"What does Mothers Day mean to me?"
What emotions do you feel in your stomach and heart and mind? Do you feel peaceful and full of love? Do you feel irritated or sad? Are you conjuring up happy memories or are your thoughts more complex?
The word "Mother" is an emotive word in adoption. It's a big word for everyone, as is the word "Father". I'm going to focus on "Mother" today because on Sunday it's Mothering Sunday here in the UK. It's the annual day where mothers everywhere are supposed to be dreaming of having breakfast in bed, along with a home-made card and some flowers and card makers; flower sellers; restaurateurs and publicans are hoping to turn a good profit. Facebook will be awash with pictures of these flowers and cards and Hallmark-esque pictures with sentimental quotes about how wonderful mothers are will be liked and shared by the masses.
Mothering Sunday in the UK sort of has its history in the Christian Church. A High Anglican called Constance Smith (1978-1938) was inspired by a campaign in the USA by Anna Jarvis (1864-1948) to introduce a day to honour Mothers. Anna Jarvis was motivated by honoring the death of her own mother on 9th May. Constance Smith believed a day for mothers was "was fully expressed in the liturgy of the Church of England for the fourth Sunday of Lent". This link went back centuries to the Pre-Reformation connotations of Laetare Sunday on which the Introit, the first prayer of the Mass, says: “Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her ... and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.” Constance wanted the day to be spread throughout all the different church faiths and this then spread via the Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, along with emotional feelings from mothers who's sons had been lost during the First World War. As an addendum The Telegraph noted that neither Constance Smith nor Anna Jarvis ever became mothers themselves. Anna Jarvis regretted the growing commercialisation of the day, even to disapproving of pre-printed Mother’s Day cards. “A printed card means nothing,” she said, “except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.”
That's quite a history and it sends a powerful message about honouring our mothers. But what if we don't want to honour our mothers or think fondly of them? What if the word "mother" is too emotional and complicated to be able to link with hearts and flowers? What of the people in the world who have been abused or removed from their mothers? What if your mother has died? What if someone doesn't have a mother but has two fathers? What if someone has two mothers? What of all the single parents? How might they feel on this day?
For adopted children, during their life, it might be a day of very mixed feelings. On the one hand they may love their adoptive mother deeply and want to be involved in all the traditional ceremonies. They may have spent the past week in school making their beautiful card (I know Katie has!). What if they were adopted by a single male adopter or have two fathers? Does that cause untold anxiety for the teachers trying to work out what to do who are probably panicking about getting it right for the parent(s)? I know I will treasure that card but how might Katie feel in years to come about Mothering Sunday? Might this day be one that raises sadness and questions about her Birth Mother? It does beg the question of whether both Mothers Day and Fathers Day have gone the same way that Christmas has and become more about cards and presents and a picture postcard image of what a family "should" look like. Many of the people I know now have non-stereotypical family life.
I have no issue with Katie or Pip asking me questions about their Birth Parents and TCM and I will answer their questions to the best of our ability but I do wonder how this day might make her feel in years to come. You can't hide from painful emotions really but having a day to really highlight them is really tough on so many people. I also wonder what this may all mean for me as their Mum.
Mothers Day is a cake of many layers for me. It is a day I dreamt about with hopeful yearning for many years whilst we were trying to start our family. It was poignant that we were having our introductions with Katie over the Mothering Sunday period four years ago. It was so special spending our first Mothers Day together. Yet the day is bittersweet for me. It highlights that my own mother and I have not seen each other or spoken in over 20 years and the reasons for that. This year it is also a reminder that my Mother-in-Law's memory is deteriorating and we don't know how long it will be before she is unable to hold onto the memories of her life and her family. Throughout my life I've probably spent more days trying to avoid the day than I have actually celebrating it.
When TCM asked me what I wanted to do on Mothers Day this year I looked at him with some confusion in my eyes. I realised it wasn't about what I wanted. It was about honouring his mother. The only way we can do this as a family is with a family meal at home. Nana isn't able to really eat out these days and I've written before about the stress that is created between Katie and Nana when we eat together so the meal probably won't exactly be a cheery affair but it's TCM's mum and I want to try and ensure he has those last few memories of his mum whilst she is still able to enjoy the meal with us. Don't go thinking I'm all altruistic though. It's taken me all week to stop feeling childish about my own feelings of loss of what I might want to do on Sunday (yay for the lingering feelings of depression!). I childishly just want to just be able to do something "normal" on Mothers Day but the universe moves in its own little way and things are what they are. I do feel like I've spent a lot of my life having to make the best of situations though and I would love to be able to celebrate this day with my rosy-tinted glasses on. Even writing this blog post has brought up a myriad of emotions in me from anger and sadness to bitterness and all the way up to love and happiness.
But then, having said all that, I am the person that I am because of all the experiences I have had and without those experiences I wouldn't have walked along the path that brought me to the two wonderful children that I have in my life and who I love with a love that is the fiercest I have ever known in my life. Mothers Day is more than just a meal with added portions of stress on the menu. It's not about a Hallmark snapshot of perfection. It will be about feeling the love in the card that Katie has made and kissing my gorgeous son on our first Mothers Day together and giving thanks for the many blessings that my children bring. I know I won't be getting a lie-in or breakfast in bed on Sunday but that's OK. I will light a candle to acknowledge the journeys that brought them to us though, both theirs and ours. Before you say it, I recognise that I am an over-thinker. It's a blessing and a curse (as my lovely remedial massage therapist says of her ability to incur the most awful yet healing pain on me). If I didn't think as much as I do then I wouldn't write this blog and reflect on our lives in the way that I do. I would sometimes like to just be able to go with the flow, without the baggage of questioning and thinking; to not carry the "what if" with me and just enjoy this specific Mothers Day for all that it brings. I take the world onto my shoulders and try and understand everyone's point of view and feelings and that's a tall order to cook up.
Now I've gotten all my thoughts out of my system and out into the ether I'm going to try to celebrate being a Mum and enjoying all that that brings because I'd actually hate to miss out on all the good stuff because my head is too busy thinking about the bigger stuff.
What does Mothers Day mean to you? Do you want to share my layer cake with me?