Two moms, with love: An emotional Mother's Day

For Susan Goldberg and her partner, Rachel, Mother’s Day is a mixed bag of emotions.

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Mother’s Day in a house with two moms: double the pleasure, double the fun! Right?

Well, um, no. Sorry. I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but the truth is—perhaps ironically—Mother’s Day is kind of a non-event at our house.

Think about it: When there are two moms, it’s not like we can both book indulgent mani-pedis after a leisurely, kid-cooked breakfast in bed. I mean, who’s going to clean up the mess? Who’s going to watch the kids? Sadly, our six- and nine-year-old sons still aren’t well trained to clean up their kitchen disasters, and the cats are pretty much useless when it comes to babysitting.

Maybe if the boys’ dad (a.k.a. our sperm donor) lived in the same city, Rachel and I could finagle some kind of sweetheart double-Mother’s Day date, but he’s three provinces away. So what usually happens on the big day at our place is that the kids proudly present us with their Mother’s Day crafts from school—yes, they make two of each—and we open them and ooh and ahh a bit. (On Father’s Day, they make gifts for their dad and, occasionally, their grandfather.) Then, if we’re feeling really ambitious, we go out for brunch. That’s all, folks.

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And, frankly, I’m just fine with that. In fact, I prefer it that way. Because the truth is, I have what could at best be described as an ambivalent relationship with Mother’s Day. At worst, you could say I find the day a bit traumatic.

You see, I lost my mom to breast cancer 10 years ago. To make matters more wrenching, she died while I was pregnant with my oldest son. One of my biggest heartbreaks—and, I imagine, one of hers—was that she didn’t live long enough to see me become a mom.

But here’s the real kicker: Rachel and I had gotten engaged the winter before, and we were planning a summer wedding, but we moved up the date when it became clear that my mom’s health was declining rapidly. We chose Sunday, May eighth: bittersweet because it was Mother’s Day, but somehow appropriate, and the earliest we could fathom pulling everything together for an abbreviated ceremony. My mom died on the morning of our hastily rescheduled nuptials. The wedding caterer became a funeral caterer, and my cousins, who had flown into town to celebrate with us, ended up acting as pallbearers.

Yeah, I know. It’s a bit of a conversation stopper.

Read more: Mother’s Day when you don’t have a mom >

If you had a great relationship with your mother—and maybe even if you didn’t—Mother’s Day becomes an exquisitely painful event after her death. Each year as the second Sunday in May approaches, I do my best to ignore the barrage of ads exhorting me to do something “special” for my mom: Take her out for dinner! Splurge on something sparkly! Let her know how important she really is! Trust me, it pains me that I can’t.

Aside from the lost opportunity to treat my mom to something grand on Mother’s Day, what I really miss is sharing the little things. I wish I could phone her any day of the year and tell her what we made for dinner, or about the boys’ report cards or soccer games, or the funny (or infuriating) thing one of them said or did.

I’m not convinced that setting aside a single day each year to express appreciation for mothers is what we all need. I figure pretty much every mom is rewarded and challenged multiple times each day (if not each hour) by the monumental task of raising children while staying at least somewhat sane and healthy. For Rachel and me, the best moments of motherhood are the random, everyday ones: cuddles at the end of the day; the way six-year-old Isaac looks so grown-up after a haircut; how we all dissolve into giggles around the dinner table when his older brother, Rowan, cracks a joke; watching the two of them watch E.T. for the first time.

So that’s why, when people ask how we’re going to celebrate Mother’s Day, I usually just smile and say, “Oh, you know. In a house with two moms, we don’t make a big deal of it.”

A version of this article was published in our May 2014 issue with the headline “Two moms, with love”, p. 36.

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