I Love My Kids But I Loathe Mother’s Day — Especially This Year

Elizabeth Peel and her young daughter (Courtesy)
Elizabeth Peel and her young daughter. (Sharon Brody/WBUR)

We’ve all been dealing with a touch of dystopian hellscape, so no wonder I almost forgot to dread Sunday.

It is, you might recall, Mother’s Day.

And Mother's Day is, in a nutshell, suboptimal. Now, chances are this is not how you feel, and that’s legit; I endorse your enjoyment of the celebration and three cheers for that! Happiness is awesome and I want it for you. I mean, I’m not a monster, I don’t think, probably.

For me, this is the proverbial lemon in the used-car lot of holidays. And I say that as a person for whom motherhood has been the greatest joy in life. And as a person with a wonderful mother. And as a person who is not so curmudgeonly as to frown upon the concept of brunch.

Mother's Day just sticks in my craw, and that's a family tradition. When I was little, my mom put the kibosh on Mother's Day, and Father's Day, too. Manipulative commercialism and Hallmark dreck, I believe were the words she used. Her pronouncement made sense to the rest of us, and henceforth, we bypassed the shmaltz-o-rama.

Once I had kids, I kept the same approach. What I lacked in dry-macaroni-pasted-on-construction-paper Mother's Day cards from my boys, I more than made up for in ... well, I'm not sure, exactly. Maybe Mother's Days spent huddled in the bleachers at youth baseball games, snacking on surprise-filled chocolates from other moms' annual haul of Whitman's Samplers?

The author, as a baby, with her mother and brother. (Sam Brody/Courtesy)
The author, as a baby, with her mother and brother. (Sam Brody/Courtesy)

Alongside my inherited resistance to the consumerism shtick, and my distress over how the holiday is difficult for people with motherhood-related sadness and loss, it boils down to this: Mother's Day bugs me because most of the year, too many people accuse too many moms of doing it wrong — but suddenly, for one damned day, every mom is a saint.

The hypocrisy damages women. I doubt I’m alone in struggling with the way society worships at the altar of some imagined construct of virtuous motherhood while — except for that 24-hour reprieve — the same masses judge the hell out of individual moms.

Yes, I’m over-generalizing, but also, our culture has a pretty long rap sheet of under-appreciating women. And day in and day out, those moms tend to not get the credit they deserve because they make so much look easy: holding together infinite moving parts to accomplish the mission of the family machine, plus adding glitter. Metaphorical glitter. Sometimes real glitter, added by real children. Which the moms are usually stuck cleaning up.

I think, however, that this might be the year that breaks Mother’s Day wide open.

The Nightmare That Is 2020 has pulled back the curtains on life as a mom. All at once, thanks to the primal screams echoing from households throughout the land, we’re all witnessing the huge amounts of energy expended by parents to take care of everyone while also trying to take care of themselves during a public health and economic emergency. True, fathers are amazing and plenty of fathers are primary caregivers or genuinely equal partners. But a recent survey and lots of anecdotes and my own microscopically-tiny-sample-size personal maternal experience combine to suggest that mothers do an awful lot of the heavy lifting.

[T]his might be the year that breaks Mother’s Day wide open.

Every mom I know is having a rough go of it now. Thus, the customary gifts for the second Sunday in May? I imagine they might not cut it.

Let’s take a poll. Are you a mom with children living at home full-time as they always have, but for the duration, home is the only indoor space they ever inhabit? Are you a mom with older children who moved out but because of the pathogenic mayhem are living with you yet again? Are you a mom who loves said children with every fiber of your being but also, come on, this is insane, don’t even get you started? Oh, you don’t need to raise your hands — I already hear your howls.

It’s a little tricky to decipher your precise words, but I think I’m picking up something to the effect of:

IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY FOR ONE DAY THAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE ALL ABOUT ME ENOUGH ALREADY WITH THE FLOWERS AND THE CHANEL NO. 5 WHAT I NEED IS ESCAPE SERIOUSLY AN ESCAPE TO ANYWHERE I MEAN WHY NOT A TREE FORT OR AN ASTEROID MINUS WORK OR HOMEWORK OR BLEACH OR WHO EVEN CARES JUST LET ME GO FOR A WHOLE AFTERNOON GIVE OR TAKE MAYBE A DECADE OR I’LL…I’LL...Um. Whatever. Never mind. Forget it. It’s fine. I’m not sobbing. Everything’s great. Thank you. The roses are special. I’ll find a vase. And such a treat, these seven new pairs of sweatpants. One for every day of the week. Perfect. #Gratitude. We are so #blessed.

The truth is, of course, that at this moment nothing’s okay for anybody. And I get that it isn’t the holiday’s fault that we need to adjust gender and work roles and laws and unwritten rules. But right now, it’s easier to imagine a marginally improved version of Mother’s Day (minus the false pedestal mess) than to dare to dream of civilizational change.

Solidarity, moms. Each and every one of you: Happy sub-optimal holiday in these sub-optimal times to some of the most superoptimal people on Earth.

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Headshot of Sharon Brody

Sharon Brody News Anchor
Sharon Brody is the voice of WBUR's weekend mornings. On Saturdays and Sundays, she anchors the news for Weekend Edition and other popular programs.



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