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Ode to Mothers…Umm….I Hate Mother’s Day…Or Do I?

MJS in Peruvian hat

Reflections on How to Heal our Lives, Feed our Souls, and Fund our Dreams 

Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom, Maurine J. Sackett, picture on the right, last June in the Cusco region of Peru. We were on our way to visit Macchu Picchu before going to Juliaca, where she had lived as a young child. Her parents were missionaries there, and started a medical clinic that is now Clinica Americana. We helped them celebrate their 90th anniversary.  She was able to “go home” to the land of her early childhood.  Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Happy Mom’s Day to all of you mothers!  The older I get, the more I understand and appreciate my mother and grandmothers, and all of those “other mothers” who  mothered me, nurtured and nourished my body and soul without any official mandate.

Happy Mother’s Day (anyway) to those who wanted to be mothers and never became mothers. And a special honor goes to those mothers who have lost children. It is for good reason that losing a child has been called “The Worse Loss”. Our hearts go out to you on this special day.

I have seen several social media posts today that remind me of what I wrote several years ago and first published in my email newsletter in 2006. Apparently I am not the only one who has had trouble with Mother’s Day.  With that in mind, I will share it here again:

I hate Mother’s Day.

Awful though it sounds, I’ve hated mother’s day for a very long time.  I’ve felt guilty about it. I also know it’s not politically correct, so I’ve not said out loud. But it’s time to admit it. I hate Mother’s Day.

I first hated it when I was in my twenties. I felt hurt and angry at my mother for the many things that she had done or not done that had hurt me. The more I looked, the more I saw of this. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite, so it was hard to say all the sweet, sappy things on the greeting cards.  How could I be dishonest and say things I didn’t feel?

What I know now is that I was mostly angry with my mother for not being the perfect archetypal mother. She did not fill the shoes of the Fairy Godmother or the Mother of God or the Great Goddess. She was just human, dang-it. She made mistakes, she had weaknesses. I was appalled. She had great gaps in who she was and what she could accomplish and do for me  and be for me. And I resented it. I wanted her to be the Virgin Mary, the Fairy Godmother and the Great Goddess all wrapped into one.

I have also hated Mothers Day because I was angry at my mother’s mother. She was (in my perception, of course) rigid and perfectionistic, judgmental and grumpy and I couldn’t and didn’t want to live up to her standards. I also was afraid that I would become like her. Horror of horrors, I saw myself in her. We had similar temperaments and personality styles. She was introverted and perfectionistic, and whenever she learned or discovered something, she thought it applied to everyone around her.  She wanted them to follow it, too. She had a strange sense of humor that could be hurtful to others when she wasn’t aware of it, and apparently didn’t intend it. Oh, shoot. I AM just like that-all of it. I was afraid that I would embody her weaknesses, and none of her strengths. I didn’t know what her strengths were. All I could see were her glaring weaknesses. Somehow I missed that she was also a voracious reader, intelligent, thoughtful, caring, creative and sensitive. Hmm. Did she somehow pass those traits along to me, too?

I also have hated Mother’s Day because I was afraid that I’d make some of the same mistakes my father’s mother made. She married someone who seemed rough, loud, angry a lot and scary to me when I visited them as a young child. She had lived in poverty much of her life. She died young-in her sixties. She passed on huge issues to her seven daughters and three sons about sexuality and women’s roles and low self esteem and I didn’t want any of these gross flaws. Mother’s Day brought all of this to my attention.

When I had children of my own, I hated Mothers Day even more.  I knew I didn’t live up to what I needed to be as a mother. I knew I made huge mistakes. I could see where I’d missed the mark. I have huge gaps in who I am.  I know I’ve not been there for my kids in ways that has negatively affected their development. I have passed on to them many of the family issues that have horrified me. In many of my attempts to not make the same mistakes as my parents made, I flipped the coin over and made the opposite ones.  Most of the time, these thoughts could stay on the periphery, but Mother’s Day would pull all of this smack into my consciousness, front and center.

I have also hated Mother’s Day  because all I ever wanted for Mother’s Day was a day off. I didn’t want one more bouquet of flowers or another family dinner. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them. It was that I wanted a day or if I was thinking big, a weekend off, to myself-all by myself. I never had solitude when my kids were little. That’s what I longed for more than anything. And I didn’t know how to get it.

Now that my kids are grown, Mother’s Day is really complicated.  There’s three or four generations and kids with spouses to balance schedules and emotional needs. This is something that is common to all families; how can it be so hard?  Why can’t we just gather together and celebrate life and love and motherhood and the mystery that life continues in spite of our mistakes, bumbling,  ignorance, immaturity, and shortcomings?

As I reflect on it, I now see that I have received much from my mother and all of my foremothers. In spite of their unmistakable faults, they have passed on many wonderful things, too. My mother’s mother, together with her husband, both of them CASIGYs (Creative, Acutely Aware, Super-Sensitive, Intense, Gifted You-s) founded a clinic that’s now a hospital in Juliaca, Peru, near the shores of Lake Titicaca. She was a risk-taker who took her six month old daughter from southern California to Lima, Peru and then the high Andes. She paid a huge price in her own health, and also in the loss of an infant son who was born and died while she lived there. She and my grandfather both had major health problems while living there, and so returned after just one term of service, leaving the work they had started for others to carry on. She had a love of risk-taking, a passion for service, for pioneering new ways of helping and serving others that I now carry within me and live out.

My other grandmother? She, too, was a CASIGY (Creative, Acutely Aware, Super-Sensitive, Intense, Gifted You). She had wanted to attend college, but became pregnant before she had a chance to go. She soon became pregnant again and again; she bore ten children, and took another one in to raise as her own.  What did she do when her goals were thwarted?  She kept her great love of learning, and passed it on.  It still burns bright in her grandchildren, great- and great-great-grandchildren. Most of her children and grandchildren attended college; many of them have advanced degrees. Her children have been all over the globe as teachers and missionaries. She didn’t live through them, but she taught them and encouraged them. I also remember her letters that came regularly when I was a child. They would describe the flowers growing in her garden, the birds and what they were doing, and what was happening with the other family members. Her love of nature and of gardening was picked up by my father, and passed on to me.

I have trudged along, carrying all this baggage, bumping into it every Mother’s Day.  I’ve not wanted to acknowledge it. I was embarrassed and ashamed to have it, and even more so to acknowledge it and talk about it. I also hadn’t known what to do with it. Now that I’ve dug around manure pile with shovelin it, I’ve discovered that there’s more than meets the eye. It’s another experience of shoveling manure enough, and giving it enough time to transform into fertilizer.  In looking past the surface of the imperfections of my foremothers and myself as a mother, I’ve found great blessings, and deep roots of love, creativity, intelligence, and sensitivity.

I find that my foremothers lived lives of service and blessed others even though their lives didn’t proceed as they had originally planned. They had the ability to see great possibilities, but they were able to let go of achieving their great and grand ambitions, and be content with what they could actually do in this life. Not that they accomplished nothing, but they relinquished their perfectionistic tendencies enough to do what they could, even if that was less than they desired to do. They dug deep enough to tap into Life itself and pass it on. That’s something to remember, celebrate and emulate.  With this understanding, I no longer need to hate it; from now on, I can say, I Love Mother’s Day. 

Here again, I’ve found that when we are willing to open our minds and hearts, we can follow the flow of our thoughts and feelings until they reach a resolution.  It is only when we dig deep enough to debride and cleanse our inner wounds that we find the buried treasure essential to heal our lives, feed our souls, and fund our dreams.

Featured Quote

The next best thing to winning is losing. at least you’ve been in the race.

— Nellie Hershey Tullis