Mother’s Day is nearly upon us, and as a mom, I should probably be pretty excited. After all, motherhood’s been really good to me. I’ve been blessed with two wonderful sons, an adoring husband, and a really cute dog. And while raising kids has been challenging in ways I never expected, it’s also been so incredible, I can’t help but thank my lucky stars.
Still, moms do a lot and their daily grind can feel really thankless at times; so it only makes sense that we celebrate them at least once a year, right? Of course! And that’s a good thing, too, because every mom enjoys Mother’s Day, right?
Not so fast.
Sure, pretty Instagram photos of pretty moms unwrapping pretty gifts surrounded by their pretty children at Mother’s Day brunch is … pretty. But I’ve been a mom long enough to know that Pretty Mom’s son is probably miserable in his collared shirt and Pretty Mom’s daughter likely didn’t want to wear that particular dress. I can only assume Pretty Mom has given her kids “the look” at least twice on account of their kid-like behavior in that nice restaurant with the cloth napkins. I’m also fairly certain that Pretty Mom’s husband is having a heck of a time ensuring that both his mom and his wife are happy on this most special day they’re required to share.
But something about this portrait feels a little too manufactured and disingenuous — and it’s a big reason I’d rather opt out.
Still, every year, my family celebrates me in the sweetest ways in spite of myself. And I get why they do it; I’m their mom! Heck, I celebrate my own mom in big ways on Mother’s Day, because I feel she deserves it. But this highly-commercialized, widely-publicized national holiday that prompts us to remember Mom somehow just … well, misses the mark for me.
If I subscribe to this sacred day designed to pamper, appreciate, and honor my role as Mom in all the ways my heart desires, disappointment is practically guaranteed by virtue of its inherent promises. Because for me, recognition has never been about pretty gifts or fancy meals; it’s about being seen and heard.
I don’t need or even necessarily want breakfast in bed or a gift card (although both are nice). It’s possible that all I really need is for my youngest to get in the car the first time I ask. Perhaps all I really want is for my oldest to put down his phone, or my husband to please, please, please put away his shoes. These small and stupid daily asks add up, and on Mother’s Day — more than any other day — I regrettably care more than ever.
I care more than ever on Mother’s Day that my kids don’t argue. I care more than ever that I get to sleep in. I care more than ever that the dog gets fed. I care more than ever, because Mother’s Day is less about brunch and flowers and more about recognizing just how much Mom cares about her family … and yes, not tripping over shoes.
Maybe that sounds crazy, but then again, maybe it doesn’t.
In a 2015 survey by SOASTA of 680 American mothers, 40% of moms found themselves disappointed on Mother’s Day. Varied and valid, their reasons ranged from not being recognized at all (12%) and kids failing to acknowledge the holiday properly (9%), to the celebration feeling compulsory (8%), tension or fighting within the family (8%), disappointments in gifts (12%), and partners who showed more attention to their own mothers than the mother of their children (9%).
I asked around my circle of moms to see if they felt as though Mother’s Day didn’t live up to the hype, either. Here’s what they had to say:
“I almost dread Mother’s Day. I feel like I have to coach my husband through it and handle everything not only for my own mom, but for my husband’s mom, too.” — T. R.
“If I don’t buy my own gift, there’s a really good chance I’ll either be promised a gift ‘next time we go out’ or I’ll get something for the house that I would have had to buy anyway.” — Kelli
“Mother’s Day lasts about 10 minutes when I first wake up, and then it’s back to regular mom business with diaper changes and laundry.” — Tina
“It’s hardly a Mother’s Day when I have to share it with my mother-in-law. We can never agree on anything — especially how to spend the day.” — M. B.
“My kids aren’t into it and it hurts my feelings every year. [Mother’s Day] just makes me feel like I failed as a mom somehow.” — A. R.
When we consider just how personal and powerful the motherhood experience is, it’s easy to understand why it’s so often a miss.
But maybe recognizing Mom doesn’t have to be #blessed in all the pretty and conventional ways consumerism would have us expect. Perhaps instead, we can let go of the expense and expectation and get back to the heart of the holiday by celebrating her in simple and sincere ways every day. It’s time we recognize that a mom’s love isn’t stuffy or formal. And while it isn’t always perfect or easily understood either, it’s yours and it’s forever, and it’s free in all the very best ways.
So this year, maybe forget about starched shirts and reservations on this fancy Sunday in May, and consider jotting down a note of thanks on some random Wednesday in August, or bringing her a flower from your walk home from school, or surprising her with a hug that you refuse to let go from first.
Oh, and pick up your shoes.