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!

Do childless deserve ‘meternity’ leave?

Here’s an idea from author Meghann Foye that has been causing some uproar online. Weary of seeing her co-workers take a nice chunk of time off for maternity leave, she decided we childless folks deserve something she’s calling “meternity” leave. She wrote about it in the New York Post in this article titled “I want all the perks of maternity leave–without having any kids.”

Foye also wrote a novel titled Meternity. In that novel, the main character pretends to be pregnant, so she can have all the perks that the pregnant women around her are having, along with the freedom of not having kids.

All of this has irritated some people. Check the counterpoint piece by Kyle Smith in the New York Post, “Parents should be worshipped by their childless co-workers.” That’s just one of many angry responses.

Should we demand our own “meternity” leave or should we worship the mommies? Doesn’t that description of childbirth make you at least a tiny bit glad you’ve never had to do it? Be honest. It’s something to think about as we slog through another Mother’s Day this weekend.

Okay, so parents in the right work situations get paid leave for childbirth. I think we can all agree they need the time off to deal with everything that has happened to their bodies and their lives and to give the baby a good start.

Do we childless deserve a similar break to get away from work and reboot our lives? Why? I could use a reboot about every two weeks, but no. I have to earn my vacations. If I were in academia, I could earn a sabbatical every so many years, but that has nothing to do with having babies.

For all the time I have studied childlessness, I have heard accusations that moms and dads slack off at work, leaving their childless co-workers to pick up the slack. Has that been your experience? Do parents seem to get extra privileges? Do non-parents deserve the same privileges? Have you found yourself staying late and resenting your co-worker who had to run home to take care of her kids?

Most of my jobs were at newspapers, which are quite different from other workplaces. Everybody works ridiculous hours and deals with overwhelming stress. I never saw the parents get any more privileges than the rest of us. They just shut up and did the best they could. Kids? What kids? But I can see how it would happen. Who cares about a deadline when your 6-year-old is waiting to be picked up after soccer practice?

Personally, I think everyone should be able to work their 40 hours and go home, that there’s nothing wrong with taking a real lunch break and going home at 5 or 6 to have dinner with the family—or the dog, if that’s what you have. When my time was up, I was ready to punch out. Bosses and co-workers didn’t like that. That’s one of many reasons I prefer to be self-employed.

I freelanced during most of the years when we had a live-in adolescent. He seemed to be proud to bring his friends through the house and point to me—“That’s my mom (or step-mom; it varied). She’s a writer.” And yes, there I was, writing.

But not everybody can work from home. Not everybody has a working spouse to help pay the bills. Not everybody has a kid who make his own mac and cheese.

I’m a writer and a musician. I never wanted a full-time job in the first place. I’ve had them, lots of them, but I always felt like my real career was elsewhere, outside the job. You might say my own writing was my baby, the child I needed to take care of, had to get home to tend. It still is.

But I have had regular jobs in retail stores, doing secretarial work in Silicon Valley offices, setting type in a print shop, teaching, and many newspaper jobs where I was an editor, reporter, and/or photographer. People depended on me to be there as scheduled and to get my work done. What Foye is talking about is an extended paid vacation because she wants to go do something else for a while. Don’t we all? But it’s not the same thing as maternity leave. Is it?

Foye’s novel does sound like fun though.

We haven’t talked much here about childlessness in the workplace. Let’s get a discussion going. I really want to know what it’s like for you.

***

Mother’s Day is this Sunday. I’m tickled because I just got myself this Sunday off from my church job. Instead of listening to the priest drone on about the glories of motherhood, I can stay home and pretend it’s just another day. If you need to duck and cover, do it. Stay away from situations that are going to make you crazy, and stay away from Facebook. It will only make you feel bad. Do something fun for yourself. Take a meternity day.

Beyond Childlessness: Counting My Blessings

It’s my birthday! Rahhhhh! Birthdays are often problematic for me. I whine about the gifts I don’t receive and the people who aren’t around, but this time I’m just feeling grateful. My friends, I have a good life. As I prayed a summing-up-the year prayer last night, I didn’t even think about not having children. It’s true. I didn’t. I thought about all the great things I do have. My days are full of writing, music, books, dogs, great food, beautiful scenery, family and good friends who feel like family. I have had 64 years of good health. That could change in a heartbeat, but I am grateful. Yes, I miss my husband, and sometimes I wish I had more money, but at this moment, I know I am blessed.

I am grateful for you, too, for this sister and brotherhood of childless people that has formed here and taken a life far beyond my Childless by Marriage book. We can comfort each other, help each other to make the decisions we need to make, and encourage each other in our lives that may not have children but they do and will have many other wonderful things. Trust me. There will be tears, there will be regrets. But there will also be laughter and joy.

No, I haven’t started drinking already. It’s still very early here in Oregon. In a little while, I have to go into a difficult meeting at work, and it may be hard to hang on to a positive attitude. But I’m determined to do my best.

I found a couple of podcasts online that I think you will find interesting:

In the UK, they have just celebrated what is called Mothering Sunday. Like our American Mother’s Day, it’s a tough day for those who don’t have children. This “All Things Considered”program, which you can listen to for the next couple weeks, can be heard at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b072nr1j

You can also listen to a discussion about the choice  of whether or not to have children and an interview with psychotherapist Jeanne Safer, author of Beyond Motherhood: Choosing a Life Without Children at http://iowapublicradio.org/post/childless-choice#stream/0

Also, do you know I have another blog called Unleashed in Oregon? Check out this week’s post, “Lawnmower One, Widow Lady Zero.” It might give you a smile.

Next week I’ll be in Tucson on a combination work/pleasure trip, so we will have a guest post that I know you’re going to love.

Your comments are always welcome.

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?

We Made It Through Another Mother’s Day!


We survived Mother’s Day. Congratulations to all of us. I was all set to cruise through this one by keeping busy and not thinking about it. But I don’t live in the desert or alone on an island, and neither do you. All the prayers for moms at church, the moms being taken out to brunch by their loving families, the Facebook posts, the TV shows, and the friends talking about visiting their mothers and bragging about what their children had done for them took their toll. I didn’t weep. I wished a few friends happy Mother’s Day, and I had a good time playing music with friends in the afternoon, but by bedtime, I felt profoundly sad. I missed my mother, my husband, my stepchildren and the biological children I never had. I lay awake in bed, watching the digital clock tick through the numbers until midnight, then breathed a sigh of relief. Mother’s Day was over. Thank God.
I don’t think other people understand how we feel, especially on days like Mother’s Day or at baby showers or when our friends obsess about their children. It’s like we come from another country and speak another language. The thing to try to remember is that there’s nothing wrong with our country and our language. They’re different but just as good.Our lives just took a different path.
I need your help with something. In the last week, several people have posted comments about situations where one partner wants children and the other doesn’t, and they’re considering breaking up. They love each other and don’t know if they’ll ever find someone else as good, but the baby issue has come between them. It’s hard to know what to say except I’m sorry and I hope they make the right decision. If you have a minute, visit the post If You Disagree About Children, Is Your Relationship Doomed? and add your two cents.
How did you do on Mother’s Day? Tell us how it went.