It’s the time of year where mothers get pampered and praised for the hard, often unseen work that they do. They get breakfast in bed, massages, thank you cards galore and oodles and oodles of flowers and chocolates.
Except, most Mother’s Days don’t exactly go that way.
It is actually a day of mourning for many people.
Some have fertility issues and this day reminds them that they are still not a mom.
Some have yet to find a partner to make that dream happen.
Though there are ways to become a mother for those who are single have fertility challenges, many can’t afford it.
Some had to become mothers too early.
Some people never knew their mom.
Some were abandoned by their mothers.
Some are under the care of an abusive mother.
Many people’s mothers have passed on.
The list goes on.
I don’t fall into any of the above categories, and I am grateful for it. But I often remember this day being a day of disappointment. Sometimes growing up, my mom didn’t react the way I expected to the things I did for her on that day. I often felt anxiety around the issue of “did I do enough?”
Church sermons that put mothers on a pedestal rarely sat right with me. I would often hear men talk about how their mother or their wife did so many things for them, that they don’t do enough back, and they’re grateful for it. Was I really supposed to clean up after everyone and be their executive secretary with a smile on my face to earn my Mother’s Day?
When I became a mom, I was often disappointed at what my husband didn’t do. No matter how hard I worked to make Father’s Day amazing for him or gave him ideas for what he should do for me, I was always disappointed.
I had a friend talk about how sweet it was for her kids to make her breakfast in bed and shower her with presents when she woke up. But was disappointed that afterward, she got out of bed and had a demolished kitchen and huge wrapping paper mess to clean up before lunch, which she was going to make.
Everyone in all of these situations was doing their best to show love to the person they love, so why all of this disappointment?
After many years of thinking on this, a little voice inside me finally surfaced that said,
It doesn’t have to be this way!
Which led me to reframe this special day in 3 ways:
1. It’s the other 364 days
How a mom feels on Mother’s Day is a reflection of how she is treated throughout the entire year. If she’s ignored and under-appreciated 364 days out of the year, no number of flowers, chocolates or foot rubs will make that day special for her. If I am unsatisfied with how Mother’s Day goes with my mom, I need to re-evaluate my side of my relationship with her throughout the entire year, not just on one day.
2. It’s not about YOU
Mother’s Day is a day for each person to honor and show gratitude to their mother. When did mothers get the idea that it was our day? As a mother, I have the same responsibility as I did before I became a mother — to honor and show respect to my mother. In my view, Mother’s Day is still not about me. My children, partner and I have a job on this day and it involves three entirely different people. It is incredibly freeing to allow them to figure out how to do their jobs while I am still figuring out how to do mine.
3. Being a doormat is a personal problem
If I, myself, feel like a doormat on Mother’s Day or any other day of the year, then I need to evaluate how I let my family treat me all year.
Last Christmas, I was worried that everyone would have fun during the break except me, who would be stuck decorating, shopping, cooking and cleaning up after everyone. We sat down for our weekly family council and I expressed my fear. The kids were surprised that I actually didn’t like being in the kitchen so often (what!?!?!). Then everyone came up with something they would do to make sure I had more time to play, including a reminder sign on the kitchen counter that read, “Free Mom from the Kitchen!”
It might seem awkward teaching those we love how to treat us. If they loved us, they should know, right?
Just like we need to teach our children how to speak our native language, parents have to teach them how to speak their love language.
It doesn’t mean we’re loved any less, it just means we’re still moms and they’re still our children.
Though if your partner still struggles with this, that is a discussion for another time.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of us, for we all have mothers. I hope it is a wonderful time of reflection and gratitude for the amazing women who have done for us what we could not do for ourselves. No matter what your experience was in being mothered, I am certain that she did the best she could with the resources and knowledge given to her. I am certain that she has and always will love you with her whole soul … independent of her ability or inability to express it.
Stacey Carruth is a parent with four children in Arapahoe County.
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