06 May 2014

A response to Mother's Day

I'm dreading Mother's Day.

A year ago, I was pregnant and sick. I'd just been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and was having a hard time dealing with my body's inability to handle food normally while I was pregnant. I felt like a crap mother. And suddenly everyone was wishing me happy Mother's Day. The words made me flinch. I wanted to punch the next person who said them to me. I wanted to burst into tears. I didn't want to be reminded of what a terrible mother I was.

Photo credit: http://www2.uncp.edu/ip/images/Coffee&News.jpg
Mother's Day is something that my mum has never particularly liked celebrating. As she said one year, all she wanted was for us to let her read the Sunday paper and drink her coffee in peace. She didn't want gifts or flowers or breakfast in bed, just some time to herself. And she didn't want to make a big deal out of it, or guilt-trip us into celebrating the holiday. So it was far from a significant holiday for us, and the only reason it might be emotionally fraught was that she didn't like it.

As an adult, my experience with this particular greeting-card holiday has involved whatever my church happened to be doing on the day. The sermon varies, depending on which pastor is preaching. And the youth group hands out flowers to the mothers in the congregation. Usually I ended up with a leftover flower, with one of the older members of the congregation saying cheerfully that I was a "future mother." I didn't mind the flower, but I did mind the assumption that I would have a child at some point. During those years, I was wildly ambivalent about the idea of having children and half-way convinced that, given how many people seemed to have trouble having children, we would too.

This year is different, of course. My daughter is nearly nine months old, almost walking, babbling away with an assortment of sounds, and curious about everything. I am a mother, though I prefer the words "parent" or "mum." And I am a good parent. Not perfect, naturally, but I've managed to keep her alive, healthy, and happy. I think that means we're doing okay.

And yet, I can't forget the woman last year who wasn't sure whether she would need to hide in the bathroom during the sermon to avoid an overenthusiastic endorsement of mothers and a litany of how great they were. I can't forget her, how she flinched away from a friend who tried to wish her a happy Mother's Day, accompanied by a pat on her pregnant stomach, how she turned away, but couldn't bear to explain why she was hurrying away. I can't forget how she gripped the rose she was handed and how part of her wished it still had its thorns. I can't forget how she cried and cried that weekend. I can't forget, because she is me.

Photo credit: gamespe.com
So I'm dreading Mother's Day. I cringe when I see my favourite sewing blogs talking about gift projects for mums. That video about motherhood being the toughest job ever just made me want to shout at its producers. I'm grateful that my daughter wants to get up and move around during church, because it means that I can hide in the nursery with her if the sermon ends up extolling the virtues of motherhood. All Mother's Day is doing is making me relive the overwhelming guilt and misery I experienced last year. It's soon for me to have let go of it completely, and the fact that it's tied in with being a mum just makes it that much more powerful, and harder to ignore.

I love my daughter. But I can't appreciate this holiday.

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