The day that hurts so good

blog imageI used to dread Mother’s Day.   In between the ages of, oh, I’d say 20 and 40, it was a bittersweet holiday.  And I find now, at 46, that it still is.

I had my first child at 41.  In the years before Ethan was born, I felt so awkward and empty on this day.  If people wished me Happy Mother’s Day, I felt like I didn’t deserve it.  I wondered if I should correct them, or just say “thank you.”  I usually went with the latter, and then cried somewhere privately later.  After I got married, I became a step-mother.  I fantasized that my ready-made family would recognize me on this day, that even though I am not their mother, they would want to say “Happy Mother’s Day” to me just to be kind.  I rationalized that I do mother them in so many ways, that mother is both a noun and a verb.  I love them.  I cook for them, sit next to them at the doctor, pay their health insurance, hate anyone who hurts them and love anyone who treats them with kindness and dignity.  But my fantasies never came true.  The day would come. I’d get my hopes up.  And then it would pass.

After I became a mother, I realized that the pain around this day was so tatooed on my heart, it was hard to give up.  My husband would give me flowers, help the little boys make a card for me, and it all felt like a day I had built up far too much in my mind, a day that could never erase the pain of two decades.

My husband gets nervous now when Mother’s Day is coming.  He knows my step-kids will ignore me.  He knows I’ll miss my own mother terribly, who I lost a year and a half ago.  He knows I’ll feel insecure and unworthy and empty – when I so clearly shouldn’t.  He knows feelings don’t respond to logic.

Breathe.  I know I have a lot of learning to do on this issue.  I am so blessed in so many ways, with two little boys who love me more than I deserve, with three step-kids who I usually just call my kids because I love them like a crazy woman, with a husband who is, truly and simply, the best man I know.  I have the memory of a mother who was that rare combination of strength and beauty, a woman who taught me I didn’t have to be a shrinking violet to be feminine.  And I have you, my friends, who I share this magical, ever-changing, messy life with.

Forgive me for my weakness.  These tears are not of sadness, now.  They’re of gratitude.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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7 comments on “The day that hurts so good
  1. Lori Hamm says:

    Amanda this was just beautiful and I can feel for you with the step kids issue, I loved him to death and would have died for him as I would have my own kids but I was never acknowledge for it but I do have 4 great kids and 3 great grandkids that treat me as a queen. Please from one mother to another have a very Happy Mother’s Day.

  2. Thank you, Amanda! It helps so many, like me, to know that we are not alone, after all. Last Mother’s Day I wrote a post that included my feelings on this day of days… … it is a hard day for those who don’t have children, biologically or otherwise. I hope that one day, when and if my circumstance changes in this life, I will remember this post and know that I, with many others, am still not alone! Thank you!!!

  3. Marla says:

    This is a great post! I wish they would change the name of Mother’s Day to Women’s Day and celebrate the contributions of all women, whether they have kids or not. Because as you alluded in your post, we all influence the lives of each other! Love your insights here.

  4. Diane Walker says:

    Thanks for the shared feelings. My grandmothers died at 38 and 41 and my Mom at age 43. Even though I have 8 wonderful kids and 16 grandkids and have outlived my ancestors, I still dread Mother’s day.

  5. Sylvia says:

    Dear sweet Amanda, how we miss you so! Big hugs to you on this bittersweet day. I hope it gets a little easier. I don’t know why “feelings don’t respond to logic.” Life might be easier I suppose, but then where would the fun in that be? If it was so easy we wouldn’t appreciate all the rest. Hug those sweet children. Remember to find time for us soon.

  6. A beautiful post…as always Amanda. My solution to this challenge was to create a “Wicked Stepmother’s Day”…always the Sunday after Mother’s Day. The kids don’t feel guilty, I don’t feel forgotten and it’s been an ongoing source of silliness for years now. I get Mother’s Day cards that have “Wicked Step-” handwritten and inserted appropriately on the cover…that say “Thanks for not being my Mom…but for always being there anyway…you’re more like the big sister I never had”…etc. I keep every one of them, treasure them, and always look forward to the special day we all agreed on years ago. Thank you for sharing your light and have a blessed day!

  7. Karen Tapahe says:

    You are speaking the words of my heart! Even though I had children, I hated Mother’s Day and all the superficiality surrounding it. If your kids don’t make you feel loved on all the other days, what good is it on that “one” day? It was better when I could celebrate my own mom, an absolute angel on earth, but when she died in 1999, I was lost. This year, for the first time ever, I had a fabulous Mother’s Day. My sons (ages 18 & 20) and my husband all made cards for me with handwritten sentiments. They were the best tribute ever!! By the way, the chaplain for the organization I work with noticed that her calendar called it “Mothering Day,” so that is what she and I have decided to call it from now on.

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