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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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.

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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.