I don’t usually recognize what I call “Hallmark Holidays”. Part of the reason is my stubborn determination to rebel against the consumerist masses and part of it is because I simply don’t know these days are coming up. I don’t watch television, I don’t listen to the radio, I only get the newspaper on Sundays (and I toss it immediately for the coupons), and I don’t see ads on websites anymore because I’m so used to tuning them out. The largest part of my refusal to observe these “Hallmark Holidays” stems from a deeply rooted belief that the holidays allow us an excuse to ignore the subject of the celebration for 364 days a year, as long as we remember to offer them a card on that particular mark on the calendar.
Having said all of that, I’ve recently found a desire to celebrate Mother’s Day, but I want to make one tiny change to it. I want to move that little asterisk over a notch and make it Mothers’ Day.
Our children may love us and want to show us that, but they have no idea how galvanizing motherhood is. Our partners love us and want to express their appreciation, but most don’t understand the unspoken, sacred bond that forms between a mother and the child that develops within her womb. The only people that understand, that truly get it, are other mothers.
Pregnancy is a beautiful introduction to the messiness of motherhood. Women with children or trying to conceive flock to pregnant women like moths to a flame (pregnant women “glow”, right?). Pregnant women congregate around other pregnant women and can spot another pregnant woman before her belly even shows. There is an inherent connection between women that becomes activated when a baby is made. We are the nurturers, creators of homes, the comforters, the connecters. Whether it takes moments after birth or months after birth to fall in love with our children, once we do, we understand that there truly is no other love like a mother’s love for her child.
A mother’s love doesn’t just stop at her own child. It intrinsically extends to all children, and by default, an empathetic bond is formed with the children’s mother. How many times has a new mother been brought to tears by reading a news story online about a tragedy befalling another baby? How many times has a mother donated her child’s excess toys, clothing, furniture, etc, to another child in need? How often do the mothers at the playground keep an extra eye on that one kid that seems a bit too young to be climbing on the monkey bars? How often do experienced mothers bake casseroles or run errands for mothers with newborns? Mothers just know what it’s like to be a mother.
One of the most persistent concerns I’ve had since childhood is my general tendency to have deeper and longer lasting friendships with men than I do with women. I’ve run the self-examination gamut on that one, probing myself for a desire for sexual power, animus possession, misogyny, misguided dominance issues, etc. The tentative conclusion I’ve drawn is that it is what it is, and it took me becoming a mother to make peace with that.
Though my pregnancy was pleasant, I found myself lamenting that I had no network of females to plug in to. No male friend could understand my experience and many of the female acquaintances I knew either had not wanted to be pregnant or had unpleasant experiences. I wanted to share, to commiserate, to exchange first-hand observations and accounts. I craved female wisdom and found myself, for the majority, without it.
Of course, I didn’t have the best relationship with my own mother growing up. Maturity and distance have provided me with enough clarity to recognize that she struggled with mental illness throughout most of my childhood. I’m sure her intentions were good in many of the things she did and said, though the actions themselves weren’t. I made a conscious effort in early adulthood to overcome the more debilitating effects of my upbringing, though many other handicaps and bitterness continue to lay dormant in my subconscious.
I made myself the same promise countless of other women have made themselves throughout the generations; I would NEVER be the same kind of mother that my mother was. And just like countless other women have found, that promise gets broken over and over and over. The irony and the cliché of hearing myself sound just like my mother is something that cannot be properly understood by a person that has never experienced it.
My most tenacious female friend became a mother at a very young age. When her child was about sixth months old, she told me how taken aback she was by the love that she had for him and how she finally understood what people meant when they said they’d do anything for their children, even die for them. I, being very young at the time myself, just nodded and agreed, and she gave me a look that I haven’t forgotten since. It was a look that said she understood that I didn’t really know what she meant and that she also understood that I couldn’t know what she meant. Until that moment, I had considered us equals in age, experience, and intelligence, but with that one fleeting look I understood that she had tapped into something deeper and more timeless than mere child-rearing.
It takes a lot of letting go and a lot of giving up to become a mom. There are times where we have to let go of getting the to-do list done because baby doesn’t feel well. We have to give up that image of what the perfect mother is. We have to let go of the illusion that we’re independent and we have to give up a lot of solitude. It took becoming a mother for me to finally let go of the resentments that I didn’t even know I had against my own mother.
Mothers’ Day is a day to re-cognize that there is an instinctual, innate understanding among all mothers across the globe. It’s not something that can be properly expressed in words, it cannot be understood by non-mothers. We should be celebrating the beauty of that web of wisdom connecting generations and ethnicities, and even species. Happy Mothers’ Day. I appreciate, from the bottom of my heart, all the love and guidance you provide to your children so that the world is a good place for my child to live in.