I was a little surprised recently when sitting in a coaching group with several moms-of-teens to hear them begin a lament about Mothers Day. Surprised because for decades I myself have struggled with that “special day”! Some years I found myself wishing I could just wake up the Monday-following and find the whole thing had blown over…like, like, like a bad storm? What could this possibly be about, I wondered. So, after some years, okay, let’s be honest, decades of thought and introspection, here are some things I think it may be about. I’m sharing this hoping that if you’re feeling inexplicably cranky about Mothers Day, impossible to satisfy or please, perhaps some of these may assure you that you’re not alone. Then, I’ll offer some First Aid which I’ve found helpful…and I will likely use once more this Mothers Day.
Card #1 (see above) – Thanks Hallmark for making Mothers Day an impossible illusion…for paying writers to scribble up some deep, thoughtful, self-reflections that exactly .0002% of the population ever thinks about and only half of those actually write or say to their moms. If you’re lamenting that your kids never say that stuff to you, remember, these sentiments are written by paid, trained writers.
Card #2 (see above) – To my Mother, my friend – While this is a lovely sentiment, one of the main things I say to parents of teens is that you can NOT be your kid’s friend. Your profound love for them, your dedication to their safety and well-being up to doing whatever it takes to keep them safe, etc precludes your being their friend…until at least they are 30 or 40 years old! Okay, maybe then…just before they put your safety and well-being in front of their own … in choosing your nursing home. But seriously, I’d like to stress that being “mother” is a bazillion times more significant, more important, more privileged than being “friend” . . . but I’ll agree, often more painful, more trying. Please, could we NOT try to be friends for Mothers Day. Especially if you have a teen daughter, you’re setting yourself and her up for lumps.
Card #3 (see above) – I’m pretty sure some of you are going to find yourselves in THIS camp of moms: spread thin, doing your best to cover many bases, feeling as if you live in a sustained state of partial-inattention. Take a cue from this cartoon and make a point to see your pals. Or else….
Card #4 – This card reminds of when my kids were little and my dear, well-meaning husband would ask, “What would you like to do for Mothers Day? We want to make it special.” I’m pretty sure he was sincere. And I’m pretty sure I actually said the words aloud but it never happened: “A special Mothers Day? What would I like? I’d like you to take them away for the day…or maybe, better yet, I’ll go away…better yet, not for a day? How’s that for special? What you had in mind?” I’m just saying, I don’t think he ever did. But I will say this for sure: if you’re considering abandoning your young in the wilderness, it might be time for a break. For real….
Perhaps the REAL PROBLEM WITH MOTHERS’ DAY IS hoping, anticipating, wishing someone else would notice our work. If we step back and reframe our thoughts just a little (instead of getting swept away in a Hallmark-fashioned cultural tsunami), did we ever, EVER expect someone to notice if we changed that diaper once an hour or once a day? Did we ever think someone would notice or care if our kids ate steamed green beans instead of canned ones? Did we ever expect that when our daughter made that scathing comment about our roots growing out or the fit of our jeans that she would for even a flash consider that we also have a self-confidence issue? So, what would happen, I mean for real, what would happen if this Mothers Day (do it ahead of time or later is fine too), we get our favorite beverage, sit quietly and ask ourselves for some affirmation? It might sound like this:
- Looking back over this year of extraordinary challenges, what is one thing I did as a mom which made things better
- Considering myself as a mom three years ago … five years ago, what do I know now that I didn’t know then
- What’s been one of the biggest challenges in mothering this year, a challenge on which I’ve made some progress
- If I were somehow magically “outside” myself but turned to speak to myself, what praise would I give my mothering
In no arena of my life have I made as many mistakes, often IMPORTANT mistakes, as I have in parenting. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that. Take heart: In the book Confidence Code, one of the four “confidence cousins” mentioned is self-compassion. On the hoof, what self-compassion sounds like is this: Like everybody else, sometimes I make mistakes. And when I do, I try to speak as kindly to myself as I would to a friend. Then I try to see what I can learn from my mistake and move on.
In case you overlooked it or read too fast, self-compassion actually consists of four parts:
Like everybody else – while we often are fine with others messing up, we consider that unforgivable in ourselves. Begin with, I’m like everybody else and sometimes I mess up…it’s normal; I’m normal; I don’t have to be held to a higher standard than everybody else
Sometimes I make mistakes – I don’t make them every time but I DO sometimes mess up, miss the boat, overlook something I should have seen, say the wrong thing at the wrong time, forget to check first…and on and on! It’s not like you actually believed you’re perfect, did you? Well, here it IS, validation that, indeed, you are not perfect. It’s okay…you’re like everybody else.
When I DO make a mistake, I speak to myself as kindly as I would to a friend – If your friend messed up, would you EVER scream at her, berate her, repeat and repeat her worst sense of herself, rubbing in her shortcomings? So, why would you speak like that to yourself? Give some real reflection to: If my friend did this, what would I say to her? Then, in a kind and gentle inner voice, speak to yourself.
Then I try to see what I can learn from my mistake and move on – Messing up is always, ALWAYS imbued with stuff we need to learn. Did we snap because we’re so tired? Is it the eye-rolling thing that drove us over the edge? Are we aching for Dad to back us up, or better yet, to take on our smart-mouthed teen son? When I quit berating myself, take a half-step away, I can SEE better what’s going on, learn something and then go at it anew.
A Little First Aid on Mothers Day
This Mothers Day, I encourage you to quit looking outward for appreciation, assurances that you’re a good mom. Even though they love you, even though they (will sometime in the future) appreciate you, they will not see all the way into your mother’s heart to those things which are your deepest mothering values. Look into your own heart, acknowledge and savor what you’ve done this year.
Practice self-compassion. When you encounter things you wish you’d done better, walk yourself through the steps above. Most of all, be kind to yourself, remembering that on NO day did you give mothering anything less that the best you could do that day.
Think of the moms around you. Who needs to hear a word of appreciation, encouragement, reassurance, comfort? Take a look at my last week’s blog if you need a prompt in your noticing. Many women around you are struggling with this day. How about offering a little bit of mothering to them?
Finally, see how you might have some fun with Mothers Day this year. Here’s a card my kids gave me. I must report that often it has felt true. Still, we can all laugh. And when necessary, you may hear me asking them, “So, do you WANT the MOMSTER to come out?!@*#”
A very blessed, fond, fun, uplifting Mothers Day to you.