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Mother's Day

I have to admit it.  Mother’s Day has been my least favorite holiday for a very long time.  If there was a national holiday celebrating root canals or bunions, I would probably prefer those days to Mother’s Day.

I don’t hate being a mother.  My ambivalence for the day has nothing to do with my own children.  I have grown up with my children, in a very real way.  I have good children.  I can see them turning into happy and productive members of society.  This makes me very happy.

But for many years, Mother’s Day meant two things for me. One was the reminder of the strained relationship I have had most of my life with my own mother, and the other was the permanent reminder that I was never quite the mother I thought I should be.

Two or three different times I was asked to speak in Sacrament Meeting on Mother’s Day.  I would have never said no, but I wanted to shout it back at the bishopric member who asked me.  The last thing I wanted to do on Mother’s Day was stand and speak before two hundred people about all of the blessings of motherhood when I felt so woefully inadequate myself. My heart broke a little each time I had to speak of motherhood after the years I had struggled to make some sort of relationship with my own mom.

Then the worst part of the day would always come when each woman in the ward was presented some small trinket or gift.  Once it was a chocolate chip cookie on a stick.  This was almost never a good idea; give the mother of small children a cookie for herself after her children have endured long hours of sitting still and listening in church clothes.  I had three small children who, after several hours of church, wanted that cookie worse than they wanted oxygen.  Of course I would not have denied them a bite.  Who wants to spend Mother's Day selfishly chomping on a cookie in front of a three-year-old?

Most popular were the flower plants.  Neither of my two thumbs is green.  Receiving a plant reminded me of just another aspect of Mormon womanhood that I hated.  Every attempt I made to grow a garden, vegetable or otherwise, usually ended with me sunburned, exhausted, and in a heap of tears.  But the prophet said to plant one, so that’s what I did.  Worse was the inevitable church leader who was always ready with the razor sharp wit: “We’ll see how many of you mothers still have the plants alive next year.”  Great, thanks.  More guilt.  More work.

Some years the gifts were handed out to the mothers according to the number of children she had.  For someone having just two children for many years, this always left me feeling embarrassed for not having more children.  I hated feeling as if my worth depended upon the number of children I had.  I know only the best intentions were ever part of the efforts to recognize mothers, but the messages were still there.

Motherhood means something more to me now.  After so many wasted  years I am beginning to let go of unrealistic expectations and guilt and focus on the joys.  I don’t feel guilty for a quickly prepared dinner or balancing my career and my home.  I find joy in the milestones my kids reach, and in watching them grow into people of integrity and principle.  And for my little girl, hearing the future she plans is the icing on the cake.  She has the idea that she can be anything she wants to be, including a mom and about fifty million other things.  I just want her to feel like whatever she is, well, that’s good enough.  And worth celebrating.


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