Article: Mother's Day Blues

One mother finds meaning in her Mother’s Days Blues.

Mother’s Day. Even now, with my mother gone over two years, I am seized with anxiety just thinking about that second Sunday in May. As her daughter, I always felt tremendous pressure to fulfill her expectations. As the mother of two daughters, it seems that I now have my own expectations.

It was easy when my kids were little, when their teachers made sure they came home with some charming project: the ubiquitous hand-print, Popsicle picture frame, macaroni necklace, orange juice can pencil holder. I’ve saved them all. It is with more than an iota of irony that I look at the balsa wood angel with Daughter #2’s face glued on it grinning at me from my dresser. She and I can barely talk about anything now without having a major power struggle.

But when Mother’s Day comes around, all I can remember are the times when she and her sister (now away at college) would serve me burnt breakfast in bed. Who cared if the coffee was weak and the pancakes were black? They still wanted to cuddle under the comforter, play Tickle Monster, and plant big wet sloppy kisses all over my face. I would say to myself: ”This is what Mother’s Day is all about.” No manipulation, no demand for special attention, just the pure joy of being together! Unlike my mother, I was not going to make a Big Deal over Mother’s Day. My kids would not have to kow-tow to me just because Hallmark said so. Filial guilt, be gone!

Not that I have anything to feel guilty about. I always did right by my mother on “her” day—brought her flowers, a nice outfit, took her to some overpriced, overdone brunch at some fancy hotel where she’d reign amidst other loved and lavished Queen Bees; but most importantly, I wrote her a mushy card whose sole purpose was to make her cry. If the tears flowed, the day was a success. Like Bette Davis, she adored cheap sentiment. I would never be so emotionally needy.

Then last year, hoping to relieve my stress by relieving some of theirs, I told my daughters the best present they could give me would be to get their heavy load of homework done. But by day’s end when I hadn’t received a single card from them, not even a note on a Post-It, I burst into tears. It did matter that it was Mother’s Day. But why? Was I just as desperate as my own mother for some kind of recognition? I knew they loved me. Why couldn’t I just be satisfied with that?

I found myself at a local Starbuck’s crying in my cappuccino and scribbling in my journal. Despite my life-long resentment of Mother’s Day, I really missed my mother. I missed resenting her! I also understood why she wanted to be moved to tears by the written words of her children, —why just taking some time to think about your mother and what she really means to you, and expressing it, is such a priceless gift. So I began:

Dear Me,
Since I can no longer write a Mother’s Day letter to my own mother, I thought I’d write one to myself. First of all, I want to forgive both of us for not being the perfect Mom. Second, I want to honor us for taking on the challenge of motherhood. And third, I want to pat myself on the back, no, hug myself for a job done to the best of my ability most of the time.


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