Could Mother’s Day be more complicated?

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What is it about Mother’s Day that makes it so full of emotional triggers? More than any other holiday, this one always feels especially complicated.

Last year as we waited for our first foster placement to come, I thought I’d feel something different in the coming year. I felt excited about the journey to come, even while the old triggers still gave little zings.

I thought I’d have a sense of arrival, of landing somewhere.

But, nope.

It’s a new year with new life circumstances. But instead of simpler feelings — I just have a deeper bucket of weird and complicated.

There’s deep gratitude. I’ve found myself making lists this week of women who’ve shaped my life at various ages and stages. And it’s not just the obvious — mom and grandmothers. There was the little old lady from across the street who picked me up from school three days a week while I was in 8th grade (and she took me out for icees nearly every time too), and the junior high history teacher who took me under her wing in the year my mother died and for several years afterward. My aunt Victoria taught me how to paint my nails (and I think of her every single time I paint my nails).

There were the church ladies who jumped in after my mom died. I wasn’t particularly a fan at the time, standoffish and awkward. But looking back, I’m touched by their efforts and the way they hung in with me and kept inviting me to things despite my reticence.

The college professor who mentored me and can be credited for J and I making it this long together. After one notable date, she looked at me and said, “You better let that boy know you like him, because he doesn’t know and if you don’t tell him — you’re not going to see him again.” (She was right, and I did. And here J and I are all these years later.)

There’s pride in the many women in my life who are tremendous mothers.

There are the old zingers that don’t go away even with a year of loving babies. Mother’s Day is a reminder of scars; there won’t be biological children, and there’s no simple or “normal” family story for us to celebrate.

I feel the loss of my mom this year in a new way. Maybe I just wonder what she’d be like as a grandma. Likely we’d make each other crazy, but still it’s a question. And I wonder sometimes if kids coming to our home are shortchanged by only having two grandparents. I was so blessed with the abundance of 5 grandparents who nurtured and spoke into my life.

And then there’s a new layer of awkward and complicated that I never imagined: how to navigate Mother’s Day as we think of us and think of first families for kiddos. I’m a foster mom, not actual mom. Temporary.

I’m okay with that narrative. But it gets tricky when people ask me how I’ll celebrate Mother’s Day or how I’m feeling about this day now that we’ve had little ones.

Mostly I feel awkward and would rather not make a big deal of the whole thing. And I don’t want to have to explain all the things and have others say all the reasons I should want to be celebrated or deserve to be celebrated.

Perhaps what I’d like most on Mother’s Day is respite from the expectations and personal questions. I’m too upfront when people ask things, and I don’t know how to simplify the answer to a socially acceptable shorthand because many things are true.

I am happy. I am thankful. I am still grieving — both my mother and a tiny. Meanwhile, I love our life fostering, and it is also very hard (and currently very exhausting).

Mostly I have no idea what I’m doing each day as I parent, and I live one foot in front of the other while praying for a deeper reservoir of grace and mercy than I can muster on my own efforts. God has come through so far, but it usually involves me feeling fragile and smashed open like an egg afterward. Grace and mercy aren’t cheap; they cost us something. Sometimes Jesus asks a bigger sacrifice than I think I have to give.

Most of all, I think I just look forward to Monday, when this day can be put behind me for another year. It’s just a day. I’ll survive it and all the feels it brings.

Anyone else have a deep well of complicated on this day? What’s your story?

One thought on “Could Mother’s Day be more complicated?

  1. You have plenty of company, Elizabeth. The media downplays the “Other Mother’s Day” and celebrates the Hallmark stories of love and devotion. I just wrote a blog on this topic. I think you’ll find comfort there. There really isn’t a “normal” family. Mothers and families come in all shapes and sizes. Wishing you a day of healing.

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