|My mom and Grandma when I was just a baby.|
My entire life, I’ve been told that my greatest value–nay, my only value–is my capacity to mother.
And until the past three years, I felt like a complete failure, as if all my sins were so great that God looked at me and thought, “No way in hell am I letting her be a parent,” thereby invalidating the only reason I was put on this earth in the first place.
Why haven’t I felt that way the past three years?
Partially because I took a pragmatic approach to my childless epiphany–at 38, I did not want to risk my health or a child’s health simply for the sake of procreating. Arriving at the decision to not have children for rather logical reasons uncomplicated the feeling of failure I’d felt for two decades. Now it was a responsible, conscious choice instead of something I had to “come to terms with” because I couldn’t find a husband.
That said, Mother’s Day is still fraught with angst.
I can’t remember when I quit going to church on Mother’s Day, but unless I am called Sunday morning to substitute for the organist, I will not be attending this Mother’s Day either. It is Mormon tradition to provide a token for the mothers–candy, flowers, plants–and I got tired of people trying to shove the token into my hands with embarrassed “You’re a mother because you’re a woman” glances, and I got tired of refusing the token without launching into a diatribe about how being a woman doesn’t make me a mother.
(And honestly, if I was a mother and I saw a single, childless woman being recognized on Mother’s Day, I think I would pretty ticked off. But I’m shallow and callous.)
I can’t recall the exact year I became horribly embittered toward the holiday, but I remember clearly the reason why. My dad had been tasked with providing the Mother’s Day token–a single rose for each woman in the ward. But for reasons I can’t remember, neither he nor my mother could help put vials of water on each stem. So that task fell to me.
For hours, I stood at our kitchen sink, filling flower vials and shoving roses into them, internally raging that I was doing all that work for something I didn’t even qualify to receive.
I love my mom, and my sisters and so many of my friends are great moms, so in no way am I saying Mothers Day should just be thrown out the window. But I’m often patronized on Mothers Day by well-meaning people who tell me I’m just as much a mother because of all my students.
Sorry, but teaching is my career, my profession, and is not equitable to motherhood. In fact, equating my career to motherhood invalidates both careers (because yes, I view motherhood as a conscious choice and profession). It would be like saying a single woman who is a surgeon is just as much a mother because she “fixes people” just like mothers put band-aids on skinned knees. It delegitimizes the surgeon and erroneously places the mother on a pedestal.
So if you are a person who struggles with Mother’s Day at all–whether you have children or not–I have a couple of articles to share that might be more your speed than the mother-martyr-worship rhetoric we tend to hear and see everywhere from church to restaurants to commercials.
And Anne Lamott’s manifesto about doing away with Mother’s Day altogether. (This one is my favorite.)
To my mother friends: I hope you attend a service in which no one talks about sainted mothers who never did anything wrong. I wish you a guilt-free day surrounded by those you love and who love you back.
To my single and/or childless friends, and any friends with complicated relationships with your mothers: I love you.
Happy Mother’s Day.