I get it. I’ve hated Mother’s Day and other seemingly contrived holidays too. All the pressure to make her feel perfect, spend a ton of money and still your worried, “was it enough?”. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. There is something so pure and lovely about this day, we simply eat and give thanks together. But, I digress; back to Mother’s Day.
Why do you dread, dislike or ignore Mother’s Day? Is it too fake? Do you internally rebel against forced thank-you’s? Is it because your gift-giving-challenged? Is it because your mom has passed? Is it because you didn’t have a very good mom? Is it because you’re broke? Is it because you feel unappreciated so why would you want to appreciate others? Is it because you long to be a mother?
I dislike Mother’s Day for a couple reasons. The first, is because I’m a therapist and this day tends to be triggering for my clients who had terrible moms, whose moms are sick or have died or who themselves are too depressed or stressed to think of anyone else right now. This day puts undo pressure on my folks. It brings up a subject many are sensitive to and have not yet resolved. Instead of a celebratory day, it’s a grieving day. The other reason I hate Mother’s Day is it forces me to look at some unpleasant issues in myself. All day long I must deal with my own feelings of inadequacy as a mother. I consider my own imperfect and sometimes painful relationship with my mother; I want more from her than she is capable of giving. I’m faced with my insecurities and have to work to tell myself “the gifts and attention I get today are not reflective of how much people in my life love me, it’s the unexpected things they do the other 354 days of the year that demonstrate their fondness of me”. The day is a lot of mental and emotional work for me personally and professionally!
So why should we celebrate Mother’s Day then?
To those who are not moms, here’s why it’s a worthwhile day. We have national donut day and national sibling day. Why do we have a day to celebrate donuts? Because. It’s fun to have an excuse to eat a donut with our friends, to post donut pics on Facebook and when else are you going to wear those donut leggings? How much more do the mom’s need a day to be valued! Research shows that being thankful improves your happiness, but expressing thanks doubles that effect*. Also, I urge you to not only celebrate Mother’s Day, but to keep your unpleasant feelings about it between us. Its irrational, but here is what some mothers might hear when the offspring or spouses in their life express their loathing for Mother’s Day. “The moms in my life are not worth getting over my hang-ups [about Mother’s Day] for”. We know you love us but there is a small part of us that thinks if you loved us enough you would put aside your feelings about the day and make a fuss anyways.
To the Mom’s, being a mom is arduous work. Today might bring up some hurts for you, but pain is good. We learn from pain, pain motivates us to change and pain is our psyche’s way of getting our attention. Get into therapy. Work though the hurts this day brings up. In addition, take time to reflect. Celebrate what you did well as a mom, admit to your children your shortcomings and ask for forgiveness. Lastly, look outside yourself. There are other moms in your life you can celebrate; give to them what you wish you were getting. Is there a mom out there you really admire? Tell her that on Sunday.
To those who wish they were moms, but aren’t yet, for whatever reason, I see you. It hurts, I know. Take time to acknowledge that hurt, cry, tell someone, write a letter to your children who aren’t (yet). Then go and celebrate other moms, find a child who wishes they had a mother like you. Commit to mentoring and helping children and play the role of child to a woman in the next generation above yours. Make beauty for others from your pain.
Regardless. Let’s commit to write, say or show our appreciation for the mothers in our lives. Let’s make this a day of celebrating those moms who really are doing their best. Inspire other moms to do better, because in the end, relationships are all that matter.
Greta Pankratz, LCSW
Santa Maria Counseling