My Mother’s Day was like a bad country song. There were disappointments (Panera being out of bagels – out of them – at 10:30 a.m. on one of the biggest bagel days of the year), frustrations (the man in front me at DD’s taking ten minutes to order five dozen donuts, including the last of the flavor with which I was hoping to console myself in the wake of the Panera debacle), and downright cruel jokes (Sonic, obviously not my first choice for Mother’s Day lunch, getting everyone’s order right except – you guessed it – mine). But by far the worst incident of all: my dog died.
No, really. I’m serious.
Abbey was a sweet pup, the best pet I’ve known. Sunday was my kids’ first experience with death, and while I’m thankful it was the death of an animal and not a person, our family is aching.
But this post isn’t about Abbey, it’s about me – the selfish one who shed tears over my ruined Mother’s Day while my husband and children shed tears over our dearly departed pooch.
Not my best moment. I despised myself for feeling entitled about something as trivial as a made-up holiday, especially on such a somber occasion, but that didn’t stop me from whining about my sad lot. Poor Abbey. She deserved better.
Instead of wallowing in self-recrimination I’m trying to be proactive by asking myself why. Why am I apathetic about my anniversary and birthday but downright territorial about Mother’s Day? Why is this one Sunday in May so important to me it inspires dogged self-absorption even in the face of family crisis?
In a word: identity. So much of who I am and how I see myself is wrapped up in this role called Mommy. By necessity the awareness of my children’s needs and my maternal responsibility colors every decision I make. It’s not a job I can leave at the end of the day, not a light I can switch off at night while I sleep. Given the 24/7 nature of this awesome calling and the life-altering implications of how I carry it out, is it any wonder I so often feel inadequate?
Confession: I crave affirmation. And by crave I mean rooting-through-the-cupboards-for-that-hidden-stash-of-chocolate, bawling-on-the-floor-when-you-realize-your-husband-pinched-it kind of hunger.
It’s not that I don’t get any positive feedback. Tim is supportive, sweet, and complimentary. The problem is in the magnitude of my self-doubt, the depth of my insecurity. Do other women feel this? Do they hold themselves to impossibly high expectations only to wither each time they fall short?
I posted this photo of my laundry area on Facebook this morning, instructing those who viewed it to feel better about themselves. Why? Because wading through knee-deep dirty clothes doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom. Locking the bathroom door and sitting on the toilet for ten minutes longer than you and your smartphone need to be there doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom. Rationalizing that Little Caesar’s is so cheap it’s hard to cook a homemade meal for much less doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom. It means you’re an exhausted, worn out, and all-other-synonyms-for-tired mom. And you’re not alone.
Yesterday my wise friend Allie reflected that she would never call another mom “stupid” for going into the grocery store for milk and coming out with everything but, so she needs to stop berating herself in the same situation.
Light bulb: Maybe if I showed myself a little more grace, I wouldn’t feel like such a failure. Maybe if I didn’t feel like a failure, I wouldn’t crave affirmation with such intensity. Maybe, just maybe, I’d stop focusing on how overwhelmed I feel and remember instead what an incredible blessing it is to have sticky fingerprints on my cabinet doors, used pull-ups overflowing the bathroom trash can, and cracker crumbs all over my couch.
No matter what Hallmark says, one measly Sunday of vocalized appreciation doesn’t really matter. The answer is less of me, not more. Less focus on my cravings, my fatigue, my disappointments. More focus on those I serve, the abundant blessings in my life, the bigger picture of a multi-millenia tapestry in which I am but a thread interwoven with others who pull, squeeze, and strengthen me. I am a chosen piece of a masterpiece in motion. What more affirmation do I need?
Well…to be honest, a bagel bouquet would be nice. Or a puppy.
Maybe next May.