Sunday, May 12, 2013

mothers, un-mothers, and walking together

At some point, many mothers no longer feel like celebrating birthdays.  Some times, it's due to the number of candles on the proverbial cake.  Other times, our birthdays are not celebrated because moms, in particular those who happen to be single, of children with special needs are responsible for ALL the day-to-day needs of our children. We're tired or (perhaps relatively) struggling to provide.  I'm not trying to be a party-pooper, for I love a good party.  After I had kids, the focus (and money) of birthdays/parties went towards them. 

Then there is "Mother's Day".  I am just not into the huge celebrations.  It's fair to say that my mothering is loving and joyful, but filled with parts grumpy, impatient, and frazzled.  It’s an especially stressful time/month in our family’s life and my work.  Every day, being Andrew's mom is work, but there is often feedback, overt or direct, from school that I am the worst. mother. of. the year. 

Caretaking was always important to me.  With church or friends, helping, especially kids, was part of what I happily did.  As a stay at home, married mom, my life was about my kids first.  For 10 years,  however, the goal to be a good mom has been work.  I'll always try to take care of kids, mine or others.  Seeing kids smile or successful is the greatest measure of success.

I firmly believe that Mother’s Day isn’t something we earn.   Maybe it should be a normal (whatever that means to you), low-key Sunday as opposed to a Hallmark Holiday.   What would it mean to celebrate an "un-Mother’s Day" instead of the normal flowers-chocolate-brunch festivities I hear others others partake in every year?  (To those of you who do, please read this as a coming from someone walking a different path, who wishes you much joy today if what you experience makes you happy).

An un-Mother's Day" could be indulging in activities that have absolutely nothing to do with mothering. For example, uninterrupted sleep, adult conversation, spa days, wine, high-quality chocolate, and amazing meals that someone else cooked.  In other words, a day off with considerable geographic distance from one’s progeny.

Mothers are told to consider our children "perfect" as they are.  (This reminds me of holding my babies for the first time... oh how they were they indeed PERFECT).  We're counseled that our dwelling on any extra challenges is pathetic and not PC.   The neuro-diversity movement chastises us for not looking at autism as a gift.   Yet, dwelling on versus acknowledging the differences between mothers of children severely impacted by disabilities, as we live it every day, are not the same things.  The people who usually judge are mothers of neuro-typical children who look at you as if there are 19 horns growing out of your head.  Perhaps they are the mothers of children with special needs who have a large and dynamic support system (with a great husband typically included in that), women who definitely don't walk the path alone, at least much of the time.  News flash: even with a husband, it's not like his mere existence makes life easier, especially with special needs-related "stuff".

Let's describe motherhood via positiva – what it is to be a mother.  Simplifying this viewpoint, I offer it's about love, care, nurture, and acceptance of our children.

Yet another way to understand mothering is the via negativa – what it is not. What does this day mean for those who are "un-mothers"?

  • Un-mothers could be mothers who stay in controlling and/or abusive relationships *because* of their children, terrified physically and/or emotionally to leave and cause (more) upset and disruption to their children's lives.  Maybe they stay because they are afraid to be alone.
  • Un-mothers could be women who want desperately to have children, those who suffer through infertility, miscarriage, and failed adoptions. 
  • Un-mothers could be women who have children, but have also suffered pregnancy loss.  Talk about two sets of feelings colliding- celebrating the children you have and love and mourning the child/children you never got to hold.
  • Un-mothers could be women who have chosen not to have children, feeling called to different paths. 
  • Un-mothers could be women who have suffered the loss of a child, whose motherhood has been broken and reshaped by pain and death, who dealt with burying their child, something no mother should ever have to do. 
  • Un-mothers could be single mothers, who have to give their children over to their other parent, despite the negative impact they may see after each and every visit.  For mothers of children with disabilities, this one is unbelievably painful, as we are torn between wanting our children to love and be fully loved and accepted by their fathers while knowing some co-parents can not meet the needs resulting from their disabilities (and, sometimes, don't even try). 
  • Un-mothers could be women who do not want the children they have and can not accept them.  Okay, that's harsh, but I'm sure for some women, it's real. 

Then, though not un-mothers, there are mothers who might mourn or be conflicted on Mother's Day, as they have given their children up for adoption, many of whom don't know what became of the babies they gave birth to.  How much a day like today could hurt their hearts.  As a child of adoption, whose birth mother was brave enough to leave me at Mother Theresa's orphanage in Kanpur, India, a woman I will never be able to find or know, I think of her and those who have done what she did.

While we can not walk in another's shoes, I was recently reminded we can walk with them, the mothers and un-mothers, alike.  More than anything, we can do the best we can to support them.

Don't judge, but please do remember that there are those for whom "Mother's Day" is extremely painful, a day when there is no celebration involved.  Motherless daughters, adopted daughters, mothers with kids who can't/don't "celebrate", mothers who have no villages...  I wish you all a happy Sunday.   Just please remember the moms who love their kids, try so very hard, yet have so very little to celebrate as there are few, if any, people who celebrate and love them.  "Mother's Day", ironically, could feel exceptionally lonely as the pomp and circumstance around them are stinging reminders of the loneliness they feel and live not just on Mother's Day, and on many days.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

so many true statements!

I wrote a very similar blog myself!