I 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.