Today’s guest post in the Mosaic of Motherhood series comes from Amy Yoder McGloughlin. Amy and I “met” as contributing writers to the Practicing Families blog, a collaborative blog dedicated to the intersection of family life and faith life. The first thing that struck me about Amy is that she is a Mennonite pastor, which I think is extremely cool (I have a not so secret crush on the Mennonite denomination). But what became more memorable to me is how real and true Amy writes. In today’s post, in true Amy fashion, she bears her heart in order to help others heal their own heartbreak. So, my friends I give you Amy’s words:
I hate Mother’s day. Passionately.
When most moms I know are appreciating cards from their kids, breakfast in bed, and general doting, I usually beg my family to leave me alone for Mother’s day. After a morning of pastoral duties, I crawl into bed, put the covers over my head, and wait for the day to end.
I wish I wasn’t so damned dramatic about the whole thing.
My mom was diagnosed with cancer on my 18th birthday, and my first several years of adulthood were spent in and out of hospitals with her, learning more about cancer, adhesions, chemotherapy and radiation than any young adult should ever know. She died when I was 22–the age when I was just beginning to like my mom, as my adolescent eye-rolling and snarkiness was ebbing.
After my mom’s death, Mother’s day came to represent the unfinished business of my relationship with my own mother. I needed to do something to remember my mother. To mark her end of suffering and my ongoing pain, so, I turned Mother’s day into this awful day of tribute to what never was. I walked with my sister-in-law (whose mother also died of cancer) and my friends at the Mother’s Day Race for the Cure in Philadelphia. I wore my mom’s name on my back “In memory of Reba”, and my friends wore her name on their backs too. We walked together, in what felt like a death march, even though we were surrounded by thousands of perky, pink wearing people all around us.
When my kids were stroller-aged, I would bring them with me to the walk. But as they got older they wanted to do things to celebrate me, not remember their grandmother who lived only in their memories through stories I’d tell about her.
Two year ago, my husband came to me the week before Mother’s day, and asked the perennial question, “What can we do for you on Mother’s day?” I prepared my annual speech in return, “Just leave me alone, and let me sleep.” Before I could really finish it, he stopped me,
“Amy, the kids and I want to celebrate you. We know this is a hard day for you, but can you let us celebrate what you mean to us?”
I had to say yes. But I didn’t want to. And I wasn’t looking forward to it.
Before Mother’s day that year, I talked to my friend, Jennifer, from college who lost her mother to cancer a few years before I did. She shared my dislike for Mother’s day, but she also realized that her kids needed an opportunity to celebrate their mother. Our issues around our own mothers were not our children’s issues, and we should not impose it on them. We needed to find a way to be celebrated by our children.
Jennifer suggested that I make a Mother’s day practice of taking a selfie with each of my kids. Jennifer and I didn’t have nearly enough pictures with our mothers, and we wanted our kids to have many more pictures with us.
So, after a Mother’s day nap, my family took me to the park. We sat on a blanket in the sunshine with sandwiches from our favorite deli. We played frisbee. We watched the dogs run and play nearby. And, I made sure to take pictures with each of the kids.
I took pictures for them to have later, and to share with their own children.
I took pictures for me, to remember that moment when I put my anger at the unfinished business aside, to make room for celebration.
And, I took the pictures for my mom, because she’d be mad if I passed my baggage onto my kids.
As Mother’s day approaches, I still hate the idea of it. It forces all my issues to the surface of my deep pool of loss. It still makes me want to hide under the covers and wait for the day to end.
But this day is not about me and my unfinished business with my mother. It’s about celebrating the love my family has for me, and receiving that for the beautiful gift that it is. So, every year, I try to open myself a little wider to the love my family has for me, and every year I try to release more of that unfinished business with my mom. It doesn’t make the day easier, but it gives the day a focus. And that’s the best I can hope for on this day that I still really, really hate.
Amy Yoder McGloughlin serves as pastor at Germantown Mennonite Church in Philadelphia (the oldest and coolest Mennonite church in North America). She blogs at storiesfromtheredtent.com.