It’s almost Mother’s Day. Judging by everything I’m seeing all around me, it already is Mother’s Day and it lasts for several weeks. I don’t know many women who actually enjoy Mother’s Day. Most of us either don’t have kids, do have kids but don’t get along with them, don’t have a living mother to honor or don’t get along with their mothers and grandmothers. For everybody, the day seems to be fraught with tension. Have to get a gift. Have to send flowers. Have to take Mom out to brunch. But what are the siblings doing? Poor Mom can get pulled around among the kids till she feels like a Stretch Armstrong doll.
But we who do not have children can choose to ignore this day. It’s like National Secretaries Day or Canada Day. If we’re not secretaries and not Canadian or close to people who are, it has nothing to do with us.
Mother’s Day is hard. It reminds us of everything we don’t have. The main problem is the onslaught of advertising that insists we all have these happy families full of children, parents and grandparents who can’t wait to celebrate “Mom” with expensive gifts and tear-jerking cards. It builds up an expectation that is rarely fulfilled. I’ll bet if you asked mothers whether Mother’s Day was everything they’d hoped for, they’d say no. Well, maybe that one time back in 1983 . . .
It’s an advertising-based mass hysteria, sort of like the craziness that gets built up around the American Idol contestants. Last week when they went “back home,” they were honored with parades, speeches, and huge gatherings of fans bearing signs and gifts. The crowds were going nuts. Even little kids were screaming the Idols’ names. Now surely these people don’t all care that much about Angie or Kree or Candice. But they’ve been told over and over that it’s a REALLY BIG DEAL, so now they’re out on the streets screaming and bursting into tears because they met an American Idol. Those are manufactured emotions, my friends, and I think a lot of what we’re made to feel on Mother’s Day—and Father’s Day to a lesser extent—is also manufactured emotion.
Yes, we love our mothers and many of us who don’t have kids yearn to be mothers, but the bigger the hype the more it hurts. It’s hard to avoid; it’s everywhere. I went to our local department store a few days ago, and the staff kept making announcements about Mother’s Day sales and things we could buy for “Mom.” I passed displays of flowers, dresses and gift baskets, and my receipt came with a coupon for the jewelry department. The local paper is loaded with restaurant ads for Mother’s Day brunch and information about Mother’s Day activities.
Some of you will be attending gatherings of family or friends where you’ll be face to face with other people’s babies and with relatives who want to know why you’re not reproducing. You have my sympathy. I’ll be doing music all day, first at church—yes with its special prayer for mothers—and then at a song circle where with luck nobody will even mention Mother’s Day.
It’s a tough day. It took me years to stop being a ball of anger all day long, but I’m learning to let it go. You can, too, with time and practice. Meanwhile, if you can avoid the holiday craziness by going out in nature, watching a movie marathon or staying in bed all day, do it. If not, do your best to honor the mothers and not take it personally.
If you want to read more about Mother’s Day by people who understand how you feel, here are links to Marcy Cole’s Huffington Post piece, “Mother’s Day for Childless Women,” and author Anne Lamott’s classic on “Why I Hate Mother’s Day.”
Hang in there. On Monday, Mother’s Day will be over for another year.