Mother of a Day!
"Hallmark" holidays are for the privileged and lucky.
Five days and counting until the day I have been dreading for the past four months is upon me. Mother’s Day! I can’t say it’s ever been a real favourite of mine, but this year will be tough.
When I first met my husband, one of things he told me early in our relationship is that he does not believe in “Hallmark holidays.” By this he meant any occasion created by greeting card companies: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day being the prime examples. He is 60 years old and still cannot remember that Valentine’s Day is on February 14!
This was a tough pill to swallow because my love languages are acts of service and receiving gifts and I often associate these two things with occasions. In my mind, if you eliminate the occasions, then the opportunity for me to receive (and give) these acts of love is limited. But Hallmark holidays were hardly a deal breaker in a relationship. He was honest with me and I accepted who he is.
This meant there was little fanfare in our household on these days, and anything that was done fell to me. On Valentine’s Day I would help the kids with their cards for school, and in the evening we made a tradition of taking the girls to Boston Pizza for heart-shaped pizza. But there were no cards or flowers for me. On Mother’s Day I would spring into action and make plans for my mom–we would take her out for brunch or dinner, or I would host something at my house. I always bought her flowers, cards, gifts, whatever, and I always made sure my girls acknowledged her. In amongst the celebration for her I would get a card from my girls, or some small token, but the focus and attention was on my mom and I did all the work/planning. On Father’s Day I would scramble around to do something for my dad and for my husband, while also rallying the girls to acknowledge both. And as is usually the way in most households, I, as wife and mother, also planned all other family occasions.
As mentioned, one of my love languages is acts of service, so I have spent the last 25 years doing things for my girls and mother. Making all their occasions special. But I have learned to lower my expectations on my occasions because they have rarely reciprocated the efforts. The last five birthdays not one of them has even asked what I was doing; I would get a phone call or text message and maybe some flowers or a small gift, but never an offer of lunch or coffee or a walk in the park. No one contacts me to make plans for Mother’s Day, I made the plans for my mom and invited my daughters. It has made me feel sad and unappreciated, but I have tried hard to remind myself that life is not about Hallmark holidays and birthdays, it is about all the days in between.
The thing about Hallmark holidays though is that they are marketing events. Their entire purpose is to get people to pay attention to the day and buy stuff. So the bombardment of advertising starts well before the day. This year, it has made me realize that there is an underlying cruelty to these marketing campaigns. We are all overwhelmed with messaging about the next big holiday and what we must buy and where we must go to celebrate. But in reality it is only the privileged and lucky that can celebrate these occasions in the manner they market them. “Tell mom how much you love her with this diamond heart-shaped necklace!” WTF? Really? Diamonds for mom on Mother’s Day?! “Give your wife the ride she deserves this Mother’s Day.” WTF? A new car for Mother’s Day?! It’s ridiculous and over-the-top and makes people feel like they don’t measure up. It is also a reminder to everyone who has less–less love, less comfort, less money, less freedom, less family–that they have less! And it is a reminder of things lost.
The past year has been brutal. I know too many people who lost a parent over the last year. They post on social media about their loss and my heart breaks for them. And I wonder, how does it feel when their social media feeds are full of reminders to celebrate the mom they just lost? How does the young mom who lost her baby to a miscarriage feel when the television flashes images of young new moms celebrating their first Mother’s Day? How about the woman who has been desperate to conceive, how sad does the constant barrage of Mother’s Day messaging make her? Or, what about the mother whose child died or the child who has no family? What impact do these marketing campaigns have on them?
For me, my newsfeed and the television ads have been hard to take this year. Every time something Mother’s Day pops up I am reminded that I will not hear from anyone this year. I have three daughters and two grandchildren, but it is unlikely anyone will contact me. It will also be the first year in my life that I will have no contact at all with my mom.
I continue to struggle with the way things are. I did not have a stable home life growing up and as a young adult. I moved 19 times between birth and 30 years old. When I started my family, I was determined to give my girls the stability I never had. I wanted our home to be their nest, their safe place, as it was/is mine. We bought our house 24 years ago and started building that nest. It never occurred to me that when our girls grew up and left that they would look back at it through such a shattered lens and with such little sentimentality. I thought we would spend Mother’s Day and every other holiday laughing and sharing stories in our family nest. I wanted that nest so much when I was growing up, and it was so important for me to provide it to my girls, that it never occurred to me that once they flew it, they would not want to visit. Sadly, my nest of joy and contentment has now turned into a prison for me of memories of the past and fantasies about a better future .
My mother is 78 years old. Who knows how much longer she has on this planet? She is relatively healthy, but none of us know what the future holds. It haunts me to think she might die without us ever speaking again. I cannot imagine for the life of me why she has cut me off without communication or explanation. So not only am I mourning my first Mother’s Day without my mom and daughters, but I am facing the reality that I may never spend one with my mom again. It is almost like grieving her death, but she is still alive and lives less than a kilometer away.
Mother’s Day is stirring up all these feelings. I don’t want a Hallmark holiday to have the power to make me feel bad. I don’t want my social media newsfeed to give me anxiety attacks with its nonstop reminders to “show mom how much you love her.” But it’s happening, anyway. I have choked back more than a few tears. I have had a few good, stern chats with myself about having control over my own feelings and reactions. And I have communicated how I am feeling to my husband, so he understands why I am being a sensitive freak. But none of that takes the pain away.
In the end, I agree with my husband. I think these Hallmark holidays have gone too far. I believe wholeheartedly that we should show the people we love every day that we love and appreciate them. If you love someone, make sure you let them know. Don’t wait for an occasion, because you or they might not be around for the next occasion. But, if you don’t love someone, then don’t feel obligated to acknowledge them on a Hallmark holiday because of marketing and societal pressure.
For my friends who lost their mom over the last year, know I am thinking about you this year. And I encourage you to find comfort and joy in the love and happy memories of your mom. Knowing the suffering others are experiencing through their loss makes it even more difficult to understand why my girls and mom are choosing to have no relationship with me.
So, for my own mental health I will back away from social media until this mother of a day has passed. And with that, I will not wish you Happy Mother’s Day, instead I wish you all Happy Days!