May has always been a shitty month for me. I dislike the loss of winter with its quiet, soothing cover of clouds and coldness. I'm also prone to spring allergies, but mostly I don't react well to Mother's Day. Or at least I didn't in the past.
For a long time I've struggled with the practice and concept of motherhood. It just looks to me like a job that women are set up to fail. As a former ungrateful daughter, I never want to be on the mother side of the stories that end up in the therapist's office. Even if a mother does her very best, she makes many mistakes and she can't know which ones actually do damage until her child is unable to commit to a relationship or is unable to hold a job or develops an eating disorder or can't handle money, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera...
At least in part because motherhood is impossible to get right and so easy to get very, very wrong, I chose not to have kids. I look anxiously at babies and children, fearful of what they have in their future (abuse, neglect, neurosis, hunger, endless punishment?). When anyone mistakes me for a mother, I draw back in horror, insulted that they think I might be one of those people, The Mothers with the power of life and death over their children and whose actions weigh so, so heavily on the psyche and development of little personalities. No, I'm not A Mother. I would never do that to anyone.
As I reach my late 40's, it becomes more frequent that strangers assume I have children, especially on this day. But decades of therapy, inner work and healing of my childhood pain are finally starting to change this day for me. Yesterday a stranger wished me "Happy Mother's Day!" and I didn't feel insulted. I didn't glare at him and say, "I'm not a mother," forcing him to apologize for his mistake. I said, "Thank you," in the spirit of someone who isn't of the same faith as a religious holiday, but who still appreciates the festive greetings of others.
I shocked myself. As I walked away, I checked my mood for the old resentment and bitterness, but they weren't there. My Mother's Day resentment and bitterness were gone! It's a secular miracle! Actually, it's the result of decades of hard work on my childhood issues, using various therapies and techniques to release my old anger and fears.
Today I see families out together, but feel no envy of someone else's better childhood than mine, or anger that people keep selfishly having babies so the world can go on suffering. This holiday has become neutral for me. It just IS. I see individuals carrying bouquets, on their way to Mom's. One teenager held bright red roses which contrasted her dark expressionless look. I felt for her because I know that mask of bored detachment. It was my best defense against unpredictable holidays when I was growing up. I wish that young woman well, but she probably won't be. Not today.
Mother's Day is extremely difficult for a lot of people, but they get ignored by the bright greetings and colors of this day. I intensely dislike the false pageantry people are forced to participate in, but I'm grateful to have made my way to the surface of the bleak emotions that until now have penetrated my feelings about motherhood. Have a happy Mother's Day? Yes, actually I am.
[If you made the choice to parent small children, you can leave them at this Chicago preschool.]