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Jun 27th
Mom’s the Word PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jenni Person, BT Contributor   
May 2017

But the holiday can get complicated

Ibigstock--181519135t’s Mother’s Day, and although Hallmark and 1950s housewives would have you believe motherhood is all joy and blessed duty, rewarded by the accomplishments of our shiny children, most of us know it’s not that simple.

In 2017, Mother’s Day isn’t the Norman Rockwell tableau it used to be. I propose that we get real and acknowledge the messiness, the pain, the politics, the biology, the patriarchy along with -- or as a part of -- the glory.

Each year on Mother’s Day, when the fanfare of pink decorations overwhelms big box and department stores, the Facebook posts of child-concocted breakfasts in bed or of taking Grandma out to a prix fixe Mother’s Day brunch, or long narratives professing honors and admirations to an inspiring, accomplished, and affirming mom…or wife…or sister, I pause.

I am myself guilty of being on the receiving end of much of this, and all those things are great. But it’s also really important to point out that it’s the one day a year we acknowledge and honor traditionally female contributions to our lives and culture -- so let’s also be sensitive to the whole spectrum of what Mother’s Day is.

A lot of people -- myself included -- have difficult or no relationships with their moms. On Mother’s Day, my heart always goes out to those estranged from their mothers or who have mothers who never accepted them for who they are. The in-your-faceness of this day can really be like nails on a blackboard.

I have so many friends who have lost their moms, everywhere from over 20 years ago to just days ago. I always miss my dad deeply on Father’s Day, and I remember that awful first one without him. All the greatest memories in the world don’t make up for that feeling of absence, that hole where your world bottomed out, especially when it’s still raw. And this must be worse yet for people who have lost children.

I also feel really terrible for all the people who struggle with infertility on Mother’s Day. So many friends have gone through so many rounds of fertility treatments, and others have braved the exhausting labyrinths of adoption to no avail. All the fuss over motherhood must really sting for the woman wanting nothing more than to be a mother.

One reason to do lots of tequila shots and set off huge fireworks on Mother’s Day is because of our lovely cultural norm of mom-bashing. Everywhere we turn, from our mothers and mothers-in-law to other moms in Mommy & Me and strangers in the supermarket (or the car dealership or Starbucks or yoga class) to our very own friends and colleagues to everything we see in the media, everyone and anyone is better at parenting our children than we are. Even we think we’re the worst parents ever.

According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), “working mothers typically receive 70 cents for every dollar working fathers receive.” And that probably doesn’t include moms of color.

And if you are a working mom, chances are you have little or no paid maternity leave, onsite childcare, or time for pickups and drops offs. Unless you work for some fabulous tech start-up company, you likely have to use personal or sick time for the opportunity see a school play, care for a sick kid, or go to a parent-teacher conference or school tour. You would think now that more and more dads are in on this, the work culture would change, but instead that culture is stuck in a patriarchal paradigm that defines all of our systems.

And speaking of shifting paradigms, families don’t look one way anymore. The nuclear mom, dad, 2.5 kids heteronormativity is no longer the model. Gender is irrelevant, binary definitions are disappearing, and many people’s progeny are not achieved the old-fashioned way. Yet someone is still taking on managing kids’ complicated needs and schedules.

Teenagers take their toll on our emotional strength. It’s challenging to constantly hear what a horrible person you are and that you don’t know anything and there’s nothing to wear or eat or do…and even while there’s nothing to do, they can’t fill the dishwasher, put leftovers away, or feed the cats -- ew!

Finally, here’s one element of motherhood I don’t think we speak about. My heart still aches from weaning my babies years ago, and I assume this will be a part of my emotional makeup forever. As will be the guilt, worry, and fear -- all with us in the pits of our stomachs and hearts forever. We will never be emotionally clear or innocent again.

So, yes, Mother’s Day is great. It serves as an important day to acknowledge all these realities, including the fact that they happen to be relevant daily, ’round the clock, and forever. Party on.

 

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