I don’t like Mother’s Day. There, I’ve said it. Out loud.
It’s not an easy thing to admit. I can almost hear the sharp intake of breath as mums across the land read this awful confession. ‘What’s not to like? What about the lie in, and the breakfast in bed? What about the flowers and chocolates and lunch in your favourite restaurant?’
As a mum, I love my children’s little homemade cards and gifts; I love and treasure and am so grateful for these thoughtful presents. But as a daughter, Mother’s Day only serves as a painful reminder of what I do not have and cannot do. I cannot spoil my mum. I cannot buy her flowers. I cannot take her to lunch. I cannot ring her up to tell her that the boys are learning piano or reading to themselves or that I’m just feeling a bit fed up. I cannot thank her or hug her because I lost her when she died of a particularly aggressive form of throat cancer, twenty-two years ago.
For anyone who has lost their mum, Mother’s Day can be a difficult and uncomfortable occasion. And for women who have a family of their own, the occasion can produce an even stranger combination of emotions. Motherless mothers find themselves embracing the event with their own children, while the inescapable hole left behind when their own mum passed away seems to enlarge at the same rate as the retail space dedicated to MUM in the weeks preceding Mothering Sunday.
My mum died on February 5th, 1993 when I was twenty-three years old. The first Mother’s Day without her came just six weeks after her death; I was too numb to even notice. Over the years, Mother’s Day seemed to get bigger and pinker and harder to ignore. I don’t especially care for most of the overly sentimental cards and gifts, but the fact that I cannot buy them, even if I wanted to, is hard to accept. To be very childish about it, it just isn’t fair.
It hits me at the most unexpected moments, such as when I run into the supermarket to get bread and milk. And there I am, faced with a wall of pink stuff declaring love for Mum, Mother, Mummy, Mammy. It’s not that I don’t think about or miss her on other days of the year. Of course I do. But Mother’s Day is a particularly public reminder of what I do not have. All I wanted was milk and bread, yet I leave the shop wanting to curl up in a ball and cry.
My mum’s death isn’t something I talk about very often with my children, so I just get on with things on Mother’s Day. I try not to let my feelings alter the day at all for my children. I might light a candle to my mum. I might have a little cry in private at some stage. I might not. I might have had my cry when I went to get milk three weeks before.
So, I hope you will forgive me for not completely enjoying Mothering Sunday. I’ll embrace it as a mother for the sake of my children, but as a daughter, I’ll be glad when it’s all over.