Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Mothers Day Rant (because that's how I roll)

I was so busy yesterday that I didn't visit Facebook until late at night, after sorting nearly a month's worth of mail and paying bills and balancing the checkbook and updating the budget and helping Zoe finish her poetry project and tidying up the house and getting cleaned up and going to Latin Vespers and dinner to honor a teacher who retired after 51 years of teaching Latin and Greek at which I photographed the honoree and his family.

I was so busy mothering yesterday that I didn't visit Facebook until late at night.

And when I finally got there, exhausted and yet happy, what I found pissed me off.

Now, to be clear, this is not unusual. There is plenty on Facebook, and indeed online in general, to piss me off.

What I found last night, at least among the threads in my own particular newsfeed, was a slow, rolling wave of anti-Mothers Day posts.

What. the. fuck.

Perhaps I'm overly sensitive because I struggled for so long to become a mother. No, wait, I know that's true. I get the pain, okay? I get the bitter mix of feelings of disgust and disappointment and ache and fear. I went through it, and I know many wonderful women who also went through it. Mothers Day was impossibly painful for me during that time. I avoided going to Mass because I didn't want to risk bursting into tears when all the women around me stood up for a special blessing at the end. I get the pain.

But here's the thing:

During those years of feeling less than, of feeling sad and angry and punished, I never once expected that other women who were lucky enough to be mothers to not get their due. My pain was mine, and it did not mean that others should suffer or go unrecognized for it.

Mothering is hard work. It's the hardest job I will ever have, just as fathering is for Michael. We don't know what the fuck we're doing most of the time. We feel our way along and figure it out as we go. Thank God I get to hold his hand through this. In a job that can feel pretty close to thankless sometimes, that is often overwhelming and filled with feelings that are just as passionate as those experienced during infertility, it's nice to have one day, one fucking day, where people go, "Hey. Nice job with the offspring."

Yesterday I read a Mothers Day essay by a writer whose work I usually adore. She went off on self-righteous parents who think that their love for their children eclipses all other love. She, a mother herself, discussed how the vast majority of parents are certain that the love of a parent is stronger than any other love. Here's the thing: I am absolutely convinced it is. This is, of course, based on my own personal experience. I had never, ever felt the type of all-consuming, selfless love that happens daily now that I am a mother. Perhaps I was more selfish than the average person. I'm cool with that. But now that I am a parent, everything else pales in comparison. I imagine that this feeling is shared by most people who are parents. Otherwise we wouldn't be so damn self-righteous.

My own feelings take nothing away from those people who aren't parents, whether by choice or by circumstance. I do not stand here in judgment. I can only relate my own personal experience, which is this: becoming a parent fundamentally changed who I am and what I care about. My priorities shifted in ways I never dreamed possible. Motherhood changed me for the better. I will not apologize for this, and all I want is one day to celebrate that, to honor all the phenomenal women I know who feel the same way (there are a lot). Mothers Day was invented for a purpose. Generations of women have been celebrated on this one day, and for very good reason.

I read another essay by a different writer, who acknowledged that the whole notion of Mothers Day is fraught with pain. Yep, it is. I've experienced this for years, way before I ever saw even a flicker of infertility on the horizon. My relationship with my own mother has been hard for a long, long time. Unless I'm feeing particularly strong on Mothers Day, I avoid social media just so I don't have to see all the glowing tributes from women in my generation to women in my mother's generation. It's a reminder of all that I missed, the possibilities that are irrevocably gone.

I don't begrudge those women who have loving, kind mothers. Am I jealous? Sure. Who wouldn't be? But I also recognize that the world would be a pretty shitty place if we didn't have women who had the mothering thing at least somewhat figured out, and I am thankful that many of those women have mothered me over the years. Those women deserve the sentiments, and my own experience does not negate that. I am thrilled that my friends have wonderful relationships with their mothers. It gives me hope that I can have one of those relationships with my daughter.

This country celebrates inanities nearly every day of the year. National Talk Like a Pirate Day. National Toasted Ravioli Day. We take to the streets to celebrate winning teams of overgrown boys who get paid millions to play baseball. The nation loses its mind over a freakin' groundhog once a year. But now we can't celebrate Mothers Day? Now, we must be more mindful of all the women who aren't mothers on Mothers Day, than the mothers themselves. Really?

Mothering is a hard job. I chose it and I love it and I do it every single day and I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm taking my props.

Happy Mothers Day.


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