This piece first appeared on Jeanne’s blog, SAYAHHHHHHH.
Just my humble opinion, but every year society seems to lose their fucking minds on Mother’s Day. This year, the dreaded date falls on Sunday, May 8 in the U.S. and my right eye has already started to twitch thinking about the number of fucking flowers we intend to kill, the maze of greeting cards I’ll trip over in store aisles and the food I won’t be able to enjoy because every bar or restaurant is celebrating ‘mom’ all damn day and night. Fuck this holiday.
For the record, I don’t usually spew obscenities like this. Although he’s a bad motherfucker, my goal is not to act like Samuel L. Jackson in “Pulp Fiction.” And I get it. I had a wonderful mother who I wish was here every day, so I truly understand this is a moment to celebrate and reflect on the special women who gave us life or supported us unconditionally. I know this is the one day you want to honor your mothers, your grandmothers, your mother-in-laws, your stepmothers, foster mothers and so on and so on. I can also admit I’ve done the exact same thing, and there were years when I was happily drowning in the commercialism of the day along with everyone else.
But this year, I’ve gained a new perspective. It took a couple of painful events to finally make me realize there are some of us who are not all about Mother’s Day for various personal reasons and we can’t help how we feel about it. Not everyone has had a fun, loving, and uplifting experience with their mother. And for those of us who have suffered infertility or miscarriages, the holiday just feels like a reminder of our “defective” body or our loss. And there are even some of us who are childless by choice…oh, the horror! It’s important to remember that for these groups of people, this day may actually instill disappointment, annoyance, guilt or even pain.
Unfortunately, there are people out there who obviously didn’t get that memo, as evidenced by the stupid things some say or do. By all means, celebrate your mom, but tread lightly. It’s like no one knows how or cares about being considerate anymore and if you ask them to try, they tell you to get over it. One day, I pray one of these smug assholes say it to the wrong woman, and she gives them a swift high kick in the forehead the next time they feel the need to question her pain, make her feel inadequate, or push their holier-than-thou solutions or time table onto her.
The moral of the story is that your lack of sensitivity brings no comfort, especially on Mother’s Day. So, pay attention because I believe those who never seem to get it need to be called out. That’s why I’m breaking it down to five things that drive me personally crazy on Mother’s Day.
- Don’t say “Happy Mother’s Day” to every woman you meet. It’s bad enough that some of us think about vomiting from all the sappy Hallmark cards and commercials on T.V. Or that we tend to get a migraine from the happy chatter of mothers and daughters out together on this holiday. But now you just assume every woman you see on the street over the age of 30 is a mother? The point is you don’t know someone’s situation and not every woman considers Mother’s Day a cause for celebration. My advice is to just remember this, “making assumptions make an ass out of you and ‘upmtion.” Be aware that although the census said there were 85.4 million U.S. moms as of 2012, this still doesn’t necessarily mean every fucking woman in America wants to or is able to celebrate Mother’s Day just like you.
- But for God sakes, say something. If you know someone who lost their mother or a mother who lost a child, don’t worry about ‘reminding’ her of it. It’s just dumb to think that if it happened recently or many years ago, she’s forgotten all about it. What’s more likely is she grins and bears the Mother’s Day celebrations rather than speak about the child she lost or share a memory of her own mom. Death isn’t contagious…well, some of the time. So even if she has more children now, try reaching out. And if you’re really unsure of what to say, how about simply starting with, “I was thinking about you and know today must be hard.” Or just be you, focusing on her feelings and offering support. “I’m not sure what to say, but I’m here for you today.” For me and dealing with my grief, saying you don’t know what to say was really the BEST thing to say.
- Offer to speak in remembrance. An infant loss or child’s death is probably one of the most heartbreaking things anyone—moms or dads—has to live with. There is certainly no one correct way to act when this happens to a mother you know or love. But, should she really be left alone with painful memories, especially on Mother’s Day? Someone who has lost a child doesn’t want to lose her friends too, so don’t be afraid and don’t go through the holiday acting like the child never existed. This is the perfect day to show you love her and to do something different. Maybe send a blank card with an image and touching message saying, “I’m sorry your child isn’t here with you today.” Or try calling and lead the conversation up to using their child’s name. “Is it all right if I ask you more about…?” Our son’s name was Declan—DECLAN. Sometimes it makes me feel better just writing or saying his name out loud.
- Don’t say BS like they’re not really a woman. This may seem self-explanatory to some, but friends I know tell me all the time there are still people out here making them feel like they are not “real” women. All I have to say is: who the fuck is you? Just because we work full-time, adopted our children, are raising kids without a father, suffered infant loss, or are childless by some other circumstance does not mean we aren’t real. I believe we are as we need to be seen—as a mom like any other. And hate to break it to you, but there also are women who are child-free by choice and they deserve to live their life too. Nothing pisses me off more than to hear these women are still being vilified as selfish or lacking some vital feminine quality that can only be obtained through biological motherhood. On Mother’s Day, my suggestion is to find some way to invite all women in, not segregate them out. Even if they do not have children, they are still a person…the absence of children won’t ever change that.
- Enough with the stupid comments about having kids. Trying to conceive is a painful and stressful journey that no one wants to go through, especially a woman. In fact, I recently learned infertility is more common than I thought and affects 6.7 million women or about 11% of the reproductive-age population in the U.S. With numbers like this, you’d think people would show more compassion. Granted, a few of the comments people make are well-meaning, but some are so hurtful that I’ve personally gone home in tears. There are so many different versions of how to be obnoxious in this situation that I can’t possibly list them all. However, a special thank you to my network of women friends who were kind enough to share comments made to them that I decided to add as many as I could to this list:
- “Do you have any kids?”
- “I thought you’d have kids by now.”
- “You’re young, just try again.”
- “Just wait…you’ll change your mind.”
- “Enjoy being able to travel/eat/sleep, etc. while you can.”
- “Are you sure this is what you really want?”
- “Stop stressing and it will happen when it happens.”
- “Have you thought about adoption?”
- “(Insert deity of choice) doesn’t want you to be a mother.”
- “You’re bound to have a healthy baby at some point.”
- “I’m pregnant! Just kidding…April Fools!”
- “Aren’t you too old to have kids?”
So this Mother’s Day, beware of making these stupid-ass mistakes against women you know or don’t know. And if while reading this you realized you’ve said or done one or more of the things on the list above, be warned or await the great vengeance and furious anger that may come later.