For many years, I hated Mother’s Day. This wasn’t prior to having a child where I didn’t fully comprehend the love and appreciation Mothers need (all year, actually). Indeed, I loved celebrating my mother, my grandmother, and strong, wonderful moms around me. My loathing of the holiday began after having my son and becoming a mother myself.
I clearly remember that first Mother’s Day, my infant baby boy in my arms, where my mind just exploded: HOLY [aallllll the colorful metaphors] I. Am. A. Mother. This kid is going to look up to me and expect me to guide him through life and I don’t even have my life figured out! Suddenly the holiday seemed audacious – celebrating me for something I had no clue how to do. Since then, every May when the carnations began popping up in pastel colors, and cartoony cards of teddy bears hugging, and coupons for chocolate, charm bracelets, and cleaning supplies began to fill up my mailbox reminding us to “not forget mom,” I’d begin to lose myself in a next-level spiral of self-loathing and guilt. I even went as far as to convince my husband that we shouldn’t celebrate it (and then I was bummed because being appreciated is always nice. Shame spirals make you do crazy things like that.)
Even the simplest expressions of gratitude or the kind phrase “You are a good mom,” was met with fierce internal hostility. Why am I being appreciated? Sure, I might be, in this present moment that you are witnessing, a “good mom” but what about all the times I haven’t been so great? Sometimes I explode, I yell, I roll my eyes. Sometimes I have double standards and change my mind on the fly and no one knows what the hey is going on. Sometimes I cry myself to sleep because I’m frustrated there are no clear-cut answers and the things that are clear-cut I just don’t want to do. Sometimes I feel guilty: guilty I’m not doing more, guilty that I’m not doing less, guilty that there are days where all I want is to be alone long enough to finish a cup of coffee in peace, guilty that I’m not able to make it to every single, tiny school event and “be there” for him.
And then sometimes, it just takes a few years of hating Mother’s Day to realize that what I really hated was the image of the mother I thought I was supposed to be. And that idealization, and idolization, was something I needed to let go of. It wasn’t a “toss my hands in the air and let all the loose strings fly” letting go. No. It’s been more of an inch by inch process over the past few years. An inch of societal or familial expectation released. An inch or two of expecting that always doing x will always equal receiving y. Quite a few inches of putting others before my own health and wellbeing paired with always having to be so damn polite what I’m feeling. Then there is that thread that is constantly loosed, burning my fingers with its quickening pace of release: my personal attachment to perfection.
It isn’t possible to be perfect. It isn’t possible to be in control of everything all the time. What is possible is for me to be me. And to be the most excellent me at that. That includes all the bumps and bruises and moments of my flawed humanity. It has to, really. Despite his shock at this revelation, my (our) son isn’t perfect. He looks to his mom, dad, and people in his life to see how we compose and create ourselves. He needs to see that we live in a flawed world and that is not only okay but that is what makes our world truly wonderful and unique.
A few weeks ago HS asked me if I’d like to do anything for Mother’s Day this year. I smiled. I’m not going to say my Mother’s Day curse is broken because breaking curses takes daily work. This year, though, I feel different. I feel proud of the work we have been investing into parenting. This Mother’s Day, I don’t feel like I’m a fraud or failure of a mother. I feel like I’m a human one – and every day she is learning and growing and she incredibly beautiful part of me. She is worth celebrating.
So, to all my mammas and mamma-figures out there. You are going to royally screw things up from time to time. You are going to have weeks where you’ve looped in the same little mistakes over and over again. That is okay. Breathe and remember your humanity. Remember that your little humans need to see you be a human. They need to see your grace and resiliency. They need to see your determination and commitment to becoming the best version of yourself and that doing so takes a lot of work. They need to see you.