In case you don’t know me very well, I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret secret: I’m not a huge fan of Mother’s Day, for some obvious reasons that you can read about here.
Read Susan’s story here: Two moms, with love: An emotional Mother’s Day >
It’s getting better, though. It’s been 10 years since I lost my mom, and enough time has passed that the day itself doesn’t feel quite as sad as it once did. And then there are my sons: it’s hard to feel too terrible when Isaac places the geraniums he’s grown for me and Rachel on our respective nightstands and Rowan presents us with a tomato plant to put in the garden. (And, oh, the hand-drawn cards! So sweet. Isaac copied out two French-language poems, one for each of me and Rachel. “My teacher wrote this for you,” he said, and I stifled a laugh.)
But you know what’s really helped make Mother’s Day bearable, even enjoyable? The Internet.
A confession: I didn’t spend Mother’s Day with my kids. I spent it on three airplanes, travelling home to them after 12 (yes, 12) days away from them (more on that in another post). And in various airport lounges, I scrolled through Facebook posts on my phone as my friends posted photos of their moms, of themselves with their moms, of their moms and of their kids.
And I have to say, it was all pretty sweet. Sure, I carried a bit of wistfulness about the fact that I can’t post those kinds of photos, but mostly I was happy to see people celebrating their moms.
But here’s what made it downright good: Along with all those happy photos and posts, so many of my friends also took the time to acknowledge that Mother’s Day is hard for so many people. Here’s just a sampling of what I read:
• From a friend who’s struggled with infertility: “Mother’s Day. I don’t need a gift. I’ve got W. Took me five years to make him & I’m five years into enjoying him. Thinking of those still trying. #infertility”
• From a friend who’s totally cool with not having kids: “I was asked if I felt left out on Mother’s Day every year, and no one was murdered. Miracles are real!”
• From a friend who just lost her own mom: “On Mother’s Day, I ask everyone to consider kindness for others today who may feel out of step with the rest of [us]. You don’t need it lessen your joy in this day, but there are people for whom the mother relationship is complex and painful… Whatever side you’re on in your relationship or non-relationship with your mother, I wish you peace if today is difficult for you. I ask that those around you have compassion for lives on different paths… Sending love to those in a non-standard place today, and be good to yourselves.”
• From a friend who’s a single mom by choice: “Just a simple thank you to all of you for holding my hand on my motherhood journey. I’m single, but I’m not doing this solo.”
• From a friend who takes such good care of her elderly mom: “Every year, I so enjoy seeing photos that my friends post of their mothers around Mother’s Day. At the same time, I am aware of how fraught this time of the year is. I have several close friends who have lost their mothers in the past year and are grieving. I have friends whose mothers died years ago and this day brings up such longing for them. And I have friends who never felt adequately cared for or loved by their biological mothers. I’m also thinking of… male friends, who are lovingly parenting their children in a same-sex partnership and how complicated a day like today is for them.”
• From a fellow mom in a two-mom, two-boy family: “Today I send extra doses of love to anyone who is struggling on the path to parenthood.”
• From an artist friend who nurtures other artists around her: “I just want to acknowledge the many people who help mother the world, regardless of gender or biological connection. Our mothers, yes, but also our older friends, aunts, neighbours, teachers and more. Sometimes, motherhood is a role that is shared or does not take socially conventional appearances. My hat is off to all those who nurture. Because to me, that is what mothering is about.”
• And from my editor at Today’s Parent, who worked on this story with me, a simple Tweet: “Thinking of you today.”
When Mother’s Day isn’t a Hallmark holiday for you, it can be a very lonely time. You sit there, quietly smiling, and wishing that other people knew about the grief and complicated feelings that accompany—or eclipse—the joy for so many of us. It used to be that those of us with complicated relationships to Mother’s Day dealt with the day on our own. But with Facebook, and Twitter, and texting and Instagram and any number of other technologies, we can do it together.
So thank you to everyone on my various feeds who came together on Mother’s Day and made me feel like part of a community. That’s what real nurturing is all about.
Thunder Bay, Ont., writer Susan Goldberg is a transplanted Torontonian and one of two mothers to two boys. Follow along as she shares her family’s experiences. Read more of Susan’s The other mother posts and tweet her @MamaNonGrata.