It’s hard to avoid that nasty little fact that Mother’s Day is precariously close (at an insanely early May 11 for those who haven’t yet checked their calendars and/or live under a rock). Virtually every form of media – TV, newspapers, magazines, etc. – are nearly screeching with sheer delight and are overflowing with advice on how mothers should be treated on “her” special day in May and, the most important part, to what she should be treated.
Take, for example, an annoying ad campaign that has been running in several newspapers in my area including the Boston Globe. In multi-colored lettering, the ad says only this: “What I Want For Mothers Day.com. Don’t hint. Just click.” Because the ads so annoyed me with their vagueness – similar to pharmaceutical commercials which say things like, “Ask your doctor about the mint-green pill,” but never tell you what the mint-green pill does or for what ailment it’s intended to address – I clicked and was sent to a jewelry store web site with pictures of sparkling items and a useless vase shaped like a fish where the flowers go inside the fish’s mouth. Moms are encouraged to fill out their pricey wish list and e-mail it to friends and family with a nice load o’guilt (you don’t buy the items for the woman, you’re ungrateful or cheap, or both).
This is an outright crass, gimme-stuff approach to Mother’s Day, as opposed to some Mother’s Day ads which soft-peddle the materialistic aspect that has become part-and-parcel of this so-called holiday by featuring gauzy photos of a mother and cherubic children frolicking in a field of lavender under a powder blue sky, and demurely mentioning somewhere adjacent to the oh-so-tasteful-image that the clothing and jewelry on the mom in the photo is on sale now at a fine department store near you. That is if you care to remember the woman who gave you life. Or the woman who gave your children life.
Crass or not, I’ve had enough of this kind of Mother’s Day, the one where people are expected to pay off their mothers for having raised them, the kind where women who are in the midst of doing the hard work that is child-rearing at this very moment are expected to race around buying gifts for their mothers, mothers-in-law and grandmothers and preparing to either host or take folks out to Mother’s Day brunches. Being a mom who’s trying to take care of a home, a young family and work, all at the same time, is enough pressure without having a holiday which supposedly honors said mom except that she has to do all the celebration planning herself.
Don’t even try and tell me that the dads of young families usually cut the moms slack on the Mother’s Day planning, card selecting and gift-giving fronts. Maybe the dads will take care of the kids for a day or make breakfast, but do most of the guys actually plan the Mother’s Day festivities and buy the cards and gifts for their mothers, mothers-in-law and grandmothers? Do they either make the reservations at the restaurant or cook the brunch? Clean the house? Get the kids scrubbed and ready? If you happen to be married to one of these guys who does all of that stuff, bully for you my friend. I have a spouse who’s very supportive and always promises to do whatever I ask on Mother’s Day, however when it comes to buying gifts and cards for my mother and his mother, and, in days past, our grandmothers, that’s all on me.
Whenever my spouse asks me what I want to do for Mother’s Day, my answer, nine times out of 10 is, “Absolutely nothing.” (One year I actually requested that we celebrate Mother’s Day by going to an arboretum filled with lilacs, however my three young children didn’t find the arboretum as alluring as I and sabotaged the day with fights, whining and temper tantrums.) I’m pretty laid back about this “holiday,” seeing as though I’d like it to be abolished along with Father’s Day. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for the love, affection and hard work that my parents put into raising me, or that I don’t appreciate what a great dad my husband is to our children, but I’d much rather go all out celebrating their birthdays, telling them how much they, their efforts and their relationships mean to me when we’re commemorating the first day of their lives than to have to offer up gifts, cards and “special events” multiple times a year and under duress from the Hallmark Corporation.
On Mother’s Day, not only are you expected to find the “right” gift and card for your mom – one that expresses your devotion and thankfulness for the hell you put her through when you told her you hated her 15 times a week, and frequently slammed your bedroom door as you angrily flopped down on your bed and flipped through the latest issue of Tiger Beat – but you also have to find the “right” gift and card for your mother-in-law. At the same time. You have to make sure both moms are treated equitably or in some families, there’ll be hell to pay (I’ve heard horror stories on this front). If you have grandmothers, you can’t leave them out of the mix, as you have to remember to thank them too with appropriate gifts, cards and offerings of food.
Celebrating all these women on the same day is damned exhausting, particularly when you’re raising young kids and the national exercise in collective insanity called youth sports has begun in earnest. (My family has at least one Little League game slated for mid-day on May 11.) We’re in the middle of science projects, spelling tests, soccer practices, soccer games played in a variety of communities, baseball practices, work deadlines for Mom and Dad, and the moms are also supposed to take care of everything for Mother’s Day. And then do it again next month for Father’s Day.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my mother and tell her so. The kids and I pick out birthday, Christmas and anniversary presents and cards for her. We invite her to Little League and soccer games, to gymnastics shows and to back yard barbecues. We spend time at the beach together in the summers. She and I are planning on seeing the “Sex and the City” movie together when it comes out later this mother. And when I say that I want Mother’s Day stricken from the calendar, she doesn’t take offense (or at least she says she doesn’t) because she went through years of having to buy everything for everyone and host brunches and lunches for Mother’s and Father’s Day all on her own while she was also working full-time and trying to raise me and my rambunctious brother. She gets it.
Unfortunately Mother’s Day isn’t going anywhere, particularly if the retailers behind the What-I-Want-For-Mothers-Day.Com ad campaign have anything to say about it. (Mother’s Day guilt = Big bucks.) So, I’m off to the store to feed the beast and find the snarkiest Mother’s Day cards I can for my mom and mother-in-law that I can get away with without getting disowned.