Mother’s Day: Another Stab to the Heart

I thought I could deal with Mother’s Day by now. I mean, I’m 13 years past menopause. It will get easier, I tell my young readers here. Most of the time, it is easier, but not always.

As you may know, I play the piano and lead the choirs at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Newport, Oregon. I share the job with another woman who never had children. For her, it was a conscious choice. I wonder if our not having children gave us both a better chance to pursue our music. Probably.

My friend was scheduled for the Sunday Mass, which got me off the hook for the actual Mother’s Day, but I played the Saturday vigil Mass. It also happened to be First Communion. The church was packed with boys and girls beautifully dressed in white, along with their parents, godparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. It’s a big deal and an honor to be part of it. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it. If only it weren’t Mother’s Day weekend, too.

No problem, I thought. Even when a friend wished me Happy Mother’s Day at the Sign of Peace then started to correct herself as I hastily wished her a Happy Mother’s Day and hurried back to the piano, I was okay. In fact, I was proud of how I had evolved.

But wait.

We have this relatively new and uber-conservative pastor. We got our previous pastor enlightened to the point that on Mother’s Day he honored all women for their nurturing, caring, etc. It was nice. I didn’t feel excluded. But this priest went old school. He asked everyone to sit. Then he asked the mothers to stand. All the women around me rose. There I was, right in front, sitting as the priest stared at me, no doubt thinking I was a big sinner for not having children. He knows nothing about me, has no idea how painful it was as he blessed the mothers. Like a knife, I swear.

It could have been worse. Nobody handed out flowers. Many a year I have played with a misguided carnation on the music stand. But it hurt.

Normally on my Sundays off, I would join friends at another Catholic church and go to brunch with them afterward. Not this week. I couldn’t go through another mother blessing. As for eating out on Mother’s Day, I’m not suicidal. Restaurants would be jammed with mothers and their loving offspring. Everyone would be wishing me happy Mother’s Day. I’d rather eat dog food. I stayed home, washed clothes, did yard work, read, walked the dog and baked cookies—for me!

It’s safe here at the end of the road in the forest. The three houses clustered together are all occupied by people in their 60s and 70s who never had children, just dogs, cats, and a parrot.

So that was my Mother’s Day. Several of you have commented on my last post. How was your weekend? Let us know.

***

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Sally Carr, who died surrounded by friends because she had no family. It turns out some of the facts I reported were wrong. She did have some family, cousins in Philadelphia who were shocked when the State of Oregon contacted them about Sally’s estate. Sally’s parents did not die in a car accident when she was young. They lived to old age, but she chose to separate herself from them. I doubt we’ll ever know why, but this makes the story even sadder. I regret publishing what wasn’t quite true and hope those who knew Sally better than I did will forgive me.

Keep the comments coming and feel free to correct me when I get it wrong.

 

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Take the sting out of Mother’s Day

Oy, this Sunday is Mother’s Day again. I have been blogging about this hurting Hallmark holiday for years. Go to the archives, look up the second post every May to read what I wrote.

What can I say this year? Stay off social media until at least next Tuesday. I know, I probably won’t either, but I’m giving you fair warning that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., will be loaded with motherhood posts and pics. I’m already seeing them today. If all those baby pictures and mom tributes make you nuts, go to the little X in the corner of your computer screen and click it. Do whatever you’ve gotta do to silence the madness on your phone or tablet. Just don’t look.

Even in the non-digital world, Mother’s Day is brutal for people who want children and don’t have them. I’m thinking about skipping church because I hear there’s a whole big ceremony planned. Nuh-uh. I’d like to go out to brunch, but I don’t relish the crowds, the flowers and the servers wishing every woman Happy Mother’s Day as if at least one-fifth of us are not mothers and will never be that sweet old lady surrounded by children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

If someone invites you to a Mother’s Day party and you know it will hurt like crazy, don’t go. Tell them honestly how you feel or make up an excuse, but don’t go.

The only way to avoid the whole mess is to either stay home or go somewhere far away from people and media. Squirrels don’t know about Mother’s Day. Seagulls don’t give a rip. A redwood tree stretches toward the sky, oblivious.

One way to make it easier may be to give all your attention to your mother or others who have mothered you in your life. Go back to being the child handing a color-crayoned card to Mom. If your mother, like mine, is not around anymore, find some way to honor her anyway. Light a candle, sing a song, bake a cake.

I had a chance to look through my mother’s old cookbooks last week. Now I have a craving for her Salisbury steak. Maybe I’ll make that on Sunday and bake her chocolate cake with Cool Whip frosting for dessert. Or maybe I’ll just go to the gazebo overlooking the ocean where I used to talk to her when she first died. I can bring her up to date with everything that has happened lately.

In other words, I will make the day about my mother and not about the fact that I am not a mother. Like Secretary Day or Veterans Day, it’s not about me. For some of us, it’s too soon or too painful to think about our lost moms. Find someone else to honor.

I know how hard Mother’s Day is. I used to be the meanest, most miserable person on that day. I’d growl at anyone who wished me a happy Mother’s Day. I’d make my day worse by offending everyone around me. I learned that that doesn’t help. Nor does getting drunk and staying that way until the day is over.

Hang in there, my friends. As my dad likes to say about every holiday, “It’s just another day.”

Here are some things to read about the Mother’s Day dilemma:

“What Mother’s Day Feels Like When You’re Childless” 

“How to Deal with Mother’s Day When Mother’s Day Sucks for You” 

“How to Survive Mother’s Day If You’ve Experienced Adoption or Infertility” 

What are your plans this year?

Did you survive the Mother’s Day mania?

Mother’s Day is over. Thank God. With no kids and no mom, I hate that day. This year, I had my meltdown on the two days before. I was too depressed to do anything. At church Saturday night, I played terribly and felt like the whole church was looking at me sitting up front at the piano when our new pastor asked all the moms to stand for a blessing. Afterward, I parked my car at a spot overlooking the ocean and cried. Then I went to dinner alone in a restaurant full of families. The young waiter kept calling me “ma’am.”

Making matters worse, my sister-in-law and niece were hosting a baby shower for my nephew’s wife, who is pregnant with her third daughter. I probably couldn’t have gone, but it would have been nice to be invited. Endless Facebook posts about that, topped off with a picture of my brother’s family—seven people with kids and grandkids—did me in. There’s only one person in my family photo.

I did better on the actual Mother’s Day. I got the day off from church and mostly avoided the media and other people. I played the piano, did online puzzles, read, watched videos and took the dog for a long walk. Later, I went out to jam with musician friends. Renae, our hostess, greeted me with “Happy Mother’s Day if it’s appropriate.” “It’s not,” I said. She grinned. “Me either.” We had a great jam. (You can read about it at my Unleashed in Oregon blog.)

Over the weekend, several people tried to wish me happy dog-mom day, but it’s not the same, as some of you have already commented. I adore my dog, but she’s not going to give me a family photo like my brother’s. And all those sympathetic posts addressed to those of us who are missing our mothers or feeling bad because we don’t have kids were posted with good intentions, but they made me cry.

On Monday, I thought it was over, but now everyone had to post photos from their happy Mother’s Day celebrations. Moms and kids all over the Internet. I’m happy for all of them, but they’ll have to forgive me if I had to stop looking.

How did you do? Did you spend the day weeping, cursing, calm, or stuffing down your feelings? Did you manage to escape the mother mania? Tell us about it. It helps to let it out.

Guys, your turn is next month. Father’s Day. Sigh.

Happy . . . Wednesday!

How Did Your Mother’s Day Without Children Go?


Mother’s Day is over, hallelujah. How did you do?
One reader told me she had a nice get-away day and was able to ignore the mom’s day hysteria. Another attended a family gathering. When her godchild wished her a happy Mother’s Day, her niece corrected her with “She’s not a mother.” Ugh. One of the guests handed a rose to every woman in honor of her motherhood. Awkward.
Mother’s Day is tough, and not just for those of us who are childless. People whose mothers have died or who have difficult relationships with their mothers struggle through the day. People who don’t get along with their children, whose children have died, or whose stepchildren fail to recognize them as mothers all have a hard time with Mother’s Day.
I don’t think anybody has the kind of Mother’s Day we see in the TV commercials. First, the mothers are pictured as gorgeous young women. Whose mom looks like that? Second, the family drops everything to honor her. Third, they buy her gifts that cost hundreds of dollars, like jewelry and iPads. It was never like that in my family.
I did pretty well on the actual holiday this year, although I had a meltdown the night before. A friend had been complaining that her children didn’t honor her properly, so she hated Mother’s Day. She wanted me to comfort her by taking her to brunch. No freaking way. Then she posted a picture on Facebook of the gorgeous roses her husband bought her. Hello? No kids, dead mother AND no husband over here. Yes, I was a weepy mess.
I played piano at the Saturday evening Mass. Our pastor really tried to be inclusive, offering his blessing to “all women who serve the role of mothers.” He didn’t pass out flowers to the mothers or make them stand while those of us without kids sat in shame, but it was still painful.
I stayed too long on Facebook. After the third friend in a row posted pictures of her Mother’s Day flowers, I got offline and stayed off until Monday. I didn’t miss anything except endless Mother’s Day posts.
On Sunday, I stayed home from church and piddled around the house until time to join friends for a music jam. We had a small group. Some were absent because of Mother’s Day, but that gave the rest of us more chances to sing and play. We had guitars, fiddles, a mandolin, harmonicas and three great female voices to harmonize. It was so much fun I forgot to feel bad.
Afterward, I watched a rerun of the movie “The Bucket List.” Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. So good.
That’s how I survived. How about you? What will you do differently next year?

Get Through Mother’s Day with Distraction and Action

Here were are again, on the eve of Mother’s Day. I noticed TV commercials touting gifts for “Mom” in early April. Now the dreaded day is this Sunday. The people who promote this Hallmark holiday have no idea how difficult it is for those of us who wanted children and don’t have them and also for those of us whose mothers and grandmothers are no longer alive. All this Mother’s Day hoorah just reminds us of what we don’t have and makes us want to go hide in a cave. Right?

Over the years I have mellowed from being viciously angry all day to resigned. I have come to accept that this is not my holiday. Just like Chanukah for Christians or Christmas for Jews. Just like it’s not my birthday. So I need to be a big girl and get over it. Sure. Sometime on Sunday, it will get to me. But I’ll live, and so will you.

To survive Mother’s Day, I recommend distraction and action.

Avoid everything that reminds you that it’s Mother’s Day and you’re not a mother. (Guys, apply the same rules next month for Father’s Day). Avoid TV, Facebook and other social media. Don’t go to restaurants where they greet you with Happy Mother’s Day and a flower. The mall is probably a bad idea, too. You don’t want to see mothers surrounded by their loving children.

If you have a mother, grandmother, godmother or other mother-figure still living, make the day about her, not you. As for your sisters, cousins and friends, let their spouses and children honor them. Send  a card if you must, but don’t go overboard. If they complain, explain that you love them but Mother’s Day hurts too much to get involved.

If your partner has children or grandchildren, expect nothing from them. They have their own mother. If they actually remember to honor you, too, be gracious and grateful, but don’t make yourself crazy waiting for a card or gift.

Distract yourself with creature comforts and non-motherly activities. Go hiking. See a movie in an actual theater. Go to a spa. Stay in bed with your sweetie and make love all day. Read at a beach or a swimming pool while sipping pina coladas.Throw yourself an Unmother’s Day party at which no one is allowed to mention babies or children.

Remember, it’s just one day, and then, thank God, it will be over for a whole year.

***
Last week I posted a long comment from “Sam” about his childless dilemma with his wife who couldn’t have children. Several of you responded with great comments. Go to the post to see what people said and maybe add a comment of your own.
***

Happy Wednesday, dear friends.

Duck! Mother’s Day is Coming Again

If we’re to believe the images we see in the TV commercials, Mother’s Day is a joy to all women. Their children shower them with gifts, Hallmark cards, and breakfast in bed, and the whole family gathers to honor the grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Picture little girls in frilly dresses hugging their moms and grand-moms. Picture big picnics, feasts at a big dining room table, or gatherings at a favorite restaurant. Picture flowers and cards, and the whole world wishing you a happy Mother’s Day because you, the mother, deserve it.

Yeah. Now picture what it’s really like for many of us. First, our mothers may be dead or terminally ill or we don’t get along. The holiday emphasizes the fact that we don’t have a mother to honor. Second, we don’t all have children. We go to church and feel left out when special prayers are said for the mothers. We go out to eat, and the waiter assumes we’re mothers, but we’re not. We go to a family gathering and feel left out because we’re the only ones without kids. We wait all day for some kind of acknowledgement from our stepchildren, and it doesn’t happen. Everywhere we look, people are talking about Mother’s Day, and it makes us feel like crap.

For those who are mothers, congratulations. Enjoy your day. For the rest of us, if we can focus on the moms in our lives, that’s a great thing to do. If you just can’t, run away until it’s over. It’s a good day to turn off the TV, stay away from Facebook, and avoid going to restaurants. How about a hike, a walk on the beach, or a movie instead?

I’ll be playing music for two Masses at church and then going to my monthly song circle. In between, I’ll probably have lunch with a friend who hates Mother’s Day as much as I do. Her mother, like mine, has died. She has adult children, but their relationship is rocky. So I’ll pretty much do what I usually do on Sundays, and I’ll enjoy it.

Over the years, Mother’s Day has gotten easier for me. It will for you, too, I promise. Try not to get yourself all upset about it. If you need a good cry, go ahead and cry. Then move on. It’s just one day.

Mother’s Day is Coming; Duck and Cover

It’s almost Mother’s Day. For 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.