I was not raised to give a shit about Mother’s Day, but the world did not care.
Our teachers insisted that we press our sweaty little hands into tempera paint, paste together homemade cards, and shower our mothers with appreciation on some arbitrary Sunday in May. “Oh GOD,” my mom would say as we handed her our offerings, “Thank you but it’s a made-up holiday.” Nevertheless, the Sunday circulars insisted that my mother needed to be pampered. She needed “me time.” She needed a hot bath, a fat-free yogurt, a diamond pendant shaped like a mom alien made of diamonds, holding a baby alien made of diamonds.
My expectations as an actual mother on Mother’s Day were somewhere between nonexistent and not there at all. If you tell me to pamper myself I will have to physically hold myself back from assaulting you because that word really grosses me out. I eat pudding whenever I damn well please, and I don’t consider it an indulgence, another word I’d kindly ask you to not say to me please. I had a child that I worked really hard to have (thank you, science!) and he was five months old and depended on my boobs for all of his meals so I trusted that he appreciated the hell out of me.
But I was married to a kind and thoughtful man who also happened to have terminal brain cancer and was determined to be the World’s Best Husband while he was still around, so on my first Mother’s Day I woke up to a card he’d designed himself (presumably at work, where he worked as a graphic designer), a gift card for a massage, and a kitchen full of our family, who joined us for brunch. Our second year, I woke up to find he’d hung a beautiful, museum quality print of a family portrait, right where he’d always personally wanted a TV.
It was sweet. And lovely. And totally unnecessary, and I told him as much, but also appreciated it, because I knew it would be our last made-up Mother’s Day together. Aaron had brain cancer, and he would die six months later.
The value in these dumb, made-up holidays designed to sell us stand mixers and #1 DAD mugs and sell more pudding cups to women who apparently need to be told to eat dessert (???) is that it does, at its core, force us to appreciate what we have, and what we have is what so many other people want. Until our kids are old enough to tell us on their own, we use these days to tell each other how much we appreciate the minutiae of the day to day. And that minutiae doesn’t go away when your partner dies. It multiplies. You’re doing all of the work, and it’s mostly thankless, and all of your friends with healthy partners are like “ohmygoshit’ssooooohard” and they don’t mean it to bother you, but, like, how could it not?
We all know, of course, there are women who are mourning their own lost children on Mother’s Day. We know there are members of the Dead Dad Club who don’t have anyone to buy a grill for on Father’s Day. And we know there are mothers like me whose toddlers don’t know they are supposed to sleep in until 9, bring me a gluten-free bagel with butter in bed and then leave me alone for the remainder of the day or until I’ve finished reading the entire New York Times. But we don’t know what to do about it, because we are just humans and being a human is kind of hard, so cut those friends of yours a break.
You’re 100% allowed to love the hell out of Mother’s Day. Or Father’s Day. Hell, even Flag Day, if that’s what gets you going. But if you don’t, if you’re flying partnerless-thanks-to-death as a mother and find the entire day a huge triggering pile of bullshit, that’s okay, too! And I have some ideas.
Stay off the Internet
I mean, duh. It’s basically the secret to happiness, but who has the strength to pursue that kind of happiness?? A cool thing about grief is that it can really make you unhappy. Weird, right? And it can make you unhappy about other people’s happiness, which is gross and ick and makes you feel like a cold lizard person with a heart that is several sizes too small, and also made out of solid rock. You KNOW your Instagram is going to be filled with beaming families, and flower arrangements, and homemade cards that your kid can’t make on her own yet. So just, take a day to opt out. Delete the apps from your phone for a bit. You’ll feel so much better.
Take the day off from mothering
Seriously, you’re a solo parent. Your kid doesn’t go off to your ex’s house every other weekend. You don’t have a person to touch his head when you think he has a fever. You are your child’s EVERYTHING. You are 100% allowed to take the day off today. In fact, I think you should. Give your kid to a friend, a sibling, your parents, a stranger you found on Craigslist (kidding! Unless that’s your only option). And then…do whatever the hell you want. Be asked for nothing. Answer no questions. Sit in silence in your own home if you want to, but you’re not being a mom today.
Or, mother the FUCK out of your kid
Unless you’re like, no, this is MY day, and I will own it! In which case, take yourself and your little humans to a fancy brunch, all wearing the same outfit. Do all the mom things that make you feel like supermom. Scrub your bathtub. Do sixteen loads of laundry. Build a garden bed. Do it all! Because you can. Because you didn’t have a choice, and you do it all every other day, too.
Get over yourself
Sorry! But someone out there has it worse than you. Find someone on YouCaring.com, GoFundMe.com, or any other site where people are crowdfunding their survival, and do what you can to ease their burden, even if it’s $5.
Be your own husband
Seriously, parenting alone is the hardest thing on the planet (I have done not many hard things, so yes this POV is slightly skewed). Last year, I bought myself expensive things that my husband would have bought me. Not because we were rich, but because he lived by the Treat Yo’ Self motto and I knew he’d have splashed out for this made-up holiday. You know what I suggest? Getting yourself a #1 MOM mug, going to Sephora and just handing them your credit card while you go into an eyeliner-related trance, or seeing a movie totally alone and getting the giant popcorn with a separate cup of butter for dipping each kernel. Oh, I’m disgusting for suggesting that? Apologies.
My husband and father died a few weeks apart. Both of them were great at celebrating these made-up holidays, and at making us feel special all of the time. This year, I’ll spend the day with the woman who taught me not to give a care about Mother’s Day, digging up each other’s yards, planting flowers, trying to grow something beautiful and new from the dirt.