My friend Ashley Garrett likes to use Facebook to promote conversations. Last year, she asked, “What’s a good surprise for someone on Mother’s Day?” She got a lot of good answers, including the predictable (spa day, manicure, day of peace) and the interesting (bourbon, everything on my Amazon wish list). One that caught my eye was very simple: “A husband who doesn’t say, “You’re not my mother.””
I had to chuckle at that because I have that version. The stoic, who can look me in the face and say, with all the sincere logic in the world, “You’re not my mom.”
The thought process goes, I believe, something like this: You did not give birth to me. You did not adopt me. You, therefore, are not MY mother. This is Mother’s Day. You are our children’s mother. They made you a card at daycare/school/church. It’s really cute. You should be happy because, after all, you are THEIR mother. And, besides, the card is sweet and heartfelt.
Society, though, has turned Mother’s Day–like everything else–into a competitive sport. The mom who gets breakfast in bed, a card, and flowers feels pretty good until she sees on social media that her BFF got breakfast, a card, flowers, and a Michaels gift card. But then that Mother’s Day winner is upended by the wife who got the Pandora bracelet with a charm for each of her golden-haired offspring and ate her eggs Benedict–with real Hollandaise sauce–poolside.
The temptation is to see the not.
If a mom is just holding a construction paper card, her husband did not take the children shopping.
If a mother doesn’t eat breakfast in bed, her husband is not trying–or her older children do not care.
If there are no flowers, then her husband does not love her because they sell flowers at every grocery store in town for only $7.00.
And the woman who sees these nots feels like a Mother’s Day loser in a land of Pandora-Hollandaise winners.
I know because I used to be one, and on those Mother’s Days where I got nothing–not even a construction paper card, I ranted. I railed. I felt angry, devalued, unloved and unrecognized. My husband and my girls could listen to me rage because they didn’t get it.
But my husband and girls were totally unaware that Mother’s Day was a competition.
They weren’t shopping three times a week in a rose-filled Walmart or reading the circulars proclaiming, “All Perfume 25% Off For Mom!”
I was the one who bought the groceries. Who checked the mail. Who read the women’s magazines and got the targeted emails. I was the one who was fully aware that Mother’s Day was coming.
It wasn’t a vendetta. (The children were, as my younger daughter so aptly puts it, “Barely self-aware.”)
Less honored never meant–and never means–less loved.
When I was a young wife and mother, I didn’t know this. Mother’s Day was a day of weighing and measuring, of waiting for the scales to balance. I didn’t see it for what it was: one Sunday in May.
Think about it–Mother’s Days are a collective emotional motherlode, but they are less than 1% of a woman’s life. The average woman will live 4,025 Sundays–Sundays on which her husband will maybe make a Hardee’s run or whip up some pancakes. On some of those Sundays, there will be family picnics and spontaneous roadtrips and lingering dinners.
There will be beautiful Sundays. Lousy Sundays. Lots and lots and lots of Sundays.
Don’t judge your family–or your worth–by this one.