Since I became a mom, Mother’s Day has often felt like a holiday that mocked me a bit.
One year, my dishwasher broke and flooded our second-floor condo’s kitchen and the kitchen of our downstairs neighbor.
Another year, I spent most of the weekend recovering from food poisoning.
Last year on Mother’s Day, I was frantically trying to get into a groove with our (then brand new) foster son and pretty obviously failing at it.
And this year, I am grappling with all the feelings that come along with going back to the life of a mother of one, instead of the mother of two.
The concept of Mother’s Day is a valiant one. A day to acknowledge all the mothers in one’s life who work so hard to do the best they can. Mothers clean up the spilled juice and pick the fruit pieces out of the yogurt and carry the screaming child (football-hold style) out of the grocery store. We play endless rounds of “I spy,” we read the book just one more time, and we let them help fold the towels even though it takes five times longer and we know we’re going to have to refold them anyway.
The truth is that our best efforts most often resemble something more like sheer survival. Half the time, the kids are mad at us by the end of the day anyway. We didn’t let them have a second lollipop or we insisted they wear a coat in the middle of winter or we opened the car door even though YOU KNEW THEY WANTED TO DO THAT.
As much as a mom might like to fantasize that Mother’s Day will be some magical day where everything goes right and she can sleep in until noon and then go out for that long anticipated pedicure, the reality is that a kid will get sick in the middle of the night. Or the washing machine will stop working mid-load and of course it will be a load of huge, sopping wet bath towels.
When you’re in the parenting trenches, you’re in them every day whether it’s Mother’s Day or Christmas or your birthday or some random Tuesday.
Yes, Mother’s Day can — and should — be a day to think of all the amazing and often under-appreciated women in your life who are likely to simply shrug when the day looks every bit less than perfect. Because, look, they didn’t expect miracles to happen. They know what this job entails and (usually) they’re happy to do it.
But there are others to think about, too.
The women who are grieving the loss of their own moms.
The women who want nothing more than to be moms but haven’t yet had the opportunity.
The moms who lost their babies to miscarriage or still birth or illness or some kind of horrifically unfair accident.
There are birth moms who won’t see their children because they are living with foster or adoptive parents instead.
There are foster and adoptive moms who are told they aren’t the real moms.
The day will be painful for some mothers, joyful for others, and for the vast majority in between, it’ll feel like any other day.
But that’s ok. None of us got into this role for praise, accolades, flowers and pedicures. We are mothers because we love our children. Whether they are in our arms or not.
Moms, listen. If you’re sad today because you’re missing someone, it’s ok. If you feel like you have to Just. Get. Through. This. Day, then just get through it. One foot in front of the other. If you feel crappy or lonely or frustrated, call or text another mom. Chances are good that, on some level, she gets it.
But, if you somehow manage to have a perfect Mother’s Day … if the stars align and everyone in your home is healthy and all the appliances work as expected and there is time not just for a pedicure but also a manicure (!!!), then grab that chance, honey. Cling to it and savor it. Most importantly, do NOT feel guilty for it. If you get one of those picture-perfect days of pampering, take it, damn it. You deserve it.
(P.S. Happy Mother’s Day to my own mom. I don’t know what I would do without you and our frequent half-ranting, half-giggling phone chats. If anyone can have the perfect Mother’s Day, I hope it’s you.)