For those of you wondering why your female parent is no longer speaking to you, it’s Mothers’ Day today: a scheduled annual day for spontaneous expressions of gratitude. Your mum gave you the gift of life X years ago (and has probably helped to keep you alive*since then). For my first Mothers’ Day CJ bought me a book and Louisette was generous – surprisingly generous – on the chocolate and lolly front. What a good girl.
As a person with a social anxiety disorder, Mothers’ Day was always the second-most stressful day of the year (the worst being Christmas). I felt that I needed to satisfy both my family and CJ’s family with two separate but equally important occasions in which it was vital to be happy, and to come prepped with thoughtful and beautiful presents, and with some kind of reasonably respectable food. At the same time, I’d be aware that one or both families would be in not-so-secret pain due to missing at least one adult child, and that everyone would hate one or more parts of the many iron-clad traditions that they still felt the need to take part in (or, often, to take full responsibility for). So I had at least two large events with people I often didn’t know well, with a lot of expectations that most of us don’t like – and it was ESSENTIAL to be happy about all of it. All day. (Sidebar: I actually like a good tradition, whether it’s pleasant at the time or not. There’s a kind of satisfaction in, “We must get the family together on THIS day every year” that you don’t get any other way.)
Like most things in life, this is a problem that is almost completely solved by money – an expensive gift is a thoughtful gift nine times out of ten, and if you’ve got the money it’s super easy to buy a spectacular dessert and/or take everyone out to a restaurant to eat**. This week CJ and I paid for our annual car registration, so fixing things with money is even less of an option than usual. Also, as you may have heard, we recently had eight months of illness and then acquired a human being.
So instead of breakfast in bed***I got up before Louisette and launched headlong into a recipe I’ve never tried before. The path to dessert never did run smooth, and I’ve destroyed one pie base already at the time of writing.
Stupid freaking Mothers’ Day.
This year it fell to CJ and I to provide a dessert at each gathering. I was smart enough to arrange things so that one family met on Saturday instead of Sunday, and to buy/make desserts that I like. It so happened that the desserts I chose were terrible choices for both my mum (who was allergic to it) and CJ’s Mum (who doesn’t have the raging sweet tooth I do). So I feel guilty about both. How strangely appropriate for a first-time mum (guilt is kind of what we do).
Mothers’ Day is much more painful for most of the world than it is for me. I know at least one woman who has always wanted to have children – lots of children – and is staring down the barrel of her first IVF cycle. She may never conceive a child. I know many other women who want to have children but don’t even have the expensive-and-not-at-all-guaranteed benefit of IVF – they are single, and suddenly every birthday they “celebrate” is cutting away at their dreams. They have a huge pile of love stored inside them and life has not given them the option of bringing it out into the light. Mother Nature is a bi– . . . a mean person.
I know other people who have mums that hurt and belittle them constantly. Those people have a choice to meekly accede to (or attempt to psychically figure out) their mother’s wishes on Mothers’ Day – or to literally or metaphorically hide under their bed in the fetal position and hope the storm passes. I am very lucky to have a mum and mum-in-law who are fundamentally good, but they have enough. . . let’s call it “humanity” rather than “evil”. . . in them that I have seen a tiny glimpse of the burning darkness that some live with every day – a darkness that turns nova on the second Sunday in May. You know who you are, and you have my sympathy.
There are other mums that feel trapped by their children, or resentful that their children have never once said a genuine thank you, or who never wanted children, or who always secretly wanted a girl/boy, or who are just. . . . . . . . so. . . . . . . . .tired. . . . . . My heart goes out to you, too. And if you’ve ever silently wished you’d never had children at all, you’re certainly not alone.
There are as many kinds of Mothers’ Day pain as there are mothers, daughters, and sons. There is the same range of joys too – the joy of making an actual real LIFE****; the fascinating horror show of pregnancy; the uncertainty of that first smile/fart; the reluctant pleasure in toothless and drooly kiss; the thrill of the first words; the endless inane chatter of a child; the sudden independence of the teenage years; the bittersweet joy of seeing a child grow up and move away to make their own life; the cherry on top that is grandchildren (and a new round of nappies). . .
Here’s to my Mum for surviving me and for assisting in my survival (to this day in a surprisingly literal sense*****). And here’s to me for jumping into the motherhood maelstrom and laughing at the thunder, lightning, and hail as it beats down on me.
I EARNED that chocolate.
*do the undead celebrate Mothers’ Day? Hard to say unless Louisette gets bitten in the next twelve months.
**not if you don’t like crowds – because I guarantee everyone who can go out to lunch is going out to lunch on Mothers’ Day. The same doesn’t apply to Fathers’ Day, because on that day the women coordinate and cook and clean and it’s considered okay. It’s only on Mothers’ Day that we suddenly realise the complex arrangement of: 1. thinking of a food contribution, 2. buying the ingredients, 3. cooking it under very specific time pressures, and 4. cleaning up – is too much for a large number of men (due to lack of practice, not innate stupidity) – so it falls on the daughter-in-law. CJ is a great cook and can negotiate a supermarket better than I can but he’s not good at time pressure or multitasking. So here we are.
***How stressful would that have been?? As if I don’t have enough trouble keeping up with Louisette’s vomit on my clothes, I’d have had to try and deal with a bowl of milk on an unsteady surface. I don’t think so.
****Here’s hoping it ends better than it did for Dr Frankenstein.
*****Yes, I’m talking about money.