I always approach Mother’s Day with mixed feelings.
I have been blessed to have the best mother anyone could have, even if she does does drive me bat shit crazy sometimes.
Momma taught me a love of reading. She set an example for me way back in the 70s when it wasn’t so common, that women could raise a family and still have a successful career and excel academically all at the same time. (Doctor of Education! Woot!)
She passed along her knowledge and love of music which has allowed me to enjoy singing in choirs for many years. (Although I’m sure she wishes she had all the money back she spent on those 10 years of piano lessons. When she finally let me quit, all I could play was Fur Elise and the Star Wars theme.) Along with all that I don’t think she ever missed a ball game I played. And there were LOTS of ball games.
But most importantly, bless her heart, she continues to show me unconditional love no matter how many fucked up things I do.
So I really do appreciate that there is an extra-special day each year set aside to recognize mothers. Frankly, I don’t know how they do what they do.
And that points to the reason Mother’s Day is always somewhat painful for me and lots of other women.
My husband and I decided after a year of marriage it was time to start having children. We tried for years, but I never got pregnant. (It probably would’ve helped if we weren’t angry with each other half the time and had more sex.)
Nevertheless, after five years of “trying” we started having THE tests. His sperm was good. My cervix had an adequate opening, my uterus was fecund and my ovaries were laying eggs on a regular schedule. The next step was going to be fertility drugs. And the minute I heard that, I realized that I didn’t want to go through all that.
I was starting to wonder if I wanted to have a baby at all, or was it that I was beginning to quietly think that I didn’t want to have a baby with this husband. I was also coming to suspect as my husband and I came to the end of our pregnancy quest that he would be the fun dad, taking the kids to the ball field and for ice cream and I would get stuck with all the actual dirty work of wiping butts and doing endless loads of laundry.
I decided if God wanted me to have a baby, I’d have one. And I didn’t.
Most days I’m OK with that. Being childless has allowed me to mostly do what I want. I can come home after work and read or watch TV. I can cook dinner when ever I want – or not. And I can lay on the couch all day Saturday with no responsibilities and nowhere to go. It gives me a lot more disposable income that I wouldn’t have had if I were spending it on kids. And I’m very happy that my husband and I didn’t have kids to drag though a divorce. (Although maybe we wouldn’t have gotten divorced if we’d had children.)
I actually don’t even think I would’ve been a very good parent. I generally feel like I’m 14-years-old every day. I don’t know if I could’ve handled the incredible responsibility of raising kids. And I have always seriously, really, no kidding, felt terrified and pretty certain that at some point my child would make me so angry that I would literally kill them.
But despite the benefits and the escape from my parenting doubts, there are times regret sneaks in. How many joyful experiences have I missed by not experiencing childbirth and child raising? What kind of love will I never know? Who will look after me when I get old?
It all makes me feel like a failure sometimes. It’s just something else I quit. Something else that I didn’t achieve. Something else that makes me less of a woman.
We used to do a ceremony at church on Mother’s Day called “The Blessing of the Families.” There was a liturgy of blessing the congregation read in unison for each “type of family.” The different groups could come down to the altar and be prayed for as their blessing was read.
The service was written to be very sensitive to the realities of all our different experiences. There was a reading for singles, a reading for families of our choosing, there was a reading for families with children…. Everyone was included. But it all just made me feel empty and made my heart ache. (Sorry, Mandy!)
Then one year it finally broke me. I was in the balcony and the families came down for blessing. I looked down at the altar and there was my good friend, our Associate Pastor, her beautiful husband and her three awesome, baseball playing children.
I suddenly realized that she was living the life I thought I’d be living. She’d graduated from seminary where she’d met a wonderful man who fathered her children and now they all camp at the baseball field. She was successfully living out all my failed goals, dreams and expectations.
Something in my brain snapped. I actually felt it. I knew I could either lose my shit right there and cry forever, or I could stay in that mental fracture and feel nothing. I felt nothing at all for 18 months after that. It was so much easier than dealing with the pain.
So know this Mother’s Day, that it’s not just a day of joy and celebration. “Mother” doesn’t have happy connotations for everyone. There are women like me who couldn’t have children. There are women who’ve lost children. There are people whose moms have died. There are people whose moms deserted them.There are people whose moms abused them physically, emotionally and/or sexually.
So be sensitive to those for whom Mother’s Day is a day of pain and regret and loss. Don’t forget us. Don’t discount us. Don’t pity us. Just try to understand us.