Mother’s Day is the one day that everyone is expected to take a few moments to appreciate the fine women who keep this world turning. And while we all deserve a pat on the back, it's also a time to appreciate our own mothers. I always think of my own mother on Mother's Day, whose positive attributes are too many to list. Did you notice that once you had your own children, you treasured your mother’s new role as the grandmother?
Once I had kids, my mom morphed from being an exceptional mother into an exceptional grandmother. In my case, I scored the grandma trifecta – she lives locally, she's retired from the working world, and she's genuinely interested in the lives of her grandchildren.
As I meet more and more mamas in my life as a mama entrepreneur and mama blogger etc., I have become increasingly fascinated by my peers who don’t have their own mothers in their lives. One question has constantly nagged me about these women: how do they do it?
There are numerous circumstances that leave mothers without their own mom in their life.
Those whose mothers are geographically far away. I can relate to this one. I had my first three children half way around the world and can distinctly remember having three children under the age of three while going through an autism diagnosis with the eldest. These are not remembered as my best days and having my mom around would have helped significantly. But, I did at least have her around emotionally with phone calls every day to discuss my son’s development and diagnosis. As such, I didn’t actually feel that isolated from her.
Those whose mothers are emotionally unavailable. I hear about this one occasionally – the mama whose own mother didn’t do a good job of it. Now, here is a new mama trying to make her way through the journey of motherhood without having had a role model or any amount of motherly support. Some women described having emotionally uninvolved or distant mothers more difficult than if their mothers were not actually alive. Complete absence would be easier than disinterest.
Those whose mothers have passed away without ever having met their grandchildren. Speaking to mamas in this situation was about as close to emotional torture for me as imaginable.
I can completely understand some of the practical reasons motherless mamas would miss having their moms around. Grandmothers are often competent, helpful and can be implicitly trusted. There is no greater feeling than dropping children off at Grandma’s house and knowing you don’t have to give them a second thought – they are with the one person you trust has a vested interest in, and love for them. In addition, who else can you share boring information about your children with but your own mother? Regardless of how trivial the details, grandmothers listen intently. They are the kind of details that are so mundane you would be too embarrassing to share them with anyone else.
Then I started hearing about some of the less obvious reasons motherless mamas sometimes feel alone.
It had never occurred to me that their own baby and childhood histories seem to be lost or forgotten with the death of their mothers. There is no one around to say “your baby looks just like you at that age” or “she crawls in that funny way you did”. Sure, grandpa may still be around but how much does he remember of your infancy? Those were the days where moms took full responsibility and dads didn’t have much time for babies. The result is lots of details and history being lost forever.
Some mamas also reported that their widowed father was in so much pain over the loss of his wife that speaking her name was too painful. I've heard other stories of a mother's name becoming taboo if dad remarried and his new wife was uncomfortable speaking of the past. But where does this leave the motherless mama? She is left without her own history and is muted in asking questions about it.
So, this Mother’s Day I’m going to spend less time thinking about the praise I should be getting for the job I do. Instead, I’m going to feel so thankful for the mother I have, while I also quietly celebrating the work of all the motherless mamas out there. I truly do not know how you do it. Happy Mother's Day to you every single one of you.