Mother’s Day may be the mother of great expectations in our culture. I read a funny blog written by a young mother voicing the things she fantasizes about when she looks toward that all special day. Her list was something like this:
• On Mother’s Day, I will not be in charge of peacekeeping when the little ones are having a free-for-all of galactic proportions; instead I will hide in the pantry and eat potato chips waiting for the battle to end
• On Mother’s Day I will get to talk on the phone for a full conversation without interruption from little arms wrapped around my legs crying for attention
• On Mother’s Day I will get to have full use of the bathroom — alone — for just this one day
If you’ve been there, you know the wish list.
Others face Mother’s Day with less humor, remembering moms who were inattentive every day, or moms who lacked the skill and compassion needed to deal with the emotions of their offspring — a problem that didn’t get better with time. The scars remain.
Some people experience guilty feelings on Mother’s Day because of their own inattention or disrespect of their mother — and the issues remain unresolved.
Still others approach Mother’s Day with grief because a loving mom has died, or because being the mother of a child that died, she finds her empty arms feel even heavier on that day.
The hype of commercialism and the sweet sentiments expressed around the holiday can be hard for many people, for many different reasons. The expectations can be met with disappointment.
We don’t have to worry that we will become cynical killjoys or overly sober if we recognize that Mother’s Day (and many holidays) are not wonderful for everyone. And maybe more importantly, if you are the person lacking the enthusiasm or sentimentality of the words on the greeting card, that doesn’t mean you are bad.
And you certainly aren’t alone.
The feelings that attend difficult relationships can leave us feeling alone or somehow oddly different from everyone else. Those feelings pile on to the losses and grief that surround our relationships and we feel even worse.
But it’s important for us all to remember that grief, just like joy, is a shared experience. To live is to have joy. To live is to have grief. And sometimes these two feelings are only inches apart, reminding us of our common humanity and that we are not alone in either. We are in this together.
If Mother’s Day is hard for you, maybe a few things will help:
- Face your feelings and memories head on — let them register, but don’t hold them too tightly
- Allow the other things in your present moment and space some room as well
- Pain and negativity should receive their due, but other experiences and feelings are near, so remain open and take them in
- Celebrate what you can — gratitude clamors for expression as much as grief does
- Keep working toward the courage to forgive or ask forgiveness if that is what is needed
- Keep working to forgive yourself when you need to
- Find that place in your heart that can be glad for others who have what you are missing
Wherever we are on the spectrum of emotion around Mother’s Day, giving ourselves and others space for authenticity can be a good gift that stays with us every day, whatever the circumstance. Jesus said, “Be happy with those who are happy and weep with those that weep.” It’s a flow kind of thing that has rhythm and balance and warmth, like the womb of a good mother.