It sounds bizarre, but I do. For weeks before the day I start griping about it. I complain about how when you live near your own mother, Mother's Day is never about you. It is like a hierarchy. You don't get to celebrate Mother's Day the way you want to until you are no longer the youngest mother on the totem pole or unless there is significant distance between you.
Wow, that sounds ridiculously selfish as I type it, let me explain.....
I am terribly susceptible to all those Mother's Day commercials floating around that show this idealized vision of the perfect Mother's Day. I tear up when I see the family gathering around to celebrate Mom, and yet, in the back of my head I am already starting to get grumpy, because I know it is an unrealistic expectation.
And that is the long and short of it. I hate Mother's Day because somehow, on that day, our families are somehow supposed to magically create enough love, goodwill and thoughtfulness to carry us through a whole other year of self-sacrifice and hard work. Somehow the expectation is, for 24 hours, our families are supposed to prove how much they truly appreciate us, as mothers.
Normally, on Mother's Day, I make dinner for my Mom and my Mother-in -law. I work all day long in the kitchen (forget that it is my day too) and whip up some fantastic feast to show them both how much I appreciate them and all they do for us. I love them both. They are truly magnificent women and I am lucky to have them in my life. But, I will admit, when the three of us agreed to take this year off, I was relieved. I was going to get to spend the day how I wanted to....as a total hermit. Yay!
Because, unlike my mother's theory that I somehow hate the day because I was rejected by my birth mom, which is ridiculous, I hate the day because it sets up unrealistic expectations. Actually, I hate Valentine's Day for the same reason (although with much less vehemence). It is a holiday that excludes people by its very nature. Also, it puts moms in the mindset to seek out perceived slights.
Somehow, by going through the motions of getting chocolate and flowers on Valentine's Day or buying your mom the "perfect present" which shows her how you "truly feel about her," you have fulfilled some cultural expectation and proved that you love the person receiving the gifts. Forget about the other 364 days a year when you love them just as much. You have to prove that you love them on this day. In my opinion, that isn't how love works.
Does it really mean anything when you have to do it?
And yet, my expectations are just as bad.
6:35 a.m.: Same as every morning, I awaken with a 3 year old shaking me, "Mom, just get up and get me my strawberry [milk]." I roll out of bed, sore from the previous day, and head downstairs. I do this every day of the year without fail, and yet because I know what day it is, I shoot hateful daggers at my sleeping husband. I assume, because despite it being our normal routine, he should have somehow set an alarm and beat the baby out of bed so I could sleep in.....because, HELLO, it's MOTHER'S DAY!
We head downstairs and I get Starman his milk, set up his morning cartoon, feed the animals and start on the dishes. Now I am pissed off because, they should have known it was Mother's Day today and, despite the fact that I do the dishes every morning, they should have known this wasn't what I wanted to encounter first thing on MY DAY.
About an hour later, as I am finishing the dishes, the rest of my family joins me. They immediately wish me a Happy Mother's Day. But, instead of being happy, it irritates me. I go upstairs and take a shower only to hear my husband yelling. Turns out my 3 year old broke a shelf off the wall. My immediate thought, "of course he did, because it's Mother's Day."
Ten minutes after that, the girls start fighting, which prompts me to scream, "GREAT! This is exactly what I wanted to hear on Mother's Day. I knew today was going to be horrible." (Because somehow the girls fighting on Mother's Day felt like a personal insult, "Can't I get one day of peace?") The Husband immediately responded with, "Ah, yes. Of course you are already a bitch this morning, it's Mother's Day. I figured you would be. You have been bitching about today for weeks."
I stomped to the family room, kicked everyone out and binged on three hours of uninterrupted television. By myself. Heaven.
While I am watching t.v, the girls bring me their offerings. For some reason they annoy me because they feel so obligatory. They are cookie cutter assignments from school and don't feel that they have much of my girls in them. (In contrast, I melted like a puddle over the bouquet of dandelions they proffered me after school a couple weeks ago. And Saturday, because Starman was spending the night at grandma's house, they made us breakfast in bed.) My kids are awesome, and I feel like a total jerk for not feeling it more.
The kids started complaining that I hadn't fed them yet, so The Husband talked me into going out to Sweet Tomatoes (or Soup Plantation in other parts of the country) for brunch. On the way there, I mentioned that even though I spoke to my Mom the previous day in person, hugged her and wished her a happy Mother's Day, no doubt she would still be expecting a phone call. I told him I would need to do that when we got home.
Brunch put me in a better mood and I was going to call my Mom when we got home, but the girls begged me to watch part of their movie with them first, so I did. I only made it about 10 minutes in when I fell asleep on the couch... for the next three hours.
I awoke when I realized that the dog was barking and barking, which meant someone was at the door. It was my cousin and his girlfriend, and their 3 year old. Bleary eyed, I pulled open the door. They just wanted to stop by and surprise me.
I invited them in, and discovered that the whole family was asleep, so I went around waking them up. By the time I got Starman up to play with his friend, got everyone drinks and snacks, and visited for a while, I realized it was nearly 4:30.
Oh crap! I excused myself and told them I really needed to call my Mom.
I knew she was pissed off when she answered the phone. We had a short, brisk conversation and I explained I would call her later when the company had left. They left around 6:30 and I called her as I was making dinner. We talked along, and I thought we were good. I thought that right up until she told me that my not calling her until 4:30 was clearly a reflection on how I "truly felt about her." Then there was something about being ungrateful and my attitude being a reflection about my birth mother's rejection.
Suddenly, just like me with my own family, the other 364 days of the year meant nothing. It didn't matter that we hugged the afternoon before and I wished her a happy Mother's Day. It didn't matter that we discussed putting off celebrating the day until it was less snowy and cold. No, the only thing that mattered was that I didn't call her until 4:30, so clearly I love her less.
Just like my own feeling that clearly my family loves me less because they didn't bend over backwards to make my life easier, change up our routine, and in all other ways prove that they value me. And that is why I hate the day.
We set up these Hallmark card expectations and then, these mothers who are busy sacrificing and giving the very best of themselves 364 days of the year, somehow have to cash in for one, inevitably disappointing day. Because, ultimately, there is no way to properly appreciate your mother. She is the end all and be all of existence. My mother gives and sacrifices and loves me all year round, and I appreciate her, whether she sees that right now or not.
I woke up this morning feeling relieved that the day was over. I came downstairs and sat down to write this post.
My husband came down soon after and came in and hugged me, "Happy Day after Mother's Day," he said with a smile. "What would you like to do to celebrate you today?"
And just like that, I melted. Because today he didn't have to. Today it feels like appreciation vs. obligation. You know what.....I think I might call my Mom.