I am a bit ashamed to admit it, but every year I look forward to the day after Mother’s Day. I am glad when the fact I have not given birth is no longer front and center in my mind. In some ways, Mother’s Day is like high school cheerleading tryouts when I did not make the squad, or like sorority rush when I did not receive a bid from the house of my choice. Don’t get me wrong, Mother’s Day is important and beautiful, it is just really complicated for me.
Mother’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate my mother. I truly love my mom more than I could ever hope to explain. Her capacity to love is wider than an ocean. She loves unconditionally, even and perhaps especially when I can’t or don’t love myself. Her love sustains and supports my family. She still cares for me when I am sick. She still listens to the same stories over and over again as I process the ebb and flow of my days. She is an example of forgiveness and softness in a world of hard edges and judgement. Mother’s Day is an opportunity to tell her that I love her. For that, I am grateful.
Mother’s Day is a time to think through my own decisions with respect to motherhood. Twelve years ago when my first niece was born I really started to consider if and when I would ever have children. Prior to that I never gave motherhood too much thought. Holding her introduced me to a kind of love I had never felt. Over the last few years, many of my friends who are now in their forties have started families. Their immense joy is beautiful to see and feel. Their children are loved beyond measure. Their decision to have children has shone a light into the possibility of motherhood for me. Do I want to have children? Is it too late? Would I be a single mom? Would I ever undergo fertility treatments? Would I adopt? Would I be open to being a step mom? Flash forward twenty years and what would my life would look like . . .
Perhaps my angst about Mother’s Day centers on my definition of motherhood.
I don’t buy the idea that motherhood is limited to women who have given birth, or that mothers simply care for their own children. If that were true, every child born would know safety and love given to them freely and abundantly by their biological mother. That does not happen. I believe motherhood is the larger responsibility to care for all children. We are all called to have the same fierce love for all children that a mother bear has for her own cub. We must want for all children what we want for our own. Within this frame, Mother’s Day includes us all.
My definition of motherhood also involves caring for people who are elderly. My grandmother is 95. I see my mother caring for her in ways that I am sure my mother was cared for as a child. She does her laundry. She takes her to the doctor. She sits with her when she sleeps. She holds her hand when she is scared. My other grandmother lived to be 92, and her final years were filled with the same attention. All people who are elderly need to be cared for and cherished. There is a cycle to motherhood that I am not sure is acknowledged on Mother’s Day.
I made it through another Mother’s Day. No, I did not get in free at the Cincinnati Zoo. No, there was not a special gift bag given to me at the Reds game. I got to tell my mother I love her. I got to give my grandmother a kiss. I got to sing with my nieces at the top of my lungs. I got to take a deep breath and make a gratitude list of the blessings that flow throughout my life.