I hate Mother’s Day. I know this makes me a curmudgeon and an ingrate. But in the brief time that I’ve been celebrated by this so-called holiday, I’ve come to really, really detest it. I dislike greeting cards. Chocolates go straight to my hips. Orchid corsages make me sneeze. And don’t even get me started on breakfast in bed.
Oh how I loathe it! In tromp the children, interrupting my sleep. Bleary-eyed, I must feign hunger and excitement: “Ooh, oatmeal scrambled eggs! What fun! And are those jelly beans floating in the smoothie? Great! It will be sweet, just like you.” Then there is the sharing, spilling, and witnessing. The kids suspect my enthusiasm, and actually want to see mommy consume the food. Last year, I ate cheesy, green eggs (my eldest daughter was on a food coloring kick) until I nearly vomited, which, truthfully, would have neither looked nor tasted very different than the eggs did the first time around. I was only reprieved from the feast when my youngest daughter overturned pink apple juice on the comforter. That was the first 15 minutes of Mother’s Day.
Following the grease smears on my pillow are a well-intentioned, but ultimately off-putting parade of cards, gifts, or activities. My children seldom buy me presents. After all, they are only seven and two. Usually, they just wrap up things they find around the house: my stapler; a box of Kleenex; a pear. However, that doesn’t stop my husband. There are the gadgets — the orange juicer (a gift he’d always wanted), the portable speakers for my kitchen radio (I found them yesterday, dismembered, in my daughter’s crib). Occasionally, there are signed IOUs, intentions to complete household chores on a later date. Last year, for example, he promised to lay a patio, an endeavor that we are still pondering today.
I saw a billboard recently that advertised: “Take Mom to the Zoo.” Moms, it seems, get in free on Mother’s Day. My mind flashed to all those poor mothers, whose families drag them off to see kangaroos and giraffes, moms armed only with macaroni necklaces and construction paper broaches, rather than the picnic lunches, wide-brimmed hats, and sunscreen that, on a good day, make visiting the zoo with one’s children just barely tolerable. By day’s end, most of these moms will have changed poopy diapers outside the monkey cages, and carried their exhausted and sunburned children the thousand or so yards back to the car. Happy freaking Mother’s Day indeed.
I long to celebrate Mother’s Day my way: quietly, selfishly. I spend every day with my family. On Mother’s Day, I just want to be left alone, to do whatever I want, whenever I want, the way I could before I became a mother. I fantasize about sitting on my front porch with a seasonal beverage, and reading in the breeze. I want to garden, but only a little. I want to jog without a stroller. I want to eat a salad from start to finish, with no interruptions, vegetable complaints, or ketchup. I wouldn’t mind pushing a button to summon my children, briefly. I would smile at them, feel pride. But then I would want to push another button and send them away again. I wouldn’t mind a date with my husband, but preferably to two different movies. In his, some fellow could make clever quips as he kills bad guys, stops runaway trains, and beds large-bosomed beauties. My film would be foreign, subtitled, and evoke memories of my time as a college student overseas. Perhaps we could meet for dinner afterwards, but only at a restaurant where they use real napkins and none of the choices is macaroni and cheese.
I read recently that Mother’s Day in America has its roots in the post-Civil War era. Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” was an early advocate. In 1870, Howe wrote a Mother’s Day Proclamation, decrying war and inviting mothers into political dialogue to avoid losing more of their sons on the battlefield. In later years, mothers were urged to fight for other causes, including improved sanitation and public health. And in 1914, Woodrow Wilson finally declared a national holiday, setting aside one day every year to pay homage to the good work that mothers were doing. Surely these early founders would be baffled by the transformation of a day urging feminist political action into a day encouraging men to buy women flowers.
So maybe my daydream of lolling around at a spa in a swimsuit that doesn’t also include a skirt or cape is just as off the mark as my daughters’ cornflake pancakes. Perhaps Mother’s Day should include that kind of quiet reflection, but only as a catalyst to higher ground. What cause am I ignoring these days? What community problem needs my help? Maybe next year, I’ll be up early to run in a Mother’s Day 5K to raise money for a local charity or homeless shelter.
At least that would get me out of breakfast in bed.