like a party pooper, but most years Mother's Day hasn't exactly been my favorite day of the year.  I mean...I appreciate it and all, but so often the reality has not lived up to the hype.  Most of the time it feels like a Hallmark holiday, no matter how noble the purpose, so expectations (particularly in the social media age) always seem to rocket sky high.  With limited time, budgets, and little boy attention spans, it rarely turns out as lovely as the mental picture.

At this point in our lives we are thankful for the opportunity to still be able to defer to our own mothers, so the day inevitably ends up being busy and involving travel.  As anyone with kids will tell you, that is not a recipe for a relaxing, restful, reflective day.  I can look at every Facebook post in my feed showing fancy gifts and dinners, or some sort of blissful mom escape, and that is pretty much not going to be my life for the foreseeable future.  And while I have moments of frustration in regards to that, ultimately I am so thankful that we both have moms to go celebrate.  I know someday Mother's Day might revolve around me, but I also know what that would mean, so I am in no rush.  Additionally, I know that by the time that happens, life could be very different, and that rest and relaxation I often crave may not come in the form I anticipate.  So I choose to live in the moment, accept a busy day of travel, and pray the kid fallout isn't so bad that I can't count the day as "good".

My Mother's Day was fine, but I'll get into that in another post.  What I want to talk about has to do with a post I did on Facebook later in the day.  It said:
As I reflect on all my blessings today, I also think of all of the women for whom this day is torture--those who have lost their mom, those who no longer have all of their children with them, and those who long to be a mom but have not been able to fulfill their dream. Life truly isn't fair and I wish there were words to help you through this day. While I think it's great to take a day to honor moms' hard work, part of me would gladly give up my accolades if it made today easier for you. Thinking of you all...and definitely praying for a few in particular...

This post just felt like it needed to be said.  The universe seemed to be conspiring to bring me to this realization this year.  For all my frustration and complaining over the years, there are countless women suffering through a truly awful Mother's Day for any of the reasons above.  This year specifically, I seemed to be getting reminder after reminder of this fact, when previously I never gave it much thought aside from a random Facebook post here and there.  But this year, the reality kept hitting me in the face, to the point I told Craig that I sort of wished Mother's Day didn't even exist.  Like I said in the post, I do think it's important to honor moms, and I don't want to begrudge underappreciated moms of that opportunity.  But is it worth doing it at the expense of a significant population that is tortured by the day?

Obviously my thoughts have been with my aunt, who I knew would be spending her first Mother's Day without her daughter.  How can you look at Mother's Day the same when one of the reasons you became a mom is no longer on this earth?

Then of course, there are the women (and men, for that matter) who don't have a mom to honor anymore.  My own mother falls into that category, after all.  I had a friend post on Facebook late last week expressing her difficulty with the holiday, and she was far from alone.  There were enough random tributes and sad posts throughout my feed to make it clear that this is not an easy holiday, even for those who have kids of their own to celebrate with.

Perhaps the most visible group this year was those who want to be moms but whose bodies chose not to cooperate.  One of my oldest and dearest friends falls in that category and has been waiting to adopt for years.  While she has never directly expressed her feelings about the holiday, I've seen enough from others in her situation to know it can't be easy.  Over the last year and a half I've been following the blog of the Gardner quadruplets, who were born after eight years of infertility for their parents.  The mom has posted numerous times about how difficult Mother's Day was for her before she had her girls.  And a few weeks ago I read "Instant Mom", the autobiography of Nia Vardalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which told the story of her fertility struggles and detailed her extreme dislike of Mother's Day prior to adopting her daughter. 

I felt like I was hearing so much this year about all of these categories, from various sources, and I guess this year it just really bore its way into my soul.  It practically made me more disenchanted with the holiday--not in a complainy sort of way, but in a way where I just didn't want to focus on it as much for myself personally.  I am still happy to honor the mothers around me, but I refused to let the holiday let me down this year.  I am extraordinarily blessed to be a mom and have two crazy kids who made me that way.  I am so thankful for my own mom, and for both of my grandmas who lovingly mothered my parents so many years ago.  And while it's easy to let the stress of my own motherhood challenges get to me and ruin the day, I know I am fortunate to be where I am.  I don't fall into any of those categories above, and for that reason alone I should be grateful to be able to enjoy the day.  So, perhaps that helped me stay on a more even keel this year.  Hard to complain, for sure.

Today I stumbled across a blog post by a mom who has lost two children in which she discussed her challenges on Mother's Day.  She lost her first daughter (third child) in utero due to an umbilical cord issue at 5-1/2 months gestation.  Not too long after that, she lost her oldest son, who had already been through a lot, out of the blue.  She has since had a healthy little girl to go with her surviving son, but I was transfixed reading further into her blog.  The horrible losses she has suffered are completely heartbreaking, and as a parent of healthy-enough kids, I can't even fathom how she lives each day...and yet she does, with an amazing attitude that seems to outshine her grief in profound ways.  I had a hard time pulling myself away from reading to get back to my work, and even once I did was haunted by her story, despite how impressed I was by her positive attitude.  Watching my aunt recently suffer through the loss of a grown child has been difficult and has led to plenty of soul searching on my part.  As a general worrier myself, I've certainly thought about how I would survive if something happened to my kids, at any age.  I can't even imagine.  I can guess I'd be here spilling my guts, as that's always been the way I process parenthood, but with something that serious, all bets are off.  Who knows what I'd do?  But to read about a real, normal mom who had to mourn like that twice?  I'm basically lacking the words to describe it.  "Unfair" may be one..."tragic" may be another...but beyond that, all I can muster is "How...?"  I honestly hope I never have to learn, but when you see tragedy all around you, you know it doesn't discriminate.  All you can do in the meantime is hug your kids tight, teach them right, pray, and savor every minute you can with them.  And yesterday, even if I didn't always succeed, I certainly tried to keep it in mind.  My time to innocently enjoy Mother's Day will only last so long--guaranteed--so I really need to celebrate it while I can.  I may not want to shout it from the rooftops because of those who just can't celebrate, but I need to appreciate the chance to do so without the sting of loss, for as long as I can.  I owe it to the rest of the women out there who would give anything to be in my shoes.

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