I sat down to write a Mother’s Day piece and it began with the beauty of springtime, the chirping birds busy building their nests, the beautiful weather and the celebration of all the dedicated mothers in nature and in our lives. Then, I got stuck. I stopped. I scrapped it. Although it was everything people want to hear on Mother’s Day and everything I want to feel on Mother’s Day, it wasn’t entirely honest. It was sincere and heartfelt, but it was only telling part of the story. Frankly, Mother’s Day isn’t all flowers and chocolate covered strawberries for me. While I try to focus on the positive in life, the truth is, Mother’s Day makes me sad. Mother’s Day has made me sad for the past 16 years. Regardless of how the day is spent, how many people I am with or what gifts of appreciation are given, I am left, at the end of the day, lonely and wanting. Honestly, I’ve never truly acknowledged this to anyone, including myself. So instead of writing a Hallmark card piece about Mother’s Day, I’m writing this instead.
My mother had died in March, so on my first Mother’s Day without her, I went alone to the cemetery to take her flowers (because that’s what you’re supposed to do). I felt rushed by my husband who wanted to be at his mother’s house at specific time. The cemetery experience was awkward and uncomfortable. It was crowded and difficult to find a place to park. There were entire families with blankets and picnic lunches spending the day. I didn’t know what I expected or how I was going to feel, but I just felt more confused and isolated in my emotions. I felt like I had been inducted into a club that I didn’t want to join. This was not how it was supposed to be.
Five minutes before arriving at my mother-in-law’s house, my husband pulled into the parking lot of a local department store. He asked me to go in and buy his mother a gift and have it gift wrapped while he waited in the car with the kids. I was angry beyond belief. It was a rude and insensitive request. I knew he was choosing to ignore my fragile and irritated mood that day because I certainly wasn’t hiding it very well. I kept my thoughts to myself and went into the department store (because that’s what I was supposed to do). The escalator dropped me directly in front of the lingerie department which displayed several very sexy little nighties, which were clearly presented in the hopes of enticing husbands who had left their shopping to the last minute. I knew they were not placed there for daughter-in-laws to purchase for their mother-in-laws to then be gift wrapped and labeled from their sons, but I came very close to doing just that. Buying an inappropriate gift for his mother seemed like a great way to make a statement about making an inappropriate request of me. One my husband would never forget. I have very few regrets in life, but the fact that I left that tiny nightie in the lingerie department and continued on to home décor for a picture frame, is definitely one of my biggest regrets. This was not what I was supposed to be doing on Mother’s day.
It wasn’t entirely the events of that first Mother’s Day that made it so difficult. It was the lack of acknowledgment, by anyone I knew, how emotionally difficult that first Mother’s Day was for me. People didn’t know what to say, so they said nothing. People didn’t want to remind me that my Mom was dead (as though I had forgotten), so they didn’t mention her. People didn’t want to deal with my emotions, so they ignored them. People didn’t want to think about it, so they didn’t. Everyone just played along with cheery smiles and the assumed social niceties. Everyone just pretended that it was a Mother’s Day just like any other when it was anything but. This was not how they were supposed to act.
Sixteen years later, nothing has really changed. I often still feel frustrated and angry at my loved ones for not understanding or validating my emotions. Then, I feel angry and frustrated with myself because I know that they can’t possibly validate feelings they are incapable of understanding. I don’t want to burden anyone with my emotions on a day of celebration. I don’t want to make people feel awkward or uncomfortable. I don’t want to seem ungrateful for my family and my children. I don’t want Mother’s Day to be sad. This is not the way I’m supposed to feel.
So here’s what I finally figured out, I play the biggest part in this whole charade. I have never given myself permission to completely accept my own emotions. I feel selfish for wanting to shut myself alone in my room to cry. I feel bad for not always being able to convincingly put on a cheery smile and participate in assumed social niceties. I feel guilty for not just focusing on all the positive aspects of the day. Hell, I’ve never accepted and validated my own thoughts and emotions, so how can I expect anyone else to do it for me? I’ve finally realized that this is the only thing I’m supposed to do.
This Mother’s Day I am inviting my sadness, my anger, my confusion and my jealousy to the party instead of treating them like unwanted party crashers. They exist, they are valid and they deserve my attention. This year I will welcome them along with the joy, appreciation and love of Mother’s Day. I will recognize them, accept them, and honor them. They will always be with me on Mother’s Day, so I will embrace them and make peace with them. I will no longer worry about how I am supposed to feel, what I am supposed to do, how I am supposed to act, or how the day is supposed to be.
Allowing these ever-present emotions does not deny me of the happiness, peace and satisfaction I feel on this day. It does not lessen the beauty of springtime and the chirping birds or the appreciation I have for all the dedicated mothers in nature and in my life. Permitting all my emotions, without judgment, simply enables me to remember and honor my mother honestly and completely.
I suspect that flowers will be more fragrant and chocolate covered strawberries will taste much sweeter now.
Happy Mother’s Day