Mother’s Day: From Meh to Arrghh!

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mother's day banWe received 46 responses to my recent request for “non-mom” perspectives about Mother’s Day. The differences in opinion stemmed from the circumstances that led to being a non-mom — those who chose not to have children vs. those who wanted children but weren’t able to due to infertility.

Sure there are some — yours truly being one — who find the over-the-top mommy marketing palooza hard to stomach, but other non-moms take a more zen-like approach. Where we have agreement, though, is around the idea that all women — not just mothers — deserve a nod for all they do for their families, communities and the world at large. Here, in their own words, are more thoughts from non-moms on Mother’s Day:

Thank you!! It is nice to see someone willing to acknowledge that there are woman not called ‘mother’ out here. Gritting my teeth is exactly the way I get through it.  Every commercial for mother’s day has me running for the remote control. Any other channel will do. I feel anger at the assumption that all women must be or will become a mother.  My mantra becomes soon another ‘holiday’ will be here and they’ll forget all about this mother’s day business.But it is all around you.  In the magazines, on the TV talk shows, ‘news’ shows, entertainment; talk about who is pregnant, how awful it would be to not experience the wonderfulness of pregnancy and having children.  It seems when the childless woman is mentioned it is as the butt of jokes or with a sad shake of the head, if she gets thought about at all. I wish there was a better way to get through it than Haagen Daas, Hershey’s and trying to close it out of your hearing and your mind. –Lee

I am a married woman who has chosen not to have children. I become irritable during Mothers Day season. I do agree that women who have children have a lot on their plate. However, women who do not have children are also doing great things. We also balance home and work responsibilities, give back to the community in many ways and like to feel appreciated. Why is it that only mothers get cheered on for what they do? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a “Woman’s Day” where all women get to be pampered and celebrated for what we contribute to society? By genetics and culture women are programed to be nurturers whether we have children or not. I, for one, want that acknowledged. I volunteer at JA in part to fulfill my need to nurture children. Shouldn’t this count? I plan on having my own private celebration this year.
— Jennifer

I am currently a NON-mom. Not by choice. I just grit my teeth and try to focus on my mom and (my mother in law sort of demands attention).  It’s hard in a way, and I try to do my best to ignore what I can. People don’t get it that it can be a hard day for someone who is trying SO hard to have kids. I also cope by figuring that some day, come hell or high water. I, too, will be a mom!
— Jessica

I do not have children (at least none that I know of!), something that was a conscious choice.  Also, my father died on Mother’s Day.  Because of that, the “holiday” is a non-entity in my life and has been since 1963.  If I do anything that day, I tend to go into nature with my dog, do some meditation, maybe some writing.  It’s a time of chosen solitude with the “mother of us all,” meaning Mother Earth. — Libbe

I have had an exciting and successful career as a model and then as an account executive for some of the top fashion designers. I am happily married to artist Pablo Solomon and we live a wonderful life. However, when I was 18, I was one of the first young women to be diagnosed as having cervical cancer due to my mother being given DES. So I had a hysterectomy which saved my life but prevented my having children. Each mother’s day is a mixed bag. I am thankful that my life was saved, but sad that I never had children. I have devoted my life to my work, my husband and my animals. In a sense, I consider myself to be the mother to my animals and to their environment. 
Beverly Solomon

I am single, have no children and have never been married. I do date. I work in childcare as a nanny as a second job to my business, and I have encountered (sort of a lot) of disrespect from people due to my non-mom and non-married status.This disrespect hasn’t always been outright; some of it was subtle condescension from my former boss when I would bring up the subject of men, (she was married with one child and was also expecting).  I have learned to cope with this by surrounding myself with people who respect me. — Reece

This Non-MOM has two wonderful cousins (more like nephews) and even though I have never gotten an aunt card for mother’s day I know those kids love me and they know I love them. In fact, until reading about your story, I have never even thought about myself on mother’s day–bought the gift and took my mother out to lunch and that’s it…But now that you made me think about it…
— Leslie

I’m a 48 year old, divorcee (do they still say that?!) who’s very happy living her life in LA.  However, most of my clients have kids and there’s advertising in my face EVERYWHERE!  What’s a childless girl to do? I happen to love kids, so I can grin and bear it, but it does make me feel like there’s something not-quite-right about me.  Especially when everyone’s making plans for Mother’s Day.  I’ll be eating frozen yogurt and taking a walk on the beach, I guess!
— Rona

I am not a mother and Mother’s Day has not always been a good day. I do have two  goddaughters, yet godmothers still get left out. Quite a few years ago, I started celebrating women’s day instead. This year I am volunteering teaching tennis in the p.m. and helping with a breast cancer run in the a.m. I do and support events for all women on this day and call/thank my non-mom friends for their support of me over the years. I know that it is not exactly the same — as I am constantly reminded by birth moms. The spiritual/communal ways women exert their motherhood is just as important. I can do things to help my community that moms cannot because they are raising their families. It is still rough, but this is my way of turning the day around.
— Elaine

Mother’s Day reminds me of a lot of other holidays like Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, XMas, Father’s Day; many of which are more a recent invention of marketing hype than any particular cultural or historical significance. Personally, I like to focus on celebrations that revolve around an accomplishment or event, like birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, and things that are not so much dictated to us by society. I find personal celebrations far more memorable and meaningful.
— Jennifer J

Jennifer J:  My better half has a similar take. He refers to what we face today as Holiday Inflation. Where once Mother’s Day was when we made an extra effort to do something thoughtful for our mothers (e.g. make a card or a phone call or send flowers or a trifle), the day has morphed into a compulsory event with the social angst approaching that of Thanksgiving or Xmas. Hallmark, the media and the marketeers have outdone themselves.

Let’s get back to the basics, shall we? I salute all women and their efforts to make the world a better place. Perhaps it’s time to end Mother’s Day and get behind International Women’s Day instead.

19 comments

  • I love your last line. There are so many ways and configurations for being a caring, participating, engaged woman.

    Regarding ALL over-the-top holidays (which included everything except Arbor Day) I completely agree. We’ve lost the spirit in lieu of consumerism.

    Happy Sunday, PJ.

  • Ann

    I’m a mom suffering from secondary infertility (I know, not the same pain, but pain nonetheless). Anyway, I will join your chorus of people who think Mother’s Day is a big commercialized piece of nonsense, right up there with Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Day. I want my family to appreciate me everyday, not just one day.

    I seem to remember reading somewhere, will have to look for that link, that Mother’s Day has quite a sad history actually.

    I also just finished reading your book, Silent Sorority; it was excellent. So much to learn from it really in a life sense, besides the specifics and also written so well.

    Have a happy day!

  • I figured it out! I figured out what pisses me off about this day. Here’s the analogy: Imagine about 40% of the people around you win the lottery. You buy a ticket every day, and you’re going broke buying all those tickets, even though you eventually “know” that you’re never going to win. In the midst of going broke buying all these tickets, once a year, you have to take a moment to call up those 40% and celebrate the fact that they won all over again. Really? They got lucky and picked the right number (not even a skill!), so we have to congratulate them annually forever? Meanwhile, nobody is celebrating our continued efforts. We’re completely overlooked until we prove our worth by winning a game of chance.

    Yes, that is how it feels. And it is even worse when you have to celebrate your lucky sister, who is horrible with money. (Extend the analogy if you want to. It applies both ways.)

  • JJ

    Cheers to ALL women today! Happy Woman Rock Day-esp you, PJ!

  • Well, I’ve got about 15 minutes before I throw myself into the flurry of activity on this Mother’s Day. Which I am pretty sure was invented by a man so the he could acknowledge his mother once a year and ignore her the rest of the time.

  • I totally agree with your dh about “holiday inflation”… and Deathstar cracks me up!!

  • Lunabee

    Ah, Mother’s Day. It is winding down and for that I am grateful. This is my first post on PJ’s incredible site. I exchanged an email with PJ just a few weeks ago and I’ve been reading all of your posts since. Thanks for letting me be part of this community. This was a tough mother’s day. I am a teacher. A mother of one of my students died this week after nearly a five year battle with cancer. She was a brave and remarkable woman. I honor her today and all those like her. I also honor my mother and mother-in-law. Two good women who are working hard to “get” this unexpected non-mom life of mine. Years of trying later and my husband and I are getting our heads, albeit slowly, around this family of two thing. Deep breath.

    I agree with so many of you here. M Day is a fabricated “holiday” of sorts. I love the lottery analogy – a perfect nutshell.

    I made it through today. It’s entirely likely that many of you did as well. 365 days until we have to do this again. Bring on “national museum awareness week”. LOL.

    Can I just share this one bizarre thing that I witnessed today? Today of all days! I can’t make this up! I’m waiting in the deli line – not for the faint of heart as you know. I’m listening to this exchange between the elderly deli man and the woman he is giving the complimentary slice of cheese because it is mother’s day. I’m just getting over the weirdness of the cheese gift when I hear him ask her, “You ARE one of the natural moms right?” My ears perk up. “You’re not one of those (he can’t find the word . . . stumbles and stutters with complete confidence nonetheless) . . . the deli mom gives him the word . . . IVF moms. “Yeah, you’re not one of those IVF moms. You’re a natural mom, right?” It was all I could do not to leap across the deli counter and strangle this man. The “natural mom” replies that yes, indeed, she is a natural mom and then defends the IVF mom. I love her for this. But what about the non-mom I silently scream at the deli man? I storm away from the counter, disgusted, outraged, hurt and inconceivably furious. I ponder going to the manager and turning this insensitive, misinformed, ignorant man in to the fertility authorities. I calm myself down, finish my shopping and stay away from the deli counter. Who needs nitrate-infused meat anyway?

    Sorry for the long initial post. I write because I marvel at the ways in which this loss of motherhood is thrown in front of me when I least expect it. Even the ignorant deli man can get my goat. Breathe in, breathe out. We are done with this M Day for another year. Happy Monday to you all.

    I’m off to the museum. Anyone like to join me?

    • Pamela Jeanne

      Hey Lunabee! Nice to hear from you. Bring on the museum! I’m so there.

      I was momentarily stunned by your anecdote about the deli counter. Seriously? Wow. every time I think I’ve heard it all … the insensitivity elevator takes us down to yet a lower level. I commend you for not hurting this clod … how much do you want to bet he’s fathered multiple children? Ugh. I don’t even want to think those kinds of idiot genes could be passed on.

      My little story today was so benign as to hardly be worthy of sharing, but the contrast is striking. I steer clear of all the essential retail shops on this day except we were on a road trip returning from the mountains and stopped for an early lunch at the Panda Express (best healthy Chinese food joint ever!) just outside of Sacramento. My DH and I were the first customers. Just the two of us. In we walked and the manager, in the nicest possible way cheerfully called out: “Happy Mother’s Day.” Since I was making a beeline to the ladies room I pretended not to hear him. Did he see ghost children with us, I wondered?

      My backup line if he tried it again over the broccoli beef was, “And a Happy Ground Hog’s Day, to you!” Fortunately the rest of our conversation concerned sweet and sour or soy sauce.

      As for the lottery, totally loved the comparison…And now, it’s time for a lovely glass of red wine. cheers, ladies!

  • Jen B

    How is everyone feeling? Did you make it through M-Day okay?

    As a novice gardener, I spent the morning finishing my new flower bed. I stayed away from the Internet (for the most part) and TV.

    My neighbors were busy with their kids and M-Day outings. Despite numerous compliments on my project, I decided to hide out inside the house around noon.

    But I did manage to sow some goodwill among the sun flower seeds. I think the neighborhood kids will enjoy watching them grow along the sidewalk.

    IF reveals itself in interesting ways. I planned to plant the seeds for a couple weeks and never had the time.
    I’ll admit it is interesting timing though–learning the nurturing basics through Mother Nature herself (at least until my HOA discovers it and puts the kibosh on the whole thing).

  • Dyanna

    I don’t know how many of you are dog fanatics, but I am so I took my dog Toby out for a long walk and then to the dog park. We had a great time, very relaxing. I have found the dog park a great place to meet other non-moms.

  • I agree we should not ‘need’ to be mothers to be honored as women. In fact one of my favorite days is International Women’s Day, which is March 8th, when in my lovely home country of Brazil for instance, most women get flowers or at least they get many, many compliments from all male colleagues, friends, and SOs. It’s a pity that this holiday is not celebrated in the US.

  • I salute all women and their efforts to make the world a better place

    Here! Here!

  • I love the “Holiday Inflation” concept. I agree totally, and have always disliked what I refer to as “manufactured” holidays – Valentine’s Day is a prime example too, where the media and advertising hype reaches a fever pitch and you are incredibly sick of it well before the day even arrives. I think Mother’s Day would annoy me even if I was a mom.

    I think that the problem with VD, MD, and New Year’s Eve (in particular) is that they are such high pressure events. Whenever I am out on those days, I notice that everyone I see seems to be trying so hard to have “the greatest day ever!!” and it is all so forced. Not fun, IMHO.

    I don’t know if I was just imagining it, but it seemed so much more frantic this year – maybe all of these retailers are so desperate that they stepped up the ad campaigns, but it was just so relentless this time around.

    Lunabee – what a horrific experience at the deli. I think that you should post their phone number so that every single one of us can call to complain. Honestly, how can someone be so totally stupid and insensitive? It boggles the mind!

    Anyway, we made it through another year and survived in fact. I am proud of the fact that I managed to avoid being directly wished a “Happy M.D.” (I didn’t actually leave my house on Sunday though 😉 ) Someone did shout it in my general direction on Friday, but I ignored it as it did not apply.

    Thanks for the post PJ!

  • Hooray for all women!

    The day before MD, I went to the market without my daughter. The bagger wished me a Happy MD on the way out. Instead of making me happy, it made me really angry. Unless she happened to remember seeing me in there with my daughter, she had no way of knowing I was a mom. Had that happened a year earlier, it would have broken my heart and probably lead to a crying session in the car.

    I like the idea of Woman’s Day. Women are special and we all contribute to society in some special way.

  • lynn

    My family is so low-key about the day … for us its just an excuse to get together on a Sunday in May. But, my 11 year old neice made my day when she said that there should really be a day to celebrate aunts too … its not fair she said. Love her!

  • KateB

    I was thinking about this the other day, being a not-by-choice-non-mom. We are missing out on another gift opportunity. That’s what Mother’s Day has turned into – not a day to remember your mother.

  • Shinejil

    International Women’s Day (March 8), which is celebrated in Russia and elsewhere, is a good alternative. Random men give you flowers!

  • Myrtle

    International women’s day would be a better day to celebrate. I had two public recognitions in May and they both attributed mother-status to me which I found deflating – specifically the suggestion that my contributions were more valuable b/c I was also mother. Anyways, I have been practicing yoga to nurture and strengthen my resolve in light of people’s lack of reflexivity and privilege with regards to parenthood. Just a few days ago, I found a little snippet about Rachel Carson – writer of Silent Spring, one of the most important books to raise environmental consciousness about pesticides. The writer wrote “She never had kids of her own, but her work was of infinite value to all mothers, of all species, everywhere.” Isn’t that the mother of all mothers? She’s an eco-mother and I love her for that. This is new to me b/c when I was younger I resented eco-feminists who were constantly talking about their periods, their wombs and their children. Now, I have a new found appreciation for eco-conscious thinking and I can now see that I am a mother to my nephews and a nurturer to all kinds of people that I work with or mentor. I juggle my life just as much as any mother despite not having any children. So the hell with mother’s day. It’s just a load of BS to sell flowers prepared by exploited nursery workers who don’t get a bouquet of flowers on that day even if they are mothers!

  • Bea

    Just wanted to pop in here and say I love the diversity of responses you got.

    Bea