Happy Mother’s Day and Lowered Expectations

Mother’s Day is a day that can come with grand expectations.  On this day, I eagerly await being honored and appreciated. After all, I’ve been wearing my heart on my sleeve since the day I discovered I was pregnant.  Is it too much to be acknowledged for having said heart battered, bruised and scarred? It stands to reason that the only thing that will make it all worthwhile is a day completely about making my every wish come true.

No pressure.

It’s boding to be a good one this year due to coronavirus and my son coining the acronym for MOM as Most Oppressive Mammal

Photo by Timothy Dykes on Unsplash

Past M-Days

When the kids were young, I used to request three things for Mother’s Day:  A walk in nature, a day without fighting and no cooking or feeding of anyone.  You can see already how this is going to go wrong.  Thanks to my husband, two of the three were usually achievable.  

One epic Mother’s Day involved me listening to three children fight while making breakfast. This was followed by frequent visits to the bedroom to update me on how they had been victimized. The interaction was followed by a drawn-out reprimand by dad which is always relaxing to listen to. Then, I enjoyed a delightful begrudging walk through the park while the fighting continued.  After reaching my limit, I cancelled Mother’s Day and took everybody home.  I then adopted full martyr mode and was going to make my own dinner. My husband concerned about his reputation whipped up scrambled eggs.

Done for another year.

Too High Expectations

To be fully honest, I really used to dislike Mother’s Day.  There was an uncomfortable expectation that it was supposed to be more than what it was. We weren’t measuring up to the Facebook posts and the commercials. Therefore, it could only remain that I was not doing this motherhood thing well enough.  Gifts never factored into Mother’s Day celebrations. It was a day of presence, not presents.   I mostly wanted to just feel loved and that my existence mattered to the three people I brought into this world. 

The Epiphany

And then the epiphany…isn’t there always an epiphany?! If there wasn’t, this would be a long-winded whine. =)

The epiphany was that I needed to get over myself, take responsibility for my own happiness and do my own honoring.  Not in a bitter, sulky, so there kind of way, but a self-care, decrease those expectations, take the pressure off sort of way. After all, what does any mother really want on her day…a day off from being energetically on and taking care of others…a day to be selfish.

And I was.

The Awesomeness of Selfish

I asked myself what would define a wonderful day:  A lazy morning with a good book, coffee, no cooking, a walk outside and a yummy dinner.  Then I made it happen.  I made sure I had a good book beside my bed and organized myself a coffee.  On going for a walk, I didn’t make people go with me, but they often did anyway.  I didn’t cook or feed anyone and had no expectations on anyone else to cook for me either.  I chose my dinner and was quite willing to order for myself if need be.  My husband is a sweetie though and always makes sure I am well fed.

The funny thing was people stepped up to make day special and were especially appreciative when I made it clear what I wanted. Instead of leaving the standard of how much they loved me connected to how much thought they put into my day, I took care of myself and valued smaller gestures  

True Appreciation

I also started recognizing that real appreciation is 365 days a year, not one.  The kids make me feel important in so many little ways…letting me put a ponytail in their hair when they are young men and can’t get a haircut due to COVID, teasing me with the above acronym and having a laugh about it while they’re doing the dinner dishes, plonking on the bed to discuss their little conversations with friends or how well their Super Smash tournament went and giving me a bite of whatever yumminess they are eating. 

I’ve lowered the bar considerably, but I think that’s a good thing.  When we can appreciate the simple things and take ownership of our own happiness, what we get is a lot of icing on the cake.

So, Happy Mother’s Day, all you wonderful parents.  May you feel loved and valued 365 days, not just one, with a ton of icing on your cake.

Oh, and sweet SON, my little Self-Obsessed Negotiator.  Shazam!

Happy M-Day!
Photo by Logan Ellzey on Unsplash

Being Mom

The experience of emotional pain is not one that’s alien to me.   When reviewing my past pain history, there are two moments of profound pain which stand out.

Pain Experiences

  The first one was the pain on separating from my first husband after a short marriage. The separation which was initiated by me was not made less painful because I wanted out.  The pain of losing a dear friend, as well as the anger, self-loathing and shame I piled on myself knowing I was causing pain to someone else compounded the feelings even more.  

Shortly after, I tattooed a rose over my chest to serve as a reminder to never seek my happiness in another person.  After being with my now husband for over 22 years, I can more wisely say that those close to your heart will always have a large factor in the level of your happiness, but I know it always starts with me.

The second moment of the worst emotional pain I have ever felt was the loss of my dad about seven years ago.  His illness was not prolonged by some standards, but to me felt like the longest seven weeks of my life marked by anger, confusion and fear from my dad who knew, but didn’t know he was dying and confusion, fear and then anger by myself who didn’t know he was dying until the last few days.  It was an emotionally painful time which I wish I could do over and make it a more peaceful and beautiful rather than the nightmare it still feels like.

Gut-Wrenching Pain

However, these two intensely painful events in my life weaken slightly to the worst pain that I have ever felt, ever will feel and fear feeling again and again…the emotional pain of seeing your children in emotional pain. 

I’m not talking scraped knees, unkind people and lost treasures.  I’m talking the pure raw emotional pain of dealing with things that leave marks on your soul and you’re never quite the same person again after the experience.  The mother in me wishes I could absorb all that pain and carry it for them until like heavy smoke it dissipates.  I wish I could shelter them from pain like that because I know how excruciating it is.  I know what it is to open my eyes in the morning to the nightmare flooding back, to the heaviness settling in.  I wish I could take it all from them.

But I can’t and there’s even a voice that whispers that it is not the best thing for them if I could.

Supporting

So, I do what parents do for their offspring and do what I know for the human beings I know so well.

I hug often and hard.  I transmit sympathy and love though every touch.  I warn them that spontaneous hugging will be the order of the day.

I discourage them from crying and suffering alone as much as I can.  I sit with them for no reason at all other than to let them know that they’re not alone.  I am sensitive to give them space, but not too much, not too soon.

I make sure they’re not alone at night.  I sleep on the floor or the couch.  Nighttime is when the bogymen of the mind come out to play, and it’s torture.

I make sure they get enough sleep even if it means a little melatonin.  Lack of sleep is the enemy of an unsettled mind.

I feed them.  Not their favorite meals as I don’t want to ruin the meal for them forever, but platonic energy sustaining meals, meals that give them a hug. 

I make tea.  Tea really is the drink of comfort. 

I distract.  While sitting with the pain is part of the healing process, too much time with one’s thoughts only leads to ruminating.  Ruminating is an endless loop which needs to be broken, so I take them for walks or employ their assistance cooking.

I listen.  I talk as much as they want to talk.  I stop and be silent.  I am careful with my words knowing that the wrong words will imprint with indelible ink.  Less is more….hugging is better.

In Time

And slowly, slowly, I see them come back into themselves little by little.  The goal here is not to erase the wounds (that’s impossible) but create well-healed scars.  Unhealed wounds have no choice but to create walls of protection and a hard heart stunts growth.

You cannot keep your children wrapped in bubble wrap.  I look back on my own suffering, and even though I would never have chosen it, I am a softer, more empathetic and kinder human despite it.

But for today, I’m just a mom making tea, doling out lots of hugs, watchful for signs of healing and doing my darndest to soften the impact.

Emotional pain is not something that should be hidden away and never spoken about. There is truth in your pain, there is growth in your pain, but only if it’s first brought out into the open. – Steven Aitchison