Every month it’s the same deal. Something Hallmark created decades ago cements itself into our yearly calendar and then the barrage of email offers and gift guides begins. I get it. Stores need promotional material to move merchandise, and what better way than saddling a national “holiday” that whittles down to a sales ploy? It’s an element of our culture that converts the sacred into something trite and marketable.
I guess I sound bitter and I’m sorry for that. I know that taking time to acknowledge our parents is important. And that maybe if we didn’t pencil it into our cluttered calendars, it wouldn’t get done. I also know that I try to do that more than once a year. Whenever I think of Mother’s Day, the first thought that pops into my mind is not “I wonder what my kids will do for me,” instead it’s “But every day is Mother’s Day.” Being a mother is a gift and not one that I take for granted.
I feel honored every single day that I am blessed with each one of my children. Every pregnancy made my brain leak out just a little bit more. Every time I nursed, I cried in extreme anguish because it was utterly painful and utterly exquisite with every draw of my tender, bleeding nipples. My body, ravaged because I gave all of me over to these little beings and it was never the same again, nor will it ever be. I never took an epidural because I didn’t want to diminish the profound experience of bringing new life into this crazy, mixed up, incredible world.
There may be no other relationship so fraught with complexity as the one with our mothers and in turn—reviving all those dusty dysfunctions and joys—becoming a mother. The most reliable mantra may be to expect the unexpected. That as much as I worked on myself beforehand, Motherhood inevitably pushes me past my normal threshold and then tips me over even more.
I remember too vividly those moments when I thought I’d go out of my mind because it was so challenging to have little beings with loud emotions to tend to, where every demand physically, mentally, and emotionally opened the plug at the bottom of my drain and sapped the energy out of me. For an empath, it’s like trying to coach 20 different teams at once and then trying to keep all the players happy, well-adjusted, and normal. Yes. Normal feels like settling when we have high hopes and dreams for our kids, but some days normal IS the highest hope I could dream of. Normal feels wonderful.
So why do I want to boycott Mother’s Day? Because I’m tired of all the perfectionism that’s shared in public but privately is the hugest deception to date. And I’m tired of something huge and sacred being distilled into one day and being checked off on a to do list that unravels onto the carpet.
Every day I have to check in to see what I’ve got to be grateful for. Sure. I should be happy all the time. There are a lot of shoulds that I don’t always feel. The truth of it is: if I do not hold gratitude, celebration, and higher purpose in my heart every day, I don’t know if I could get through it sometimes. If I am not in a state of appreciation, then I’m in a constant state of complaint—of contraction, of seeing the cup half empty instead of flowing over with abundance. I need mother’s day to be every day so that I could look at my own mother and see her greatness, rather than focus on the fact that she doesn’t give a tweet about what I do and never asks me.
For a while it made me bitter. That she doesn’t understand what lights me up and gives my life purpose beyond my children—because there is much more to us mothers than breasts that feed and arms that cook, clean, and wipe little butts. It took me years to unlock those mysteries within me and I wanted my mother to celebrate my emergence into selfhood too.
It caused my work to lose value in my eyes because somehow, no matter what age we are, we want our parents to notice us no matter how hard we try to fight it, no matter how hard we argue with ourselves that it’s silly or shove the feeling down into a tight ball in our hearts. It’s there. Believe me. I’ve stumbled across it in the most inconvenient moments. So I decided to heal me. Because I’ve tried getting my mom to change—and other people in my life for that matter too. And nobody ever does until I do.
Going within myself to that embryonic sac where I’m still a mother’s child and always will be was the only place to go to save myself and my own happiness. That makes every day a day of gestation, of mothering myself in ways that I would have wanted but never received. Or perhaps I did receive it and thwarted its flow because there was too much of my own karmic stuff in the way.
In healing myself, I am now able to see with clearest focus what a giant my mother is and how she has always done the best she could, as an orphan herself who never had a mother to emulate or hold her close in her most vulnerable years. In healing myself, I became acutely aware that a mother’s love can not be compacted into appreciating our level of performance. My mother loves me not for what I do, but for who I am. Because my stunning mother gives her heart and soul and willingly let go of a life of glamor and fame to be a mother. And the very best one for me.
Mothering isn’t about being the perfect parent and doing everything right. If it were, we’d all of us fail. Us mamas are highly imperfect—and perhaps that is our greatest lesson—that we received the perfect mothers for us and we are the perfect mothers for our own little ones. Mothering is about recovering from the hurt and the transgressions and rising stronger thanks to them. Mothering is about the mixed brew, the savory and the folly, and deriving the nutrients from what we were given in this mixed up soup and eliminating the waste. It is the greatest uprising in the world.
The danger of Mother’s Day is that we store all of our gratitude into a glorified picnic basket that lasts an afternoon and then folds back into the basket until next year. Don’t do it. Don’t fold it up and put it away. Take its message. Harness it. Embrace the true gift as the Life Giver that a mama truly is.
I’m working on doing it too. On tapping into the daily amazement of watching my five little ones grow up to be strong, noble, wise, surprising, self-actualized humans and of appreciating all the gifts my mother has given me—and above all the precious gift of this life experience. What else could a mama want on Mother’s Day—or any day? Because you know, Mother’s Day really is every day. And don’t you Mamas forget it.