Bending Mother’s Day with Gwyneth Paltrow*
It’s staring at you like a fish eye in the glass case at Whole Foods; dead, unseeing eyes, watching you walk past like a challenge. It fills me with the same sort of dread as those red snapper corpses. Mother’s Day is coming.
Image: Vintagedept via Flickr
This weekend is the dreaded/eagerly anticipated holiday of Mother’s Day in the US. I love my mother very very much, and I need to apologize to her for messing up on the yearly Mother’s Day gift. If I was a smarter woman, I would have taken care of the gifts last month when I had more time vs. waiting until the busiest time of year which coincides with a new book coming out. So know that I love you dearly, even if you don’t get your plate until June.
As for being celebrated, well, my plan is to read The 5th Wave in one sitting and freak myself out. Coffee will be brought to me vs. having to go down the stairs to fetch my own coffee. I’ll spend the day with family, and for 24 hours, I won’t cook. Mother’s Day will pass without too much fanfare; just the right mix of thank you and recognition and eye-rolling.
This is how I think of Mother’s Day.
When we were little, we went to River Country in Disney. It looked like a lake. It felt like a lake. But I was stunned when my parents told me that it was a man-made creation.
(This is because I saw a goldfish in the water, which made me think that just maybe there could be a shark in there as well. I wasn’t very knowledgeable about where sharks lived beyond “water.” So they needed to reassure me that (1) no sharks could exist in a lake and (2) this was a man-made lake, therefore, Disney would not stock said-amusement park with sharks. Little did they know that years later, Disney would create Typhoon Lagoon, where you could SWIM WITH SHARKS! So there… mum and dad.)
Finding out that a person dug a huge hole in the ground and filled it with water was a bit of a let-down. This wasn’t like the Potomac River, a completely out-of-control, natural body of water snaking across the landscape. This was a commercialized, unnatural water-filled hole. It felt like a lake; but this wasn’t a real lake.
That’s how I feel about Mother’s Day. When the ChickieNob makes me a card on a random Tuesday, leaving it on my pillow, telling me that I’m her favourite mother, it’s a spontaneous, unbridled act of love. It’s the real lake. When the ChickieNob makes me a card for Mother’s Day, it’s still an act of love. But it’s now an obligation. A checkmark on a to-do list. It’s that ersatz body of water, imagineered by Disney for our pleasure.
Maybe I just prefer wild over processed emotions. It’s all good; it’s all love. But it’s the difference between someone saying, “I love you” and someone saying, “I love you” after you’ve said, “tell me you love me.”
As much as some people look forward to Mother’s Day, the holiday also stresses out a lot of people. But if we recognize it for what it is — a person-made holiday (I guess like all holidays) — then it begs the question why we’re not molding it to fit us rather than trying to fit ourselves into the current shape of Mother’s Day. We’re allowed to bend it. Hallmark and Flowers.com don’t have the final say on how you spend Sunday.
I was at an EMILY’s List event, and I started talking with this woman who told me about the Mama’s Day initiative by Strong Families. It’s a wonderful idea, and I’d like to take it a step further. Motherhood comes in all shapes, sizes, ages, and colours, so we also need to recognize invisible mothers this Sunday.
There are women who have been making parenting choices for their children as they attempt to bring them into the world, yet the world doesn’t recognize them as mothers.
There are women who have filled out tons of paperwork and have been judged by social workers, but because they don’t have a child yet, they aren’t considered mothers.
There are women who wanted to be mothers and took that journey emotionally, but due to circumstances could not reach physical parenthood.
There are women who were mothers, either secretly or visibly for weeks or months, but lost their children before birth.
There are women who were mothers and got to hold their child before they lost them forever, and those women are still mothers who carry their children inside their heart.
And then there are the invisible motherless. Those people who no longer have their mother.
This Mother’s Day, rather than only looking to celebrate the obvious mothers, the ones that are clearly, visibly parenting, dig deep and use the day to also reach out to someone who is an invisible mother; not recognized by society as such but a type of mother nonetheless. Reach out to the invisible motherless who may be struggling on a day that is meant to celebrate someone who is out of their life or dead.
The apology section.
I wondered if it was intelligent to put an image of dead fish at the top of this post. And maybe it repulsed you, but it’s also truthful. Really, can you think of anything more honest and exposed than a glass case of dead fish? Maybe we need a picture like that to wake us up, to take a good hard look at how we structure our holidays.
Maybe we need a reminder to look at the water in front of us and consider whether it’s natural or ersatz. Because if it’s person-made, that means that we can build it and bend it to fit us. I’m bending Mother’s Day.
* You may note that this post has no mention of Gwyneth Paltrow. I noticed this to. I realized recently — based on a multitude of articles on Jezebel — that the number one way to get people outside our community to read what you have to say is to mention Gwyneth Paltrow. A cheap trick. I’m sorry to use you like that, Gwyneth (oh, and Happy Mother’s Day if you celebrate it). But here’s the thing: When I write here, I’m preaching to the choir; so many of us are invisible mothers or were invisible mothers. You know I’m thinking about you this weekend. I want people outside our community to think about invisible mothers too.