On Mother’s Day, I posted a Facebook message suggesting that people be mindful of woman that may not want to celebrate on this holiday for various personal reasons and encouraging folks to not just generically throw out a Mother’s Day greeting because they could hurt someone’s feelings. I was surprised to find many comments saying that these women should not feel this way about this holiday.
One man wrote: “Every woman is a mother because she is made in the image and likeness of God. Not having a child doesn’t make you less of a woman. Celebrate with the others who are able and have children so that they may be good mothers to their child (children).” Another made these comments: “Some women seem to have the definition of motherhood confused. The difficulty to bear children doesn’t make those who can not any less a mother than those who can.”, “Being bitter about it takes away from this day on nurturing”, “Those who are sensitive regarding mothering that are not able to bear children of their own can adopt. Some realities we have to face.”, and finally “It is not coming from a place of insensitivity. Some things we have to accept. There is no reason to cheapen this day. Be a mother at heart if you can’t be one maternally.”
These comments came from men, but there were several women expressing the same sentiment. I could not believe that so many people where actually telling these women how they should feel about losing a child, infertility and other painful experiences exacerbated by Mother’s Day. Telling them what Mother’s Day SHOULD mean to them and that basically they need to ‘get over it’.
We’ve all experience this kind of unsolicited therapy from these amateur life coaches in some way. These are the people who think they know what is best for us, without really knowing us or understanding what we are going through. For years, Mother’s Day was a difficult day for me. I LOVE my mother and celebrate her, but I was sad about my insatiable desire to be a mother. If I could not be with my mom for the holiday, I just stayed inside, because constantly hearing people say ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ was like constantly being hit with rocks. Going to church on Mother’s Day was worse because it was hurtful to sit through those long, specialized celebrations of motherhood (and if you’ve been to a Black church on Mother’s Day, you know it is an event with praise dancers and confetti).
And I got my share of ‘get over it’ advice from these ‘Every-Woman-Is-A-Mother-Of-The-World-You-Need-To-Adopt-The-Glass-Is-Always-Half-Full’ people whose messaging seemed so scripted and rehearsed, they may as well have handed me a pamphlet. I felt the same about the comments posted on my FaceBook page yesterday, suggesting that ” infertile women could simply adopt or just celebrate with other women’s children or focus on the positive meaning behind Mother’s day.” For the record, let me say it is naive, and quite frankly, insulting to think that adoption is a ‘one size fits all’ solution for women with fertility issues. Furthermore, just because you think your intentions are pure, doesn’t mean your are not causing more harm than good.
While I believe motherhood should be celebrated, I still felt I had the right to sit out on the festivities. Eventually, I resolved my feelings about not being a mother, but I understand other women who have difficulty on Mother’s Day. And they have every right to cope with the day as they see fit, and not be pushed into getting over their feelings. I’m not suggesting that it is okay to be severely depressed, but I do think it is okay to be sad from time to time. In fact, many experts say it is a useful emotion.
“It is there to help you learn something important, and that is to solve a problem. When you protect yourself from it, avoid it all together, put it in your pocket, or surround yourself with people trying to “cheer” you up, you just eliminated learning something useful,” says psychology coach Dr. Heidi Lepper, PhD. Dr. Lepper adds that when we protect people from the process of being sad we inhibit their ability to process their problem and evolve.
Being sad on Mother’s Day for a few years helped me mourn the child I may never have. Women whose children have died, women who suffered miscarriages, women who lost their own mothers or women who were abused by their mothers… may need more time and all have the right to feel how they want to feel on Mother’s Day. We invalidate their experiences by pushing them to ‘get over it’ or see Mother’s Day the way WE want them to see it. I say be compassionate, comforting and listen to what women are saying about their pain related to motherhood. But let them feel what they feel.