Dear Anna Marie Jarvis (apparently the founder of Mother’s Day) I need some clarification. Is the holiday meant to celebrate mothers or celebrate being a mother? The two require entirely different types of festivities and this year I found that I was not really sure how to observe. When my husband and daughter delivered me a homemade breakfast, batch of chocolate chip cookies and bouquet of flowers I jumped right into celebrating being a mother. What a glamorous life! As part of this celebration we danced to our new favorite album, made up stories, packed a picnic and headed out for a family hike. But when we got lost on the way to the hike, and I bruised my knee trying to get my child out of her car seat, and then had to negotiated with her for several minutes to get her to sit in her stroller, and then discovered that the hiking path was not built for strollers and had to turn around all together and drive back home serenaded by tears and disgruntled protests, I suddenly wanted to make the day about celebrating mothers. In that moment it struck me that a day celebrating mothers might lead me to a spa where I’d sip wine and sit alone in an Adirondack chair while gazing out at the mountains. In short, celebrating mothers might be a day where I was not expected to mother.

And I want to know, is it set up to be vague like that? Is Mother’s Day supposed to be a chose your own adventure type of event? Other holidays seem to be so much more clear cut: Haloween- get dressed up and get candy, Valentines day-say I love you and get candy, Easter- wear a nice hat and get candy. Why is Mother’s Day so amorphous? Somehow I find the many possibilities to be too overwhelming. It’s a guilt trap. Because if on the day that was designated to celebrate the joys of being a mother I want to crawl into a cave, listen to Ani DiFranco, and beat sticks against a wall I’ll just feel so guilty. I’ll feel like such a bad mom for desiring a break on this most hallowed occasion.

So I need to be told to do it, by someone official. Like maybe the holiday needs to come with a mandate “On Mother’s Day thou shall act like an infant. Thou shalt be taken care of, thou shalt drink heavily and sleep by the ocean, thou shalt return the following morning with a new tattoo.”

Something along those lines… I’m sure most years I will indeed choose to spend the day celebrating together with my offspring. I’m sure I’ll proudly don macaroni necklaces made in my honor and revel in planting geraniums from the school flower sale conveniently scheduled each year the Friday before Mother’s day. I know that most years I will invite the entire clan into my bed so that we can snuggle the day away or watch movies in our PJs.  But I can anticipate too that there will be years when I’ll just want to be shot out of a canon straight into an uninhabited universe where I can swim in a black hole or just listen to the sound of a meteor shower.

And on years like that I think I’m going to need a little nudge, a little whisper from the ghost of good old Anna Marie. “It’s okay, Rebecca, everybody feels this way sometimes, even on Mother’s Day. It’s a hard job you know. For everyone. The movies are just movies. No mother or father wakes up already wearing makeup and happily whips together a three course breakfast without spilling anything and then goes throughout the entire day skipping across fields with a pack of children and singing happy little ditties right on pitch.  It just doesn’t happen! SO give yourself a break Rebecca, especially on this day. Rest up and congratulate yourself for being messy and clueless.  Remind yourself that surprises and confusion and even failures make life exciting. Step back and just look at your kid. She’s astonishing and you had something to do with that. And if you feel on this day of celebration that you just need to dig yourself a hole where you can meditate or make mud pies and smash them into your own face, or just sit alone and feel grateful and exhausted, elated and desperate and the whole tangled mess of emotions that comes with being a parent, you go girl! You dig that hole as deep as you need to. Tomorrow you’ll emerge more fabulous than ever.”

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