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The Mother’s Day Conundrum

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Mother’s Day used to be simple. It was a holiday when I would strive to come up with an original gift for my mother. When I was very young, part of the ritual included marking the occasion with my Grandmother. The first years after she died, I always wondered if my mother’s primary thoughts were with her during our Sunday celebration.

By the time I hit my early 30s, people presumed that I had given birth. Well-intentioned folks offered me “Happy Mother’s Day” wishes. With a mixture of mordant humor and aggrieved annoyance I would answer, “I’m nobody’s mother. Even my dog is dead.”

Eventually, I entered into the “hallowed” classification of mother when my son was born. His August arrival gave me until the following May to ease into my new role, yet I felt like an imposter on that day which had always been about paying homage to my mother. After all, who was I to encroach upon her territory? I was just getting started. Moreover, I was struggling to adjust to the ramifications of being another human being’s caretaker.

Nine years later, by the time I was more comfortable with my forever-altered status (but not with all the questions about what being a mother meant), my mother died after a three-year illness. Although she had lived a full life, I never expected it to end that way for her. My first Mother’s day without her was filled with sadness, anxiety, and the nagging question, “Who am I on this planet without my mother?”

Another seven years have passed. My son will be turning 16 this summer. Recently, I have received phone calls from conflicted female compatriots calling to share their feelings about a holiday that is supposed to be suffused with love and happiness. The litany is expansive. The laments include: “Now that my mother is gone, I really miss her”; “I always hated Mother’s Day because I couldn’t stand my mother”; “My kids didn’t get me anything for Mother’s Day”; “I’m going to be alone on Mother’s Day.”

I was speaking with a friend who has children in the college/post-college sphere, parsing why women feel they need to be validated on Mother’s Day. “You have to validate yourself,” I told my friend firmly.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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