"...maybe you're just like my mother...she's never satisfied...this is what it sounds like
when doves cry..."
- Prince. 1984.
It’s Mother’s Day 2022. My second one without my husband. The second one where my kids have no Dad to help them shape a memorable day for me in the way they would like. In the way that we have been conditioned to celebrate this day.
Last year, I wrote a piece called ‘Bells and Whistles’ that discussed all the reasons why the Hallmark holiday version of Mother’s Day can be SO fun…but also excruciating, depending on where you sit on the spectrum of your motherhood experience, so I won’t get into that too deeply again. Let’s just say though, that it can be a very emotionally charged day and our individual experience of this second Sunday in May really depends on the current situations we find ourselves in. This year some moms have lost their own moms. This year some moms just became moms for the first time! This year some future moms have lost babies before they were born. This year some almost-moms had high hopes for adoptions that went sideways in the most devastating scenarios of red-tape awfulness. Some would-be moms are having regrets about not choosing motherhood and some moms are so overwhelmed that they have moments where they wonder if motherhood was the best choice for them. They don’t make cards and memes for those moms. It is important to acknowledge that it is a very personal day for each of us.
For me, it has evolved yet again. This year for the better. I sat with my kids this morning and as we enjoyed a relaxing breakfast at the table together, and I told them in great detail, the story of my very first Mother’s Day. If you know me well (or if you read last year’s blog post from Mother’s Day) you’ll know it was a fantastic debacle!
I painted the scene for the kids….
As Mother’s Day 2011 approached, I was a brand new mom to Miller and I had VERY high expectations for whatever delights Darcy would have planned for the day. Naturally, I eagerly anticipated his usual thoughtful gifts and efforts to make me feel cherished. I knew he would make the day extra special for me! After all, we had worked SO hard to have a baby in the first place and Miller’s first six months of life had been a challenge with therapies, stressful procedures and extra focus on his development. I KNEW with my whole heart that Darcy would be pulling out ALL the stops to let me know how much he appreciated me and admired me as a mom. On this day of all days, he would rise to the occasion like never before. I knew it! My very first Mother’s Day was bound to be exceptional.
What I was envisioning for Mother's Day 2011... NOT what happened!
(Til 7 years later! Sometimes our dreams take a while, friends...Don't stop believin'! Ha! )
What actually unfolded was certainly exceptional, but in a much different way than I had anticipated! First off, Darcy didn’t even realize that he was supposed to plan anything or celebrate ME because I wasn’t HIS mom! Ha! In retrospect, it isn’t unthinkable that this kind of misunderstanding could happen. Darcy didn’t have a ton of friends with kids (or kids with moms that they were still married to!) and I am certain that they weren’t all sitting around a film set together chatting about their plans to make their wives feel like the centre of the universe on Mother’s Day! He also had a mother who was independent and not particularly into celebrating herself so his acknowledgements of her mad momming skills were subtle and simple. She didn’t ever make a big deal of it or expect flowers so it just didn’t land on his radar in the way that it was buzzing on mine! And I was pissed off, let me tell ya.
It is so funny to me now that I loved telling the kids, in hilarious retrospective detail, about how Darcy let me down at every turn that day…
I told them how he just rolled out of bed without saying good morning OR the words I longed to hear…“Happy Mother’s Day, Bear! You are killing it at motherhood and you are just the best partner I could ever imagine raising a family with!” (He never talked to me that way anyways…not sure why this day was going to, all the sudden, release his ability to shower me with words of affirmation, but I fully expected it would!)
I described how he went downstairs (accidentally forgetting to change Miller’s diaper and fetch a bottle?!) and how I waited up in bed, anticipating the fresh cup of coffee that he was surely about to deliver to me! Probably with a gift of some sort…maybe jewelry! I listened as he (accidentally?!) made only himself a delicious cup of coffee and proceeded to the couch to prop his feet up and start web-surfing like it was any other Sunday! No announcements of brunch reservations at secret locations nor tiny treasure-filled boxes?! No breakfast in bed?! It was so unlike him to miss the opportunity to give a gift or celebrate that I was shocked and horrified by his blatant disregard for this important day. By eleven am, when he still hadn’t even realized that it was Mother’s Day, I exploded. His eyes were never wider as I told him how disappointed and unvalidated I felt as a mother because my own husband didn’t get the concept of Mother’s Day. I let his misunderstanding mean something about me. Actually, I let it mean everything about me. I had left it in his hands to celebrate me and my experience of motherhood and he had failed. Therefore, I felt like a failure.
In the years that followed, of course, Darcy always delivered on the day! He has showered me with gifts, beautiful meals, catered picnics on the beach, spa visits and helicopter trips for solo weekend getaways at exclusive resorts…. He never let another Mother’s Day be a let-down for me. Never missed an opportunity to show me how he appreciated me for mothering our kids. Never failed to step into his “role” on that day of all days. I know that it was pretty fun for him to plan those things but I also know that he felt obligated, too. I had sent him the message on that first Mother’s Day that it was somehow his responsibility to make me feel worthy and good about myself as a mother. And he did his best.
Mother's Day 2019
Morning text to Darcy and kids from my waterfront suite at Sonora Resort.
I also spent most Mother’s Days letting him manage the kids to give me a “much-needed break” which I often spent shopping to fill a void, sometimes drinking too much wine to numb the underwhelm of a life that I couldn’t feel proper gratitude for because I was focused on the needs of everyone else, instead of caring for myself. Mother’s Day became the ONLY day of the year where I would allow myself to shirk my daily duties of parenthood and just let loose because the rest of the year I was running a marathon trying to be the perfect wife and mom, with no regard for my own mental health and the innate need I had to step into a more purposeful occupation. Something more purposeful than cooking, cleaning, driving kids to activities and constantly worrying about their safety. Those innate needs that I was IGNORING in favour of living up to the definition of motherhood that I was conditioned to fulfill which was to put myself last on the list. The unimportant task at the bottom of the to-do roster that doesn't really matter. Mother's Day became my one day to “treat myself” in an effort to offset the bitterness I felt toward my seemingly perfect life that felt far from perfect to me in the day-to-day. As if anyone was asking me to live that way. As if I had no ability to care for myself. As if I didn’t have the choice to meet my own needs first. As if there was only ONE day of the year where I was allowed to celebrate myself. I had created that narrative for myself. Nobody was telling me to live that way except me and I had put all the responsibility on someone else to make me feel good about what I was doing with my life. Wow. That is a LOT of pressure to put on another person and it rendered me powerless in many ways.
View from the helicopter that took me off to the Sonora Resort
on it's own private island, for a peaceful, all-inclusive spa weekend.
Hindsight truly is twenty- twenty, isn’t it? As I sat with the kids this morning telling them this tale of the great Mother’s Day debacle of 2011, I also reminded them of the conversation that we have had most frequently since their Dad died. That the most important relationship we will ever have is the one we have with ourselves. How important it is for us to care for ourselves first and ensure that our own needs are met before all others. How important it is for us to LISTEN to our hearts and what they are asking us for and guiding us towards. How important it is for us to recognize our own value and our gifts. How our lives will be enriched and enhanced by the love, affirmations and gifts given by others ONLY when we first feel that love for ourselves. When we are able to say those words of affirmation to ourselves. When we are able to gift ourselves with all those good feelings without needing anyone else to do it for us. Otherwise we are waiting for others to make us feel well. We are waiting for the actions of others and the circumstances of our lives to determine our value and the level of peace we are able to feel. When we make ourselves separate like that, we are at the mercy of uncertain, outside forces beyond our control. That can make us lonely, bitter, co-dependant, easily disappointed. On that Mother’s Day in 2011, I was all these things.
I told this story to the kids today as an example of how I was looking outside myself for validation, self-worth and permission to put down my to-do list and dream for just one day. It put a lot of pressure on Darcy to try to make me feel something I didn’t feel about myself. It was never his responsibility and I see that more clearly than ever as a result of his absence. I don’t love that it took a tragedy for me to finally learn how to nourish myself but I am grateful that self-love and care is what has come about as a result of this loss. If I was still waiting for others to validate me in motherhood, that responsibility would be landing on my kids today. I might be having the same feelings of disappointment in THEM that I had with Darcy on that first Mother’s Day. And that would be a true tragedy.
Today, Mother’s Day looks a lot like a regular Sunday for me! Often on the weekends, I let my kids relax and steer their own ships while I meet my own needs through staying in bed with coffee and a good book or my journal. Sometimes, I take online classes in fun things like numerology and writing workshops or I dive into a new blog post or a fresh chapter of my book. I am unapologetic for taking time to myself and indulging my creative purpose because I want my kids to do the same. My kids and I have a magically different relationship because of how I care for myself now – it is what allows me to care for them with patience and acceptance and gratitude for the privilege of motherhood - and I know it in my bones that I am a fabulous and devoted mother without needing anyone else to tell me so.
This card from my kids this year...and I agree with the sentiment.
Not that I am a better mother than anyone else, but that, currently,
I am the best mother I have ever been.
"Best Mother Ever"
Because of all this, I woke up this morning in pure gratitude for my kids and my life. I didn’t have grandiose expectations that could be left unmet by the kids, despite their best intentions. I didn’t begrudge making my own coffee or having to empty the dishwasher and I don't need a weekend away on a private island because I don’t wait for ONE day of the year to appreciate myself. My heart isn't full of unfulfilled purpose and repressed desires, rather it's bursting with creative inspiration and I fill my life with beautiful experiences all the time so that there is no pressure on my kids or anyone else to make me feel special on any given Sunday. As a result, despite the fact that I am absolutely solo in my experience of parenthood and the weight and responsibility of raising two kids is completely on my shoulders, I have never felt lighter or more free in my daily experience of motherhood. There is a lot to be said for cultivating the relationship we have with ourselves and, in my experience, although it has been counterintuitive to put myself first in line and I have had to practice it, it has been the most pivotal choice I have made with regards to the trajectory of my journey through motherhood. I wouldn’t trade this wisdom for the world and although I really feel Darcy's absence on a day like Mother's Day, I have gained something through losing him and that allows me to accept things as they are. It feels like the gift he always wanted to give me.
Sometimes when I am alone, I talk to Darcy. Like, out-loud, fully audible conversations. Yup. That’s how much I feel his presence and it is somehow comforting to me, once in a while, to have a human-style conversation with him like we used to. He always shows up for it. I feel his sly humorous rebuttals or answers to my questions. I hear his voice respond, not in my ears, but in my cells. It’s channelling, I guess, and I love it.
As I was driving past our old neighbourhood the other day, I started a conversation with him and the words that came out of my mouth were, “Bear, you would not even recognize me these days. I live so differently and choose so differently. I spend my time with different people doing totally different activities. I respond differently to change and I steward the kids in a totally new way. I am a completely different person now…”
To which he responded...
“No, Bear. You’re not a different person at all. You are just MORE YOU than you have ever allowed yourself to be.”
Til Next Time,
Heal & Be Healed.