Surviving The Cynicism of Mother’s Day

May 11, 2014


I’m ambivalent about Mother’s Day.

I hate admitting this feeling, but there you have it.

My disposition has nothing to do with how I feel about my FABULOUS mother (remember last year’s post) any more than my ambivalence about Valentine’s Day reflects on my marriage.

No, none of the usual excuses apply.

I cherish my mother and value her in ways I can’t describe.  She is woven into the way I think, my propensity to drive a little too fast, and my willingness to have a home where people are constantly popping in.

The best of me is rooted in who she is.

In a similar vein, all is well with feeling honored at home. I love my kids and I love being a mom. My husband and the kids go out of their way to make the day fun, and, by Sunday evening, I get over my “meh” ness, and I’m glad we’ve celebrated.

Still, I’ve spent the better part of this week wrestling with a lingering cynicism.

I don’t enjoy the role of cynic and flee from those who do, but on this occasion, that’s where I go.  I compare Mother’s Day to Valentine’s Day, feeling like the holiday is a scam, and I can’t wait to get on with “normal” life.

Why is this?

There’s nothing inherently bad about honoring people, but all of the attention feels undeserved.  I feel as if I’m at an awards banquet, walking away with a trophy when I’ve lost more games than I’ve won.  I think this is the crux of my ambivalence.

I struggle being honored for something that is clearly a “work in progress.”

I know how often my temper gets the better of me and how frequently my attitude needs significant adjusting.
I willingly feed my kids Kraft Mac N Cheese and food that’s inorganic despite having Facebook posts tell me this will rot my children from the inside out.
That time I screamed at my kid in the doctor’s office? Well, I think about that day all of the time. (Who does that?!)
What about the clipped answers and strident “NO!” or a sarcastic jab which fill in where a gentle word would have been better?

I would bore you with a full list.  You get the idea.

I am constantly aware of when I act like a child instead of a parent, and yet improvement is so very slow.

Maybe it’s true of just me and my circle of friends, but I don’t know a single woman who is fully confident in her parenting or “mothering” skills.  I am certainly in that crowd.

Worse still, I can see my faults transfer to my kids even though I desperately want them to be more patient, less self-involved, and more thoughtful than I am. I don’t FEEL as if I’ve earned the trophy, so I’d rather skip the fuss.  This isn’t a plea for affirmation, honestly, but a recognition that the fuss feels out of step with the reality  of my life.

Then it occurred to me,  perhaps I’m a Mother’s Day Grinch.  At the risk of being dramatic, maybe my heart is two sizes too small.

Yikes. No one wants to be that guy.

Then I realize, in order to shed the Grinch skin, to hear the song from Whoville, I have to look beyond the icky commercialism. I have to recognize that today isn’t about perfection, it’s about process; it’s not about being “the best,” but about staying engaged with the family.

Children aren’t looking for a perfect mom, but one who belongs to them, imperfections and all.

And so today I’ll do my best to reframe the Hallmark-esq ideas.  I will think differently, and, with apologies to Dr. Seuss, I’ll be humming…

Welcome, Welcome Fah who rah-moose
Welcome, Welcome Dah who dah-moose
Mother’s day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp

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4 Responses to “Surviving The Cynicism of Mother’s Day”

  1. Nikki Says:

    If we wait to celebrate till everything is perfect, what would ever get celebrated? Love that you are willing to look at how you feel and reframe it, what a powerful example for your kids…. And your readers. Enjoy the day!


    • Joy Phenix Says:

      Thanks for reading along and commenting Nikki. I am a work in progress, so my best hope for acting different is to start by thinking different!


  2. karisb Says:

    I have always said if I were to print a t-shirt to reflect me (and I don’t even really wear t-shirts), it would probably read, “Please be patient, I’m not a Proverbs 31 woman yet”. Too true that our worst, as well as our best, is looking back at us…not just from the mirror, but from those lives our children live. We see ourselves and we know the truth….we are on a journey and this side of heaven…we are all a work in progress.

    If you have not seen Mom’s Night Out…there is a reframing in the movie, and some true out-loud-laughter.

    Thanks for writing and for being transparent.


    • Joy Phenix Says:

      I have NOT seen Mom’s Night Out since it’s not on Netflix (yet!). Thanks for the tip, the encouragement and for reading along!!


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