I have a love-hate relationship with Mother’s Day. I feel bad saying so, but there it is.
My ambivalence toward the holiday surfaced that first year Chris and I tried to get pregnant. As we struggled to start our family over the next 2 years, it snowballed with a heavy lean toward the hate side. Although I’ve proudly borne the title Mommy for the last 3 years, I still greet the day with some hesitation. I want to embrace it and the sentiment it holds, but something holds me back from fully enjoying “my” day.
I wrote about these feelings for my now defunct blog, Not Just a Triplet Mom, on my first Mother’s Day. In reviewing it while preparing to write this post, I discovered that time hasn’t necessarily made the heart grow fonder. While my love-hate relationship with Mother’s Day has slowly softened and now leans more toward the love side, the driving forces behind it haven’t changed.
Three years ago, exhaustion played a large role in my love-hate relationship with Mother’s Day. The Tagalongs were on a 3-hour schedule 24/7, so my sleep came in rounds of naps that were rarely longer than 1 hour each. When you averaged 2 to 3 hours of sleep a night, it was hard to muster up excitement for much of anything—except sleep.
The Tagalongs’ schedule is now less regimented, and they usually sleep through the night for around 10 hours. But I’m still exhausted. Three-year-old toddlers are no joke. While we have some amazingly good days, many days feel like a bomb that’s exploded in a cloud of cacophonous chaos.
I’d love to spend the day kicking back and trying to put a dent in my to-read list with a carton of ice cream in each hand. But (as moms everywhere will tell you), there are still meals to cook, dishes and laundry to do, and kids to play referee between—times three in my house. I try to take the day off from chores that don’t have to be done, but wrangling three toddlers into dress clothes and herding them out the door to church is exhausting in and of itself. I’m usually maxed out by the time we pull into the church parking lot.
Don’t get me wrong—I love that my life includes three crazy, imaginative, lovable tiny humans. I just might regard “my” day differently if it happened at a slower pace and had a lower volume level.
The Mother’s Day Wall
I’m sure my Mother’s Day Wall plays the largest role in my love-hate relationship with Mother’s Day.
Three Mother’s Days passed during our IF journey—three Mother’s Days in which I clapped at church mothers’ recognitions with a glazed expression and clenched jaw and plastered a smile on my face during family get-togethers. In a twist of irony that would be included in an Alanis Morisette song, I spent Mother’s Day #3 going through my second (and last) egg retrieval. I guiltily avoided the world—including my own mother, who I’d lied to about why we couldn’t attend family lunch—like the plague as I lay in bed wondering if the seven eggs my RE had retrieved were turning into tiny humans.
I spent 3 years building a wall that would make Mother’s Day hurt less, so it makes sense that the wall didn’t magically come down that first year I celebrated being a mommy. And while it affects how I view the day, I’m not sure I want it to fully dismantle it. My Mother’s Day Wall has given me a consideration and empathy I don’t know that I would have without it.
It makes me aware of the women who won’t celebrate Mother’s Day despite desperately wanting to. The women who don an unflattering hospital gown and surgery hat as they shake back egg-retrieval jitters. The women who have “Mom” written on their heart but don’t officially bear the title yet. The women who aren’t sure they’ll ever hear “Mama” spill sweetly and innocently from their baby’s lips. The women who’ve mourned the loss—any loss—of a child. The women who are a special kind of brave that I admire and respect: the women who choose to not have children. My wall makes me, to paraphrase one of my favorite literary characters, walk around in the skin of my fellow sisters and understand things from their point of view.
I don’t mean to take away from what Mother’s Day is about. Having worn the shoes of motherhood for 3 years, I think moms definitely deserve their own day (or several). However, I also know that Mother’s Day can be a difficult holiday for some, a holiday that alienates them from a group they so desperately long to be in. I’ve felt that alienation, that pain and frustration and anger, and I don’t want to be a source of it for others.
So I try to make Mother’s Day a quiet holiday—as quiet as quiet can be with three toddlers. I pay homage to the mother figures in my life with a simple quote about love on social media and then go about my day like any other day. It’s my way of honoring mothers without doing so at the expense of women whose story I don’t know. It’s my way of showing other women that I see them and I can (try to) understand them and I support them.
During the second year of our TTC journey, a friend sent me an article about Mother’s Day from the perspective of a woman who’s not a mother. It deeply resonated with me, and I spent the next year writing my own post in my head. You can find the article that inspired me below.
An Open Letter to Pastors (A non-mom speaks about Mother’s Day)