Julie Owsik Ackerman
For a few years in my early thirties, Mother’s Day was painful day for me. Not yet a mother, I felt sad, excluded, the subject of scrutiny. Maybe no one asked the impolite question out loud, but as I gained five, six, seven years of marriage, I heard the question loud and clear: are you ever going to have a baby?
I didn’t know the answer. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a mom, or if I could handle it. I’m glad I waited as long as I did, because motherhood has proved just as challenging as I imagined, though more rewarding also. I need all of the wisdom and patience I gained in my first 35 years of life to parent my son, and sometimes it’s still insufficient.
Mother’s Day can be painful for other reasons too: maybe your mom has died, maybe you’re struggling with fertility issues, maybe your mom was absent or abusive. Then there are the ever-present holiday expectations, fed by the media, and corporations who stand to benefit. “What do you want to do for Mother’s Day?” my husband asked me several times this week, with panic in his eyes. Battling a sinus infection, I’d been too tired to think about it. But by Tuesday, I figured I should give the poor guy some guidance, so I told him I wanted to sleep in, go to breakfast and receive some kind of gift. I appreciate having a sweet husband who wants to do something nice for me. I also know that on Mother’s Day, as every day, it’s my job to make myself happy. Feeling I need x expensive gift to feel valued on Mother’s Day is a trap, and I refuse to be ensnared in it.
Over the past few months, I’ve been reading a lot of feminist literature: The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, The FeminineMystique, The Mommy Myth. I’m starting to realize not only how difficult motherhood is, but how little our government and society support mothers. So what I really want for Mother’s Day is a culture that values mothers, not by putting us on some pedestal like the Virgin Mary, but by providing what we need to raise happy healthy children: good daycare, maternity leave, flexible job situations, a living wage, health care.
That would be a good start. And okay, some eggs benedict too.