A ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ is a Fantasy

Mother’s Day is coming again. Time to duck and cover. Already the commercials are offering pictures of fantasy families with young beautiful moms, loving husbands and perfect children. Even people who have children don’t have lives like that. I know moms whose kids don’t even call or send a card. If you have stepchildren, you can make yourself crazy waiting for them to even notice you on Mother’s Day.

It’s a hard day for a lot of people. For those of us without children, the holiday smacks us in the face with the knowledge that we are not mothers. Mothers get special blessings at church, flowers and free drinks at restaurants, cards and gifts and parties. We get . . . zip. Or worse, we get mistaken for mothers and don’t know whether we should correct the person or not. “Happy Mother’s Day!” Oh, uh . . .

When I was young, I could focus my attention on my mother, mother-in-law and grandmothers, showering them with gifts and attention. Now they’re all gone. The day is painful for many of us whose mothers have died or who have a difficult relationships with their mothers. If you’re both childless and motherless, the day offers a double whammy. If you find yourself shedding some tears, it’s understandable.

My advice for surviving Mother’s Day is the same as always:

  • Stay away from places where everyone is celebrating moms. Don’t go out to eat, don’t go shopping, consider not going to church. Say no to Mother’s Day parties.
  • Skip the schmaltzy TV specials and watch a movie.
  • Stay off of Facebook and other social media sites that will be filled with Mother’s Day memories, family pictures and boasts about all the great things people’s families did for them. It will just make you feel bad. Don’t look.
  • Go out in nature. Rivers, trees, oceans and mountains do not care whether or not you have children.
  • Tell friends and family you’ll talk to them when Mother’s Day is over.

This Sunday, I’m going to stay home until evening, when I’m going to sing at an open mic where we’re all too obsessed with music to worry about having kids. How do you plan to spend Mother’s Day?

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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.