Saturday, May 7, 2011

Why I hate Mother's Day by author Anne Lamott

Something to think about perhaps on what can be a difficult day for many....

Following article by author Anne Lamott

Why I Hate Mothers Day

It celebrates the great lie about women: That those with children are more important than those without...

I did not raise my son, Sam, to celebrate Mother's Day. I didn't want him to feel some obligation to buy me pricey lunches or flowers, some annual display of gratitude that you have to grit your teeth and endure. Perhaps Mother's Day will come to mean something to me as I grow even dottier in my dotage, and I will find myself bitter and distressed when Sam dutifully ignores the holiday. Then he will feel ambushed by my expectations, and he will retaliate by putting me away even sooner than he was planning to — which, come to think of it, would be even more reason to hate Mother's Day.

But Mother's Day celebrates a huge lie about the value of women: that mothers are superior beings, that they have done more with their lives and chosen a more difficult path. Ha! Every woman's path is difficult, and many mothers were as equipped to raise children as wire monkey mothers. I say that without judgment: It is, sadly, true. An unhealthy mother's love is withering.

The illusion is that mothers are automatically happier, more fulfilled and complete. But the craziest, grimmest people this Sunday will be the mothers themselves, stuck herding their own mothers and weeping children and husbands' mothers into seats at restaurants. These mothers do not want a box of chocolate. These mothers are on a diet.

I hate the way the holiday makes all non-mothers, and the daughters of dead mothers, and the mothers of dead or severely damaged children, feel the deepest kind of grief and failure. The non-mothers must sit in their churches, temples, mosques, recovery rooms and pretend to feel good about the day while they are excluded from a holiday that benefits no one but Hallmark and See's. There is no refuge — not at the horse races, movies, malls, museums. Even the turn-off-your-cellphone announcer is going to open by saying, "Happy Mother's Day!" You could always hide in a nice seedy bar, I suppose. Or an ER.

It should go without saying that I also hate Valentine's Day.

Mothering has been the richest experience of my life, but I am still opposed to Mother's Day. It perpetuates the dangerous idea that all parents are somehow superior to non-parents. (Meanwhile, we know the worst, skeeviest, most evil people in the world are CEOs and politicians who are proud parents.)

Don't get me wrong: There were times I could have literally died of love for my son, and I've felt stoned on his rich, desperate love for me. But I bristle at the whispered lie that you can know this level of love and self-sacrifice only if you are a parent. We talk about “loving one's child” as if a child were a mystical unicorn. Ninety-eight percent of American parents secretly feel that if you have not had and raised a child, your capacity for love is somehow diminished. Ninety-eight percent of American parents secretly believe that non-parents cannot possibly know what it is to love unconditionally, to be selfless, to put yourself at risk for the gravest loss. But in my experience, it's parents who are prone to exhibit terrible self-satisfaction and selfishness, who can raise children as adjuncts, like rooms added on in a remodel. Their children's value and achievements in the world are reflected glory, necessary for these parents' self-esteem, and sometimes, for the family's survival. This is how children's souls are destroyed.

But my main gripe about Mother's Day is that it feels incomplete and imprecise. The main thing that ever helped mothers was other people mothering them; a chain of mothering that keeps the whole shebang afloat. I am the woman I grew to be partly in spite of my mother, and partly because of the extraordinary love of her best friends, and my own best friends' mothers, and from surrogates, many of whom were not women at all but gay men. I have loved them my entire life, even after their passing.

No one is more sentimentalized in America than mothers on Mother's Day, but no one is more often blamed for the culture's bad people and behavior. You want to give me chocolate and flowers? That would be great. I love them both. I just don't want them out of guilt, and I don't want them if you're not going to give them to all the people who helped mother our children. But if you are going to include everyone, then make mine something like M&M's, and maybe flowers you picked yourself, even from my own garden, the cut stems wrapped in wet paper towels, then tin foil and a waxed-paper bag from my kitchen drawers. I don't want something special. I want something beautifully plain. Like everything else, it can fill me only if it is ordinary and available to all.

Anne Lamott's latest novel is "Imperfect Birds."

Anne Lamott is the bestselling author of seven novels, including "Blue Shoe," "Crooked Little Heart" and "Rosie," and five works of nonfiction including "Grace (Eventually)," "Bird By Bird" and "Operating Instructions." Her new novel, "Imperfect Birds," came out in paperback in April 2011. She’s the mother of one son, 22, and a grandson.


My Blessed Serendipity Life said...

Oh Kimmie, your post leaves me so sad. Of course you are entitled to celebrate or not, but please remember that without mothers none of us would be here. I will be celebrating mother's day. I don't need to shower my mom with useless gifts and fancy lunches for her to know that I love her and am grateful for her role in raising and shaping me into the woman that I am today. I love that there is a special day to honor and remember mothers everywhere.


Kimmie said...

Not all are as lucky as you though Danielle. Many gals are childless not by choice and many either have an absent mum or a mum that is no longer with them. It also tends to be a ridiculously commercial day.
I like the authors thoughts on honoring the "village" that raises each child (different in each childs circumstance) and simple heartfelt gift giving.

Whilst I personally do not HATE Mothers day I confess that I am not overly fond of it. I adore being a mum and consider myself so very BLESSED to have been given the role of Brenton's mum most especially since I have had 4 miscarriages and almost lost him in early preg. In my home every day is Mothers Day as Brenton and Heartpoet treat me very well regardless of the occasion!

Naturally Carol said...

I took my kids out this morning to celebrate them for Mother's Day! Sometimes if we don't fit into the's better to spit out the bones so to speak..don't worry about the stuff that doesn't affect you...and celebrate whatever you want to..make it your own kind of celebration, one that fits your situation!

Anonymous said...

I can't say I agree with the author of the piece at all. But that's the beauty of living in a democracy. We can say and write what our beliefs are.

No judgement from me here - just a differing point of view.

Lots of hugs for you Kimmie. I hope there is a lot of love and laughter for you tomorrow - after all that's all we need no matter our status.

Kimmie said...

My views do not 100% mirror the authors either Tara however I feel that she makes some valid points along the way. Sometimes when we are blessed in certain areas we can get caught up in own bubble of thinking. These special occasion days whilst lovely for many can be quite horrible for just as many. Brenton loves mothers day and I would never deny him the pleasure of celebrating the day in the manner he carefully plans for me - it is always a joy filled day. What I am saying is that I do not need bells, whistles and lots of hoopla on one day to know I am loved and appreciated.

stink-bomb said...

i'm here because Kimmie asked me to leave a comment re Mothers Day and how it makes me feel.

as someone who has struggled to having a viable pregnancy for 11 years and in the process suffered loss after loss [i'm officially classed as a habitual aborter - classy eh?] i detest mothers day - all it does is remind me as a woman, what i've failed at.

i posted a blog post at the end of april about the feelings that mothers day brings up for me, you can read it here :

while yes it's great to celebrate our mothers, this day feels like a cold hard slap in the face for those of us who have struggled to become parents, who will never become parents. rather than be able to move on from it we are reminded of our failure every year on a day that seemingly gets rammed down our throats.

Anonymous said...

Mother's Day was fine until my mother passed away and then I realized that I did all the planning and work for my mother. Now that she is gone my creep of a husband and ungrateful children barely acknowledge the day. Last year we were on vacation with my brother and his young children...after my sister-in-lase opened up all her goodies my niece asked my husband why he didn't get me a gift. His reply was the "she's not my mother". Fun day...wish it would go away.

Kymmie said...

Sweet Kimmie. Well said. xx