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Why is Mother’s Day so hard?

I just spent the most lovely Sunday connecting with my daughter over chocolate croissants and pedicures. We went on a lovely walk and had dinner with my parents and my sister’s family. There was laughter, good connection and plentiful delicious food. I really have no complaints at all about how the day actually went.

And yet, if I’m totally honest, I was just a little sad all day.

What is it about Mother’s day that causes an otherwise perfect day to leave me feeling empty and deflated?

I spent years as an adult celebrating Mother’s day when I wasn’t yet a mother. We’d celebrate my Mom and my older sister and honor them for all the hard work they put in as mothers every day. The husbands and I would try to prepare the perfect meal, give the most beautiful flowers, or somehow convey the great appreciation and admiration we had for them and their hard work and sacrifice.

But somehow, no matter what, it never felt like enough.

Nothing we could whip up or say or do could actually convey the magnitude of the gratitude we felt. Mother’s Day is full of unspoken expectations. It’s impossible to delight and surprise when you’re up against invisible but very real expectations.

Plus all the while, on top of the “not enough-ness” I felt in terms of my effort to please, I was simultaneously covering up my own “less than” feelings because I wasn’t a mother myself. (Even during the years when I didn’t think I even wanted to be a mother, those feelings were always there.)

Now, I am so grateful to be a mother myself, and cannot imagine it any other way.

But still, Mother’s day is hard.

First of all, I’m a single mother, so Mother’s Day brings to mind images of husbands and partners serving breakfast in bed, with sweet notes, and lots of snuggles and togetherness that a conventional family living together can create. I can’t help but imagine all the fun that “real” families are having celebrating the Mother in the house, all things I’m missing out on.

As a deeply empathic person, I know I also absorb some of the collective sadness that’s out there. I feel for everyone who can’t celebrate Mother’s day authentically because of the pain it evokes.

  • I feel for the people who haven’t healed from conflicted or troubled relationships with their own mothers
  • I feel for the women who are struggling to conceive and want so badly to be mothers, yet it’s just out of reach for them presently.
  • I feel for the women who wanted to become mothers but weren’t able to
  • I feel for the women who have chosen not to become mothers, but feel judged by society for their choice
  • I feel for the Mothers who have lost a child or children
  • I feel for anyone who has lost their Mother…
  • I feel for anyone comparing their own lives and mothering to the “perfect” mother

The list goes on….

I woke up in the middle of the night (after Mother’s Day) and was still mulling over in my head what had made the day feel heavy. I put my hand on my heart and allowed myself to feel the sadness there. It wasn’t until writing about this today that I actually started to give myself what I needed to shift my own feelings about the day.

Slowing down

As always, it took the magic medicine of quiet space, and time away from my over-thinking and comparing mind to slowly tune into what I was really feeling in my heart.

I slowed down enough to notice that the voices telling me “you’re not enough” and  “it could have been better” etc. were not my voice.

I listened to hear the truth: that I’m not alone and that life isn’t perfect for anyone. And, as it often does when I shift my perspective this way, I felt gratitude well up from a deeper place.

Gratitude for my life exactly as it is. And gratitude for a Mother’s day that was perfect just as it was, sadness and all.