I love my mom. I love my mom, and I love motherhood, and I love supporting other mothers, and I love the whole made up, capitalist endeavor that is modern Mother’s Day in the U.S. (and I also totally agree that the commercialization of Mother’s Day is pretty much the worst). But all of these beams of sunshine-y, heartfelt feels that come shooting out of me in mid-May still don’t make up for the fact that every year when Mother’s Day rolls around, I experience emotions that are complexly layered (at best). One minute I’m shooting rainbows of love out of my eyeballs and walking around like a real life heart-eyed emoji, and then an hour later I’m nervously circling my phone, wondering aloud what time is the best time to call my own mom, which topics are definitely okay to talk about and which are not, if she liked the gift that I sent her, whether or not my siblings remembered to call, and if this might be the time that we move beyond our standard fifteen minutes of, “Oh how are you? I’m fine, and you?”
If there’s anything about my life that (I think) I understand now at age thirty-two, it’s that my mom definitely parented me in a way that is markedly different from the way I parent my own child. This difference was largely borne out of necessity than desire (I think), because the circumstances surrounding each of our mothering journeys are markedly different. My home growing up was unstable, tumultuous, loud, and above all else, just filled with so many people. There wasn’t time to cater to one individual child over another because there were four of us; there was never, ever enough money; and it seems like you don’t really get the luxury of getting to know the human your child is when you’re facing a very real lack of food or emotional harmony or feeling like your physical being isn’t exactly safe. I, on the other hand, live with two other humans (one child, one adult partner), am reasonably financially stable (I mean, don’t ask me on an in-between pay period week), am married to a guy who is stunning in his ability to be kind and level, and have an abundance of time to get to know the child that we’re raising together. My kid and I have multiple shared interests, hobbies, and experiences. He tells me secrets that I would have never dared confess to my own mother (and still might not). He’s my best guy. In the most blatant parenting cliché ever, he has brought joy into my life that I didn’t know was possible.
As I get older, and especially as I parent my kid for longer, I’ve been able to slowly, sort of, kind of unravel the thread that is and was my mother’s journey as a parent. As a result, I have (quietly) forgiven her for many things that I saw as foundational transgressions against my being ten years ago. I still have a whole host of pains, regrets, and wishes built up inside me, and I’m always in the business of trying to sort out what of that is real and true and rooted in my childhood, and what of that is something I need to work on, as I parent my own kid.
This sticky ball of emotional wax is always present—my feelings on parenting and being parented are constantly at the forefront—but never is it more haunting than this time of the year. You know, when social media is just inundated with so many examples of the mother–adult child relationship done right (or at least… done differently). I will often join in, because above all else I recognize that my mother went through some shit just to keep us and herself on the planet, and I know she loves the hell out of each of her kids. But I don’t go overboard, I don’t lie, and I don’t try to make my relationship with my mother more than what it is—even if I wish that it was, or could be. I don’t have photos of me and my mom hanging out (because we don’t), and I can’t make collages and put pink glittery hearts all over them. I don’t even have many experiences hanging out with my mom solo as an adult (beyond one ill-fated road trip we took a few years back), and I don’t know if I ever will.
When it comes down to it, sometimes I want to level some real talk on my Facebook wall, for myself and for anyone else who is struggling to communicate the myriad of ways Mother’s Day can shut down a person. But I’m not feeling quite that bold today (I mean, it’s May and I’m still feeling the burn of broken off Facebook friendships from last year’s election cycle)… but I don’t mind talking about it here.
what is your relationship with your mom like? how does mother’s day make you feel? if you’re also a mom, how do you think about motherhood as you parent your own child? what lessons from your mom do you keep—and what do you toss away? how did yesterday go for you, either way?