The Top Five Things I Think About Every Mother’s Day

NYC 2003 with my daughter, Valerie, now a Sophomore at Stanford.

I’ve decided to come clean this Mother’s Day. I want to be honest about how the day impacts me to let others know how blessed they are or that they’re not alone. For those of us who have strained relationships with our mothers the day comes overcast rather than sunny like all the bright and cheery Facebook posts we wake up to. I’m confident that I’ve been a good mother, one deserving of that glow and flow of love, yet I think of my own mother today. She is my mother; I am/was not hers despite years of role reversal. Years when I played the mother, not realizing that I was learning how to be a mother in a strange way. So today I’m going to share the five things I think about every Mother’s Day.

1. How is a mother defined?

On this day, I usually sit and think about motherhood. I suppose we all do. Those with wonderful moms have a clear definition. It’s ingrained in them so tightly that it conjures consistent emotions, ones they are excited to celebrate. For me, it’s stressful. I find myself justifying why I need to send my mother gifts, call her, hug her, love her for all that she’s given me. Despite the negative, she gave me life. She must have changed my diapers, fed me, and I do remember some good times. Most of what I remember is how much I loved her, not how much she loved me. Should she get the award, the recognition, or should I? Who gained and who lost? Am I selfish for thinking this way?

Bossier City, LA 1971 with Mom

2. What did my mother give me?

I know this sounds selfish and therein lies the conflict. When I read Mother’s Day cards and all the Facebook messages thanking moms for all they did, gave, and sacrificed, I feel empty. Most of the words don’t apply. I spend what seems like too long choosing my card and gift. I have a painful need for honesty, for reality. I want to give thanks for what was truly given. It feels a bit cerebral leading up to the day. On this day, it’s heartbreaking.

3. What do I owe my mother?

As a mother, I don’t believe that my daughters owe me anything. I love them unconditionally. Because I know that love completely, I know that it’s missing for my mother. I don’t fully understand why and spend way too much time trying to solve that mystery or convince myself that it doesn’t matter anymore. I’ve met others like me who have moved on and let go. I have, too, on multiple levels but not completely. When your conflict regarding owing your mother is wrapped up in the basic question of whether you should continue to know her, there’s an issue. But I need that answer and without fail always think deeply about it on Mother’s Day.

Dallas 1989 with Phoebe Horak, my daughter and Bra in a Box business partner.

4. Is love enough?

I love my mother. My early childhood was filled with my overwhelming love for her. It was a brand of love that left little room for cultivating love for myself. I still love her but is that enough? After years of learning to love myself, I’ve squeezed her out in a way. I’ve had to, and I know that’s not the way it should be. Why do I still feel that I’d have to start erasing myself again to fully love her in the way she wants and needs, following her definition of love? I’m not willing to do that. I have come too far. Becoming a mother was a major turning point for me. I took a fork in the road that doesn’t allow backtracking. I knew what kind of mother I’d be based on my experience. I wanted my daughters to have a tough time choosing a card also, not because they are false but because they are all true.

5. Where do we go from here?

Every year, I wonder when it will end, when it might change, and what I can possibly to do to heal the wound both my mother and I have. But our wounds are different. Several years ago, I finally realized that I can’t heal hers; that it’s not my responsibility nor was it ever. Now I’m working to accept that she can’t heal mine. There’s forgiveness. There’s putting the past behind. There’s understanding and acceptance. That’s all important. But the road has become blurry. I don’t know if it forks, goes straight, or what. I’m just sitting here, phenomenally happy that my daughters know that the love I have for them is unwavering and eternal. They clearly see many roads ahead for them. Wherever they are, they will know who I am, where I am, and how I feel about them.

I’ll focus on that until my own road clears. It may never clear when it comes to my mother. That’s okay for now. We’ll see where I’m at next year.

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