Why is Mother's Day So Hard?
On my first Mother's Day, my husband forgot to buy a card.
He couldn't be blamed. Our son was one month old. Neither of us had slept much since his birth. When he realized his mistake, he explained: "I just don't think of you as a mom."
I knew he hadn't meant it as a critique of my parenting ability. He was just trying to reassure me that nothing had changed; that I was still his beautiful wife.
I had a meltdown anyway. I screamed. I slammed doors. I said hurtful things I knew I would regret. And I did regret them, later that evening, after the baby had gone down for a two-hour stretch of sleep. I regretted everything.
Later I realized that my husband's words had touched upon a deep insecurity: I didn't think of myself as a mother, either. I thought of myself as a floundering, barely functional adult who happened to be taking care of a baby who happened to come out of her body on his way into the world.
I loved that baby like crazy. But I didn't feel like a mom.
Fast-forward three years.
My first Mother's Day with two sons. The baby is four months old. He sleeps through the night. My postpartum depression has faded into an occasional, low-grade anxiety. It's nothing I can't handle.
I still spend the day snapping at my family, tuning out my toddler, feeling like the worst possible version of myself. My mind pinballs from guilt to entitlement and back again:
I should spend more time with my children. I should be more present with them. They're going to remember this, and they're going to resent me.
But this is my special day. Can't I get just an hour's break? Can't he behave just this once?
Other women have had miscarriages, or fertility problems that have prevented them from becoming mothers at all. Their own mothers have abused them. Or perhaps their own mothers died young.
My problems pale in comparison. Yet each year I wonder: Does being a mother ever become easy? Or does it just evolve into a new and different kind of hard? And what is it about Mother's Day that stirs up so many emotions?
A writer friend summed up these emotions in an email she sent to me last week:
My worst week of the year ... I should put in my calendar for next year: "You will be hit suddenly by a terrible unexplained pall. You will become irritable for no reason. You will be impatient. Then you'll remember that it's mother's day week. And poof."
She has no children. I have two. She's estranged from her mother. I visit mine twice a week. We are different, yet the same.
My husband no longer forgets the Mother's Day cards.
This year he got three: one from himself, one from our toddler and a handmade one from the baby that fits in my palm. It reads: "Happy Mother's Day. Thanks for the tits."
I'm reminded that no matter how hard this sometimes feels, it's worth it. And for better or worse, we will never escape each other. We will never get a break. We will always be intertwined.