The Other Side of the Mother’s Day Coin

Retro Moms

Mother’s Day is Sunday.  Sigh. 

For me, Mother’s Day is like Valentine’s Day for the broken hearted, Christmas and Thanksgiving without family, and New Year’s Eve at home alone.  All on the same day.  You know those holidays manufactured to make you feel badly?  Yeah, that’s Mother’s Day at my home.  No need to play your violin, as every day stings a little for me.  I’m mostly used to it. 

This is my ode to those of us who struggle at this time of year, when the media turns to images of pretty young moms embracing their kids or older matriarchs beaming with pride over her tribe.  We’re encouraged to up our consumption of flowers and brunch and manicures.  For a few weeks in May, everything turns 50 shades of pastel (and from what I hear, 50 shades of another color is what moms are really hoping for this Mother’s Day).  Here’s to us, folks, the ones who turn to puddles in the middle of May. 

  • For those of us who’ve lost a mom (suck it cancer, stroke, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, insert dastardly disease here __________________);
  • For those of us whose mom is sick (see above disease culprits);
  • For those of us whose mom didn’t know how to be a mom;
  • For those of us who wonder who our “real” mom might be;
  • For those of us who feel guilty about that;
  • For those of us with two moms (bonus!), but with double the above troubles;
  • For those of us who have a mom, but don’t much like her.

It’s tough to not have a Mom.  Mine died when I was pregnant with my first child.  She was a great Mom, like butter that could be hard or soft, but went well with everything.  She was my family’s glue, our Switzerland in the midst of garden variety familial dysfunction.  With her gone, my family is altered to the point that it is almost unrecognizable to me.  Now we’re a group of islands looking at one another in the distance.  I miss you Mom.  I understand you better now.  I’m so sad for the family that was and know you must be, too.  I hope you are in a better place, enjoying your granddaughter, with a book and a cigarette, and a Coke close by. 

  • For those of you who’ve lost a child through illness;
  • For those of you who’ve lost a child through accident;
  • For those of you who’ve lost a child to drugs or addiction;
  • For those of you who’ve lost a child at birth;
  • For those of you who’ve lost a child through miscarriage;
  • For those of you who try and try and try to conceive, but can’t;
  • For those of you who wish to adopt, and are waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting;  and still waiting;
  • For those of you who wish to adopt, but can’t afford it;
  • For those of you who don’t wish to be a mom, but feel the scorn that so often creates;
  • For those of you who mothered so well that your kids done grown up and left you, for you, too.

I am so grateful to have Mary Tyler Son to care for and fuss over.  He was born in the midst of my daughter’s cancer treatment and I have a distinct memory, near his first birthday, two months after my girl died, of seeing him for the first time.  Really, truly seeing him — separate and independent from grief and sadness and his sister.  Seeing him.  I am so grateful my eyes were open to his joy and wonder.  I thank my lucky stars every time his toddler antics get the better of me.  And I think of those mothers that are reflected above, gals that are still mothers, women who will always be mothers, but with no one to mother.  I hold you close this Mother’s Day and I think of you.

  • For those battling their own illness;
  • For those battling their own addiction;
  • For those mothering, but who probably should not be, for a thousand different reasons.

I think of you, too, this Mother’s Day.  One of the most amazing things that has come to me through writing has been hearing from different moms whose struggles look nothing like mine own, but who identify with the struggle itself.  A reader wrote to me in the midst of her own illness, when we were in the thick of Donna’s.  She was hopeful, but excrutiatingly aware that her children, her daughters, would most likely grow up without her.  She was right.  I learned later that she had died in the midst of transplant surgery.  And now her girls are motherless, grappling with their own sadness this Mother’s Day.  Another reader wrote to me about her addiciton and how reading about Donna made her see her own toddler, neglected through that addiciton, in a new and necessary way.  She is now clean and sober over five months.  That mom has a shot at a real and joyous Mother’s Day, and I wish her the best.

This post is for all of us on the other side of the Mother’s Day coin.  Kraft och omtanke to you.  Strength and consideration instead of flowers, or brunch, or manicures.  Soon it will be Monday and we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

Blue Jays


13 Replies to “The Other Side of the Mother’s Day Coin”

  1. Thank you for this post.

    I just finished complaining to my husband that Mother’s Day is too stressful. It is all about my mom and getting the family together (more stress), where I would rather me with my small immediate family.

    Your post reminded me I am lucky to have a mom who is alive and healthy and dysfunctional as it is I will do my best to smile and enjoy the day.


  2. I can’t believe I actually griped about staying at my parent’s house this weekend because they don’t have internet and it would be “boring”… You’ll be happy to know I gave myself a good smack to the mouth for that one. I’m going to take my daughters to see my mom Saturday night, we will bake a Funfetti cake together, and Sunday morning we will wake up and give all our love and thanks to the woman that keeps all of us in line and without whom, I’m sure my life would crumble.


  3. You always manage to make me see what’s most important in life. Well, WHO is most important. And that the little things that stress me out are truly just that, little. I appreciate every word I have had the opportunity to read by you. I also appreciate that you bring light to subjects that most of us run away from. Childhood cancer, dead moms, addiction… It’s true, we can all find commonality in our struggles, no matter what the struggle is about. Thank you MTM for reminding me, inspiring me, and making me aware. I’ll be thinking about you Sunday! ❤


  4. I lost my mom almost 10 years ago from complications of Lupus and every year I hate mother’s day.. it feels like that day is nothing but a reminder of my loss.. and even though I’m a new mom myself this year the day just reminds me of the grandma my son will never get to know and the mom I can never call for advice, or have shopping trips with, or any of the typical mother-daughter activities…


    1. So sorry for that, Kristin. I still miss the impact my Mom would have had on my parenting. I hold her memory close and think about what she did with me that worked and I try and do that. I also talk a lot about her to Mary Tyler Son. And to Donna, before she died. They will never know their Baba, but they will know of her and know how loved she was. It’s not enough, but it is something. Oh! And I have always kept a photo of her in the kid’s bedroom. Good luck to you this Sunday.


  5. Thanks for all the love and comments, folks. These things practically write themselves. I think about them for days and days and days, I write, and then I almost immediately feel some relief. I am so grateful when my experience mirrors some of yours. Helps me feel way less alone. All my love. MTM.


  6. My aunt had only one son who died 2 years ago in a car accident with his wife. When my cousin whom I really liked died, I grieved more for her as a Mom than I did for any other reason. I hope you can find a place to escape Mother’s Day that makes you happy.


  7. I am one of the ones whose mom didn’t know how to be a mom. She was a nurturer at best, but not a mother. She never worked, never had any hobbies of her own. Never really taught me much about life. She was just there. I grew up knowing that I was smarter than her. It was tough. I was terrible to her when I was a teenager, mainly because I could be and she wouldn’t know what to do about it.
    I never knew which cards to buy her on Mother’s Day, because they all say things like, “To the best mom” and “To the mom who is also my best friend” or ” To the woman who taught me everything I know”.
    Nothing ever fit. And now I’m grown and I’m a mom. I’m trying to be everything my mom wasn’t for my boy.
    So much pressure to be “the best mom” and the one who instills important knowledge on my boy that he’ll carry with him long after I’ve gone. I want him to know how much he means to me and that I’d do anything for him.
    It’s a tough job. I’ve often felt guilty for the way I thought of my own mother when I was younger. Yet, I still do nothing to make up for it somehow.
    I’m also a step-mom, and I’m pretty sure I’m terrible at it. I don’t want or deserve any kind of love or praise from my step-sons, but I know I’ll get it because they are young and their teachers will surely force some project on them to give to me and their real, biological mom, who is so much more deserving of the love and praise than I’ll ever be.
    Being a step-mom is even harder than being a mom. The love I have for my boy comes naturally. It flows from me just as easily as my breath. Loving children that I did not raise has proven difficult at best and almost impossible. I’m only hoping that they don’t know that, but something tells me they do.
    “Happy” Mother’s Day, Sheila. xoxo


    1. Yesterday a reader gently informed me that I had missed the boat on step-moms. How very true. I did miss that boat. I remember a post you wrote eons ago about raising stepchildren and I was so moved by your raw honesty. It is a challenge I do not have nor have ever thought much about.

      Kraft och omtanke to you, my dear. I heart you. MTM.


  8. To MTM and Kantal113,
    I grew up with a mom and a step-mom. For our entire childhood and teenage years, my brother and I spent half the week with mom and half the week with dad and our “other mom.” Kantal113, I hope you let those boys love you as best as they can. No parent can be perfect all the time, so sometimes it really helps to have an extra one when you need her.


  9. I had the same feelings about mother’s day.
    1) My mom is dead.
    2) On the mother’s day following my mom’s death, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. 4 days later I lost that baby.
    3) My experience from past mother’s days with little ones is that their dad would get me a card about being a great mom and they would all bring me breakfast or some coffee in bed. Now my husband has left so, really, could Mother’s day BE any more of a downer? I purposely avoided knowing what day it was. But then my children got very excited about it and they made me stuff at school and this morning my daughter brought me breakfast in bed which consisted of really soggy Cherrios that I choked down with a smile. And she gave me a bunch of gifts wrapped in a large envelope that had the history of Mother’s Day printed on it. And I learned that it was begun by a woman in the early 1900’s who wanted to honor her deceased mother at church. Her mother’s fave flower was a carnation so she gave red carnations to living mothers and white carnations to honor mothers whom had passed. Then she began a campaign to create a day to remember and honor mothers – living and deceased – and a few States adopted it. Woodrow Wilson made it official in 1914. It is a time of gratitude and remembrance. So…I don’t know…I feel a little differently now…just a little. It wasn’t a brain child of the greeting card companies and it was – inititally – about remembering Anna M. Jarvis’ mother who had passed away 3 years prior. Maybe it is less about hating a “holiday” that excludes those of us with mothers who are gone or who weren’t great at their jobs. Maybe it is about getting back to the root of the idea and remembering and honoring great moms (and grandmothers.) Or some moms who struggled. Or some moms who made the ultimate decision of love and gave up their child to be raised by someone more well-equipped. Or some other great woman who became a role model and nurturer for you when you needed one. Maybe it is, at its heart, a bittersweet day – a day of reflection. Maybe it was never meant to be a day of corsages and brunch at overcrowded restaurants where the service is inevitably bad and they run out of your favorite food by 11am.
    Or maybe I’m full of crap. I still don’t particularly like it. My kids are with their dad now and I am supposed to be cleaning and reorganizing instead of writing this long comment.
    So, Happy Moth……oh, whatever.


    1. I heart you, Noelle. And I heart your words. And I do believe that this comment above is your first blog post. Word.

      All my love today and every day. MTM.


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