Happy Day to Mothers and Others

“Are you a mother?” asked the grocery store clerk at the check-out counter.  “Are these roses for your mother?” she went on to inquire.  A friendly lady with a genuine smile, I answered her questions briefly but honestly, and then busied myself by bagging the groceries to avoid any further small talk with this stranger about the imminent holiday. 

It is presented as a day of recognition and appreciation for the marvelous relationship between mother and child.  As with every Western holiday, for weeks we are faced with daily reminders though advertisements, specials, and promotions.  We can’t open our email or check social media without being inundated by quotes, pictures and messages to, or about, “mom.”  Every place from flower and greeting card companies, restaurants, department stores, travel agencies, spas, gyms and theaters are touting their products as the perfect way to show “mom” how much you care. It is a day of commercial celebration.  

However, there is another side to the story, one which is equally, if not more, common. Recognizing this extremely complex relationship, Mother’s Day can feel more like reopening a wound or touching a nerve. It may instead represent a day of mourning and missing someone who is no longer in our life, or something we never had. It can serve as painful annual reminder of disappointment, hurt, neglect or abandonment. Some people end up feeling misplaced by the festivities. What do we do if we don’t have a mother to celebrate or are not a mother to be celebrated?    

There is a new comedy coming out called “Bad Moms” which spoofs both the overachieving, perfectionist-oriented modern day mother and the outcast, anything-goes, irresponsible mother who just stops trying.  It brings a refreshing dose of humor to an otherwise sensitive subject, one we are forced to revisit every year at this time.  There is an ambiguous array of emotion that naturally stirs as this day approaches. In essence, Mother’s Day is a way to honor the most primal, secure, dependable, nurturing, tender and profoundly loving relationship we experience from the earliest time of our lives.  And it is an incredibly special and incomparable bond, but one which does not always stay in tact for a variety of reasons.  

Through our own personal process, we may find a way to forgive, forget and move on, or we may discover ways to substitute or supplant to meet our needs.  The bottom line is, no one had the perfect mother and no one is the perfect mother, and we must navigate that truth in our own way. However, this holiday (if it’s one we choose not to ignore) may be a day of reconciliation in the sense that it provides for us an opportunity to recognize all who are affected by this special day.  We may honor women who are mothers but have lost their children, children who have lost their mothers, women who long to be mothers but are unable, children who have mothers but have been harmed by them.  And if we are fortunate enough, we may give tribute to those women (and men) who have provided for us an example of unconditional love, resiliency, courage, selflessness, generosity, strength, tenderness, and possibility. Happy Mother’s Day.