Mother’s Day – an essay on ambivalence

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I’ve always been ambivalent about Mother’s Day, but I’ve never been able to put my finger on why that is. Then I read this essay by Anne Lamott and I think I figured it out.

As a daughter, the forced yearly thanking of my mom caused me stress from early on. Was my third-grade ribbon-covered, school-mandated box as nice as the other kids’? Later, as a mother myself, I saw the same nervous hopefulness in my own children’s eyes. Did I feel sufficiently appreciated by their hand-made cards and school-bought plants?

I suppose I feel about Mother’s Day the way I feel about Valentine’s Day and other days when you’re supposed to celebrate an ideal on cue. On Valentine’s Day, just because I’m not in a relationship, am I supposed to feel excluded, not worthy of celebrating? On Mother’s Day, I’m on the “winning” side, since I’m a mom. But does that mean that every childless woman who loves and nurtures is somehow not up to my standard? And that every woman who has given birth is? Forced celebrations often remind us of our failures. I, for one, never thought more about how broken my (now-defunct) marriage was than on my wedding anniversary.

I don’t feel any need to eradicate Mother’s Day. If it works for people, a little love and acknowledgement is always a good thing in the world. But, for myself, I far prefer the steady, quiet, ongoing bond that is woven between my children and myself, impromptu, on walks with the dogs or chats on the steps or snuggles on the couch during and episode of Phineas and Ferb. That’s all the celebration I need. I would much rather know I am in their hearts every day. I don’t need them to stress a saccharin sentiment once a year.

I’ve been growing an iris garden and the whole week before Mother’s Day the flowers looked like they were about to bloom. They didn’t. The next day, I went outside to see one of the prettiest ones unfurling its showy purple and yellow flowers. Just on a Monday, no occasion, blooming on its own schedule. I snapped a picture and appreciated the metaphor.

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