Contrary to the urban myth, Mother’s Day was not invented by a greeting card company (that was Valentine’s Day). Its history can be traced back to the 1600s, which makes it almost as old as guilt.
I asked my almost-daughter (that’s another column) her feelings about the day, for she just had her first child. She says that “I think Mother’s Day should start when you’re pregnant, because if I’m going to cut out my cup of morning coffee and evening glass of wine for a year, I better damn well get some flowers and a box of chocolates.”
I’ll never know what it means to be a mother, but I totally honor the amount of work, risk, and tears it takes to do the job well. Personally, it’s a good thing I’m a guy because I don’t think I would have the strength to be a mother. A line from The Golden Girls sums it up: “It’s not easy being a mother. If it were easy, fathers would do it.”
Some of us have less than typical child-parent relationships. For example, I was adopted, many kids live in blended families, and some children are raised by relatives or by other people besides their biological parents. I don’t think that this changes anything when it comes to Mother’s Day. If a loving woman raised you, and you think of her as your mother—or one of your mothers—then there is a reason for celebration. Oprah Winfrey once said, “Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.”
There’s something more to Mother’s Day than meets the eye. Inside yourself, you know if that emotional bond between the two of you is there or not. You know the depth of your love or what it is that needs to be healed in order for more positive feelings to flow. It makes sense to put your gripes aside for the day and allow yourself to focus on whatever goodness you can find and feel. As the old Jewish proverb says, “God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers.”
Even though things could always be better, if your mother (or reasonable facsimile) is in your life, take the day to focus on what you have. Not on what you didn’t get or what you had to sacrifice. There was more than enough positive influence from her to get you where you are today. No matter how she made it happen, your mom did what she needed to do to get you to adulthood. And she did it simply because she wanted to. The comedian Phyllis Diller said, “It would seem that something which means poverty, disorder, and violence every single day should be avoided entirely, but the desire to beget children is a natural urge.”
If your mom isn’t around, grab someone whose kids aren’t with them and celebrate the day together. There’s no need to pretend that Mother’s Day doesn’t exist.
Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D. is an award-winning psychotherapist and humanitarian. He is also a columnist, the author of 7 books, and a blogger for PsychologyToday.com with over 27 million readers. He practices in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles and is available for video sessions, reach him at Barton@BartonGoldsmith.com