I don’t know about you, but Mother’s Day carries mixed emotions for me.
Yes, I am a mother of four great adult children and now a grandmother. I have a lot to celebrate, so why the mix of joy and melancholy? I think I may have figured it out — and wanted to share it with you on the off-chance that you may have some of these same feelings.
When they were young, I hoped my husband would prompt the kids to let me know how special I was to them.
First of all, Mother’s Day makes me reflect on my job as a mother. While I enjoyed raising my kids, I made mistakes and some still haunt me. During regular weeks, I don’t think about them, but I do on this special day. Then, there are the expectations that come with the holiday. I hope my adult children will write me long letters telling me how happy they are with me and what an amazing job I did raising them. When they were young, I hoped my husband would prompt the kids to let me know how special I was to them. In reality, sometimes he even forgot it was Mother’s Day.
So when flowers didn’t come or beautifully handwritten notes or pictures made didn’t appear, I did what most mothers do: I felt like a failure.
Call it my fault for having expectations on Mother’s Day of expressions of appreciation for the work I have committed my heart and soul to for three decades now. But, hey — isn’t that kind of reasonable for a holiday that celebrates moms? So when those expectations aren’t met, I feel very disappointed.
Then there are the feelings of missing my own mother. I lost her five years ago and she was my best friend. I loved having Mother’s Day with her and truth be told, I’m sure there were a lot of Mother’s Days that I disappointed her. I never meant to — I adored my mother. I was simply preoccupied with my own life. Now, what I wouldn’t give to have her back for just one more day.
For many women, Mother’s Day brings sadness because it reminds them of their infertility or of the child they lost. Single mothers need special care on Mother’s Day because their kids, like all kids, don’t think about pleasing their moms, even on Mother’s Day. They care about one thing: having fun that day.
I don’t mean to sound too negative. I’m just being honest: I believe it is only in honesty and truth that we can be free to really enjoy our lives. And this is where the idea of Mother’s Day gets good.
We want good things on Mother’s Day, and we may or may not get them. Mother’s Day really can be painful because it reminds each of us of all that we didn’t get (that we believe other mothers got). But there is still good reason to celebrate Mother’s Day whether you’ve had children or not, if you lost children, and even if you lost your mother. And there’s reason to celebrate even if you’ve royally messed up motherhood.
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Mother’s Day is about celebrating the nurturing heart of a mother, residing in each of us, that has yet to be expressed. Whether or not you have children, you had a mother who gave you life. You may feel that she messed yours up pretty badly, but that’s over. This Mother’s Day is yours.
You, friend, have every reason to celebrate because you are a woman born with the desire and ability to nurture the souls of others — to have their back, to cook for them, to listen to their heartache and offer a prayer or two. Every woman mothers others, because the desire to encourage, help and love sits at the core of who we are as women. There are children or childlike souls everywhere we turn who need us and what we have to give them.
So no matter what losses you think of this Mother’s Day, remember that you and I have been given an extraordinary gift by God: to love and care for people. And when we use that gift, we experience unmatched joy.
To each of you great women, I say, Happy Mother’s Day!
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the upcoming book, “Hero: Being the Strong Father Your Children Need” (Regnery Publishing, May 15, 2017), as well as a number of digital parenting resources and online courses, including The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.