Sorry She Started Mother’s Day

Here we are, another Mother’s Day. I’m not a fan, and I’m aware I’m in the minority.

I have the same complaints about Mother’s Day as Christmas and Valentine’s, where we dedicate one out of 365 days to those who love, care and are there for us. 

Mother’s Day is supposed to be every day. I dislike my family feeling undue pressure to do something special to mark the occasion. They are there for me daily as I am for them, which means everything. Making me laugh and being part of my life. That’s my gift. Taking their light and sharing it with the world – that’s my treasure. 

I’m not suggesting to not enjoy the day. Only that it’s not a make it or break it day unless you’re a corporation banking on it. 

Women who choose not to have kids are no less nurturing caregivers. Many of them are fierce advocates for various social causes that benefit so many. Their purpose is no different from that of a mother’s. No one owns the handle on caregiving and compassion. They are no less mothers in my world for all that they do for their nieces, nephews and for their friend’s kids. Holding a special space, that only they can. A lot of times as confidants. They are an essential part of the village that raises a child. My mother had girlfriends that I loved who provided me with eclectic nuggets of wisdom and guidance my mother had not experienced. They were also around when my mother no longer was—time to transcend what it means to care for others. There exists no exclusivity around caregiving. 

But there is another side to a day that is profited off of and not considered. Mothers who have passed, children who never bonded with their mothers and those who struggle having been abandoned by their mothers due to incomprehensible circumstances. Mothers mourning the loss of children who have passed or who are estranged and the strained relationships with mothers or demanding mothers-in-law. Those who chose not to be mothers and those who desperately want to be mothers but can’t. For them, Mother’s Day is heartbreaking. A day that focuses on loss and despair. There appears to be no card to mark that. 

Anna Jarvis founded mother’s Day in 1908. She intended to honour her late mother, a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War. Jarvis also created Mother’s Day Work Clubs addressing public health issues. She wanted to continue her mother’s legacy by honouring others like her mother for their work. She believed in the idea of “the person who’d done more for you than anyone.” 

Jarvis and I share a few things concerning Mother’s Day. She became resentful of the holiday’s commercialization, sorry she started it. Hallmark Cards and other corporations used the holiday to leverage their commercial interests as companies will. Instead of becoming a day of sentiment, it became one for profit. Hello Christmas, Valentine’s, Easter, and Father’s Day. 

An angered Jarvis then boycotted Mother’s Day, threatening lawsuits against the corporations involved. She insisted that people appreciate their mothers through handwritten letters expressing their gratitude and love rather than buying gifts. To her credit, she protested a candy makers convention in Philadelphia in 1923 and then a meeting of American War Mothers in 1925. By then, carnations became the Mother’s Day flower, for whom the American War Mothers were raising money. A pissed-off Jarvis was arrested, disturbing the peace in challenging this. I love this woman!

I fucking hate carnations. Back in the day, I would’ve boycotted just on that selection alone. What a lousy choice of flower to symbolize compassion, mindfulness, courage, peace and wisdom. Those traits all belong to the stunning Lotus flower and are intrinsic to a caregiver. 

A company I subscribe to recently sent me an email stating that I can be temporarily removed from their mailing list for Mother’s Day—citing that it may not be the best time for some mothers. They wish not to be insensitive, agreeing to reinstate those who choose to temporarily opt-out of their Mother’s Day emails. They signed off that they are human too. That was the most considerate marketing message I have ever received.

I don’t know women who are the archetypes of the traditional Mother’s Day card. Disney might, but I don’t. Yes, there’s sainthood associated with some moms. Still, other mothers can be pushed to the fifth ring of hell for all they manage. The women I know are formidable, vulnerable, possess integrity and are loving.

There’s a quote from the series “Casual” on Netflix. We spend our whole lives waiting for our parents to apologize. They spend theirs waiting for a thank you. Neither of us ever gets what we want.” That sums up the disconnect even for some tight families. Having children means you need fluidity in your life. Kids may be close to you as toddlers but strangers as adults. That’s okay. You love them from afar because they never belonged to you anyway. They always belonged to life. You were their teacher and guide, but you don’t own them. Their choices are theirs alone, just like yours and so are their lives. You have given them life, provide them with roots and wings and it’s up to them to take it from there to spread their wings and fly.

It is painful to be at odds with our children and to have them fake generosity on this manufactured date, from fresh flowers to a box of pastries when clearing up the air instead of a masked confrontation, might be the better gift that heals the both of them.

I celebrated Mother’s Day when our kids were first born and was delighted to surrender it to my mother, who cherished the day. We spoiled her instead. It possessed a different sentiment for her, and I was too happy to oblige.

I will do nothing different on this day than any other, and I expect my family to behave in the same way. It’s them being who they are that I adore and from where I draw my experiences. Forced indulgences because it’s Mother’s Day is inauthentic and annoying to me. Mother’s Day is every day. If I have to use Mother’s Day to get a massage, have coffee brought to me, appreciate fresh cut flowers, be taken out to dinner or sleep in, then I need to reassess my life. It’s not a do-over or a make-up day up for the days you’re ignored. If you’re acknowledged for all you do as a mother for only one day, it is time to deconstruct to reconstruct, so that doesn’t happen. I want my family to be genuine on Mother’s Day. If they’re having a rough day, I don’t expect them to be phony towards me and candy-coat it because it’s Mother’s Day. That pretending doesn’t serve either of us. I want them to be free and have fun on that day, whether with me or somewhere else. They’re already clinched in my heart, so it doesn’t matter. 

The women I know want very little from their kids at this juncture. Time is the most precious gift. Spending it with their grandkids or enjoying coffee or a glass of wine while catching up with their children is a tremendous blessing. They don’t need flowers, but they’ll take some help around the garden or perhaps clean out the garage. Tasks can be loaded with fun if you add some take-out food and music to the job. Acknowledging what’s happening in a mother’s life exceeds what an arbitrary bouquet dropped by can ever do. Those are guilt bouquets, and I’d prefer not to be the recipient of one. 

I have a box of Mother’s day gifts that our kids have made for me over the years, and they are priceless to me. Flat clay pancakes with their tiny hand marks. Hilarious cards and tear-jerking letters inscribed on paper declaring their love for me. They are the experiences Jarvis speaks of, handwritten notes of gratitude and love. 

I will spend part of Mother’s Day with my girlfriend because we care for and support each other. We will have our coffee, share our magnificence, and laugh at our foibles, granting each other the gift of time and laughter. 

The power of female energy is formidable, internal and exempt from outside validation. It can and does move mountains. The women around me who have come out of the other end of difficult situations make me want to stand up and applaud their fortitude, grace, and grit. Their strength is breathtaking, and therein lies what all mothers/caregivers come to master – resiliency.

Mother’s Day is every day. Whether you have children or not. It recognizes those who have done more for you than anyone else and is not about the separation of one group. 

It’s about the essence of compassion demonstrated through the unselfish act of caregiving.