Mother’s Day Perspective

It’s Mother’s Day, but Hallmark doesn’t make a card for the many children who don’t have June Cleaver for a mother. I am one of them.

I remember growing up both confused and awed by the close relationship some of my friends held with their moms. At the time, I didn’t appreciate how my mom endured sickness, injury, tantrums, and the selfish, ungrateful energy from her four offspring. She packed picnics, wiped snot, threw parties, swabbed skinned knees, offered encouragement, and restricted empty calories often without a thank you from anyone. I took without giving back. I pushed, tested, and undermined, as mom struggled.

It’s never too late to say thank you. My mother was far from perfect, but she gave me a gift of immeasurable value, the blueprint on life’s pitfalls:

Do not let alcohol take over your life.

Do not use others as an excuse.

Do not say one thing and do another.

Do not double down and dig in when you know you are in the wrong.

Do not focus on the negative.

I spent my early years being afraid of/angry with my alcoholic mother while simultaneously mirroring her. Like a crystal ball, her mistakes showed me my future life.  Eventually, I paid attention. I quit drinking. I learned to take responsibility, tell the truth, and sincerely apologize. Most importantly, I learned to be grateful. I learned to focus on the good, and find the silver lining in hard times, and now I practice daily to embrace love rather than be swallowed by fear.

I witness the children of my friends and siblings challenge their parents, and I can understand how my mother’s insecurities plagued her, how her children and husband undermined her, and how her negative mindset fed the depression that led her further into darkness, away from the perfect person she so longed to be.

My mother died seven years ago, and I am grateful that in death she found peace.

 

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Singles Matter

I am single (as in never married). Additionally, I have no children. I am a middle aged adult on my own, though I live with/care for my 85 year old father. Despite the fact that my Dad often acts like a 6 year old, I am not a mother. In fact, very far from it, or so I’m told.

Over the past few years, I have experienced episodes of being overlooked and treated as insignificant, and sometimes openly ignored. You see, my friends are all mommies, and when they have the opportunity to spend time without their children, they flock to other mommies for sympathy and support. Other mommies relate well because they face the same daily struggles. It’s nice to be surrounded by people who understand, or so I’m told. I’m left out of conversations, activities, and events because I’m not at the mommy hangouts: picking up a child from daycare or pushing a little one on the swing, and I’ve learned that when I do see mommies, they have no interest in current events that do not involve their children. It’s like I woke up one day and the women with whom I have been friends for decades suddenly have nothing in common with me, and there is nothing I can do about it.

I’ve tried to relate. I listen to the endless chatter about their children, and I share stories about experiences with my niece and nephew, but I always get a look, or a smirk, or an “Mmmm” (non-committal acknowledgment that I was speaking) and it tells me, yes, that’s nice, but you don’t really understand because you aren’t a mom. Some people have actually said these very words to me, highlighting my insignificance in midlife. I’ve made no biological contribution to the future and as a result, there is no room for me at the table. I’m the one who eats lunch alone in the corner which is especially hard for me because I was never that girl as a child. This game is all new for me.

Several of my friends (and other members of my own family) have aging parents, but they allow others (doctors, assisted living facilities, other family members like me) handle it so they can remain focused on their children. It sucks for me. I want to jump up and shout, “Hey, singles are people, too!” but I’m pretty sure no one would listen because that kid over there just skinned his knee, and everyone is looking for the first aid kit, and deciphering whose fault it is, and discussing if needs to go the the ER, and…