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It's a (not quite) Jolly Holiday

I was sitting in a doctor's office waiting room a few weeks ago. While I waited, another patient came out into the reception area to make her next appointment. The receptionist offered a few dates, including one on a Saturday. The woman (I have no idea who she was; let's call her Maude) originally said yes to the Saturday date. Then the following conversation ensued: 

Maude: Wait! Is that Mother's Day weekend? 

Receptionist: Hmm. You know what? I'm not sure. When is Mother's Day? 

Maude: You don't know? 

Receptionist: (nervous laugh) Well, I guess I should know this....

Maude: Are you a mother? 

Receptionist: No. 

Maude: But...you have a mother, right? You should know these things! 

At this point, I was incensed with "Maude". This woman knew nothing about the receptionist. She could have recently lost a child. She could have been struggling with infertility. She could have had a mother who recently died. Or she could have a strained or just very complicated relationship with her mother. It doesn't matter. The point is, to believe that everyone delights in Mother's Day and that everyone imprints this Hallmark holiday on their calendars in some kind of sacrosanct way is a huge assumption. 

Mother's Day has been a challenge for me for over a decade. In 2012 I talked about how one reason why this holiday is harder than other days, such as Charlotte's birthday or her death day. is that it feels impossible to hide from everyone else's celebrations. Our culture makes us feel a sense of obligation to celebrate, so it's hard to sit things out unless you purposely hide in your house. Which, by the way, I've done. 

My world shifted a little in 2014 when we added a new member to our family. Now I had this visible reason to "claim" my motherhood again. I still felt a twinge every May, but like other aspects of my grief, the view had changed. 

Now I approach my third Mother's day without my own mother and, yes, that stings too. I know that losing your parents is part of the natural order of things, especially as we approach middle age. However, I have friends (people my own age or older) who still have grandparents in their lives, let alone at least one or both of their parents. I have wanted to call my mom on the phone almost every day since she died and sometimes I wonder if I'm ever going to stop wishing for that opportunity.

I love this picture of me, Charlotte, and my mother from 2005. It's one of my favorites. At the same time, every time I see it, I feel wistful. This picture shows three generations but two of them are no longer alive and barely a generation's worth of time has passed since the photo was taken.  

So for those who find Mother's Day challenging (for whatever reason), this is permission to give yourself a break. Don't force yourself to "celebrate" something that brings you pain. Do what feels right to you. Be kind to yourself. May you find peace wherever you need to be. 

And for everyone else, let the story of "Maude" be a cautionary tale. Be careful. Don't make assumptions. Remember that many people find this holiday (a word which I use in the loosest of terms) to be painful, difficult, and complicated. Send love to those who need it. Be kind to each other. 




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