Mother’s Day should be about more than fluffy slippers and breakfast in bed, or an obligatory family get together. Because motherhood is a profound element in all women’s lives – whether you are a mother or not.
There wouldn’t be a woman alive who had no deep feelings about motherhood. Whether or not she has had children of her own, she has had a mother. She has thought about becoming a mother. She has most likely made concerted efforts to avoid and possibly to become a mother. She has fielded a landslide of questions, comments, advice and insinuations on the topic.
Motherhood is an intense and profound experience that all women share. We all have joy and sorrow and laughter and rage when it comes to our experience of being mothered. Of becoming a mother. Of wanting desperately to be a mother. Of losing a baby. Of choosing to end a pregnancy. Of birthing. Of being unsure if we want to be a mother. Of giving up hope that we’ll ever be a mother. Of loving being a mother, of hating it, of being ambivalent, of struggling, of regretting it, of missing out on jobs and opportunities because of the realities or assumptions about our ‘mother status’. Mother’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate. Grieve. Laugh and cry together. Bare the wounds to the light to help heal ourselves and each other.
This Mother's Day, remember all the different things that make our mums special. Image iStock.
Mother’s Day, is, according to the glossy, carefully constructed images of advertisers, a day to present mum with a new pair of fluffy slippers, some cosy pyjamas, a day spa voucher, a bunch of flowers, lunch out somewhere (let us not even speak of the ‘gift’ of a new cleaning appliance or hair removal gadget). For most mums with young children in this country and many others, it’s something of this nature along with the sweet and clumsy efforts of little hands in producing cards and craft, and perhaps a visit to or a meal with our own mother or mother in law.
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I’m all for the new slippers, the brekkie in bed and as an unashamedly sentimental sook, the items made by my children are especially treasured. A day spa treatment? Absolutely! Lunch somewhere nice? Love to! You drive, because I’m having a champagne or two, and then I might just have a little nap when we get home. I look forward to and relish Mother’s Day.
Yet the way we celebrate Mother’s Day only connects with a small part of the experience of motherhood - the cosy, cuddly, domestic, sweetness and light part. The larger and more profound part is entirely neglected. The raw, intense, euphoric and brutal truth of motherhood gets no mention. Nor do the large group of women for whom motherhood was not possible or not wanted. The pain of women whose own mothers have died, and those who are estranged from their adult children, and those who have only pain and heartache in their relationship with their own mother. Mother’s Day is salt in the wound for them, when it could be a chance to heal.
So there is both an opportunity and a pressing need for us to reshape the day into something far more meaningful, real and helpful. It’s time we gave this day a serious makeover, and not allowed it to be constructed only by those with an interest in turning a profit. Motherhood is fire and lightning and the most intense, blood and guts, life and death thing, the most intense transformation of the human heart. To mark and honour it only with flowers and chocolates reduces it from this to something really rather insignificant.
By all means, let’s retain the cosy part. For those of us lucky enough to have young children, let’s have that morning on the second Sunday in May of brekkie in bed, cuddles with the kids, feeling appreciated and hopefully receiving a thoughtful gift. It’s lovely, and it’s beautiful, and I adore it! But let’s give equal time and focus to reflecting on and sharing our experiences of motherhood in all their raw glory and grief. Let’s put aside the afternoon or evening of Mother’s Day to getting together with the women in our lives, face to face, or online, or on the phone, or in a letter. To being as honest as we possibly can with each other about our mothers, about our pregnancies, and birth experiences, and miscarriages, and terminations, and IVF, and the bittersweet nature of watching children grow up and away from us. About the depths of love and sorrow that we never knew were possible.
Kate Ritchie. Image supplied.
Let’s make a new tradition, one that is about sharing our joys and our pain and in the process, strengthening ourselves for whatever is next in our journey.
How do we do this? I invite you and encourage you to find a way that’s right for you, that honours where you are in your life and what you need from a day that is about motherhood. In my ideal world, after the light and lovely celebrations are finished, it would be time for all women, those with children and without, to leave their homes and make their way to a gathering. For me it would be around a fire or near a river or ocean, because there’s something so fierce and soothing about both. But anywhere will do. A place to say out loud, in trusted company, how it has been. Our soaring joys. Our unbearable pain. Our frustration, our delight, our confusion, our self-doubt, our resentments, our glories. Without judgement, without even a response from those we are with. A simple and completely frank telling of our truth. And then returning home refreshed and perhaps reassured, from having aired and shared a deep part of our selves and hearing those of others.
I wont’ be managing that, not this year. But I will be taking some time alone, to write a letter to my most trusted friend, to share some of my feelings about motherhood. It might be more of a stream of consciousness email than a carefully written ink and paper job. I hope she finds time and courage to do the same. Perhaps we will work up to a gathering of the kind I described. If you have nobody you feel you can trust with your deepest feelings, or the idea of sharing them does not appeal to you, perhaps you will still take some time to write a letter to yourself, to go for a long drive and talk it out loud just for your own ears. Perhaps you will do your own little ceremony, that marks a celebration or a grief, an acknowledgement that allows you to move on in some way.
Have the kind of Mother's Day you need. Image iStock.
Because motherhood isn’t all fluffy slippers and cosy cuddles and domesticity, it’s wild, it’s fierce, it’s raw, it’s pain and agony, it’s bliss and ecstasy and let’s talk about THAT on Mother’s Day.
Kate Ritchie (not of Summer Bay!) is a Melbourne writer and mother of two outrageously delightful children. She believes passionately that new mums need food, not flowers and is the founder of Let Lulu, an online shop where people can order a delivery of nourishing, freshly made meals for new mums and anyone who needs a bit of TLC. You can find her at letlulu.com.au, on Facebook, on Instagram, and here at her email address.