This past Mother’s Day left me a little singed around the edges, like one of those middle school history projects where a student burns the edges of an “historic” document to make it look more significant and old. For a few days after, I felt a little prickly and, if I’m being totally honest, let down. I had no business feeling this way. I am one of the lucky ones who, in my forties, has two grandmothers, a mother, a mother-in-law, a sister and aunts. I’m the mother of three — teenager to toddler — an aunt, and have mother friends on whom I rely in so many ways, mostly for levity. I am couched in motherhood. And yet, despite being a mother, being with mothers and having mothers all around me, I spent Mother’s Day cranky and “motherfuckering” under my breath.
At best, Mother’s Day is a day spent with family, celebrating the women who care for us; at it’s worst, it becomes a kind of metric by which we can gauge the job we’re doing. So, this Mother’s Day, between the general lack of acknowledgement, a soccer game, extra time spent driving to retrieve forgotten items, a cranky toddler and the prospect of dirty laundry and unfinished homework, I was feeling a little disappointed. In truth, I spent the day how I choose to spend many Sundays: with family, doing the crossword, at a sporting event, sharing meals. It was just a regular run-around day, but with people asking at every turn, “Are you having a nice Mother’s Day? Is your family doing something special for you today?” And, looking to my family for an answer, they were empty-handed and slightly oblivious. Ironically, the very people who made me a mother, were making me crazy.
And therein lies the rub of motherhood. It should be celebrated but, in reality, it’s slogging work. It’s miraculous and mundane. It’s the contradiction of hating when the four-year old comes into my bed at night, and simultaneously basking in the sound of his breath in the dark, loving his small warm arm on my skin. It’s the wonder of life, yet the laundry is multiplying in biblical proportions. I want to celebrate and be celebrated, but the celebration generally lies in the acts of being together — in the car, on the field, doing homework, around the table. Sometimes it’s spectacular, sometimes not.
And, of course, motherhood is not a one day affair. There are losses and lots of small victories. And with a little perspective and a good sense of humor, hopefully we can enjoy even the mundane. Next year, as we’re showing forced appreciation — or are feeling let down by the lack thereof — I’m going to (probably get annoyed) try to keep things in perspective. There are small and great things we do for each other, spontaneous things that bring us joy, even if they don’t fall on a Sunday in May. And, if we choose, we will spend many hours together, laughing and raising a glass to the daily celebrations and small gestures, with mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, friends and children. Nourishment and nitty-gritty: loaves and laundry.
And part of this is the irony that, every single year, lack of preparation for Mother’s Day becomes a call to action for my children. They realize they need to get their shit together, because Father’s Day is coming. What can I do? Really, not much. It’s the random cycle of recognition dictated by the yearly calendar. Truthfully, we’ll probably spend Father’s Day like most other Sundays. So, we’ll do the laundry, we’ll go to the games, we’ll make room in the bed, we’ll make extra coffee, (maybe we’ll make this lovely prosecco, fruit and basil drink that can make anyone feel special), and we’ll most certainly make dinner reservations.