The words alone bring up so many expectations. Flowers. Cards. Phone calls. Gifts. A day of rest and relaxation. A day to celebrate.
But Mother’s Day can bring a mix of complicated feelings and emotions. There are so many dynamics that come into play on a single day that got it’s roots in Europe. Originally as “Mother Sunday”, it was a day for the faithful to return to their mother church. In the US it got its start by Anna Jarvis, as a way to honor the sacrifices mothers made for their children. She encouraged children to write letters to their mothers. It was declared a national holiday in 1914, and it’s eventual commercialization outraged Jarvis, who then spent the rest of her life trying to have it removed as a holiday.
It’s hard to sort out who to celebrate once you’ve become a married adult, especially if distance makes it difficult for you to visit both moms. And what if there is a step-mom in that mix as well? How do you choose without hurting someone’s feelings? And what happens when you have your own children? Does the day shift to celebrate the new mom? Does it still have to include all the above-mentioned moms? How can that possibly work, and who gets the most focus? And shouldn’t we be thanking mom every day instead of just focusing on one day a year?
It’s exhausting to think about, isn’t it?
Then we have to consider everyone else:
- All the people who have lost their mom and who will feel that grief more profoundly.
- All the women who are waiting to become a mom and feel the pain of that struggle a little deeper.
- All the women who have lost a child and will feel that emptiness a little larger.
- All the women who are raising their children alone and feel the weight of that burden a little heavier.
- All the people who have complicated relationships with their mothers and will feel that divide grow a little bigger.
- All the moms who have estranged relationships with their children and feel that loss a little greater.
It’s a lot to ask from one day, especially one that has turned into a “Hallmark holiday”, of which it was never intended.
So what is the best way to approach it, then?
Gently. With love. Swathed in self care – for either yourself, or your loved one who is a mom, or who falls into one of the above mentioned situations.
By acknowledging the feelings you have surrounding this day, you can address them ahead of time. I read a piece on this last year and the writer so beautifully called this “pre-grieving.” By allowing yourself to deal with your pain and grief ahead of time, you can better enjoy the day when it arrives.
Maybe spend an afternoon, or a whole day if you need it, this week mourning what is, or what isn’t. In her book Love Lives Here, Maria Goff says we need to put a name to what it is that is causing our grief, and then let it go. Decide what that looks like for you and take the time required to do the work.
Then on Sunday, let the day unfold how it will.
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