Friday, May 11, 2018

Could we just not do this anymore?

Posts like this one always get me a decent amount of hate mail, and I prepare myself for that ahead of time. I know what is going to happen when I sit down to write them. I know.

I know that there will inevitably be a friend or two who sends me a message if they're feeling considerate, who leaves an obnoxious comment if they're feeling spicy, who tells me just how wrong I am, and that what I've said is irrelevant in their lives and inappropriate, usually because whatever I say about my experience and the experiences of so many other people is only supposed to be mentioned aloud if it pertains to their lives as well.

The internet. So fun sometimes.

The privilege inherent in online commentary...

And yet, I'm here, writing this post that I don't really want to write about a made up holiday that I'd rather just erase from the calendar.

From the outside, most people are surprised to learn that I loathe mother's day. After all, I have a house full of kids who mostly don't hate me, at least not yet anyway. They have a long list of achievements and accomplishments and things they love and I'm supposed to have endless gratitude for the honor of being their mother.

And I do, but that isn't what this post is about. And, let's be honest. If you think anything in this post is about me somehow not appreciating what I DO have in this life, then we probably shouldn't be friends in the first place. Move along. This isn't for you.

I know that there will always be people who read what I write and accuse me of being negative, pessimistic, of only focusing on the bad things in life when I'm really supposed to be posting #blessed and humblebragging about how amazing everything is. Social media sure has fucked with our perceptions of ourselves and other people.

While we're at just not doing things anymore, could we never use that horrid hashtag anymore too? It really is the grossest one out there. This idea that you're somehow lucky because some higher power told your family to give you jewelry for a made up holiday, or that you've got good health, or whatever....ugh.

The vast majority of life is boring and monotonous, and for most people the days that are beautiful and perfect and worthy of happy hashtags are usually outnumbered by the awful days. But I digress. We are here to talk about mother's day, and before I go on some long winded rant about the artificiality of internet happiness, I should try and focus.

Hello, ADHD. Nice to see you. I've been seeing a lot of you lately.

So. Mother's day. Let's talk about it.

For me personally, it has always been an emotionally loaded holiday. For my childhood and adolescence, first years of adulthood, it was a day full of obligation. Where I bought the cards and the flowers and made the phone calls professing love and gratitude as I was expected to do based on what all those stupid commercials and ads said. It didn't really hold much meaning to me, aside from the fact that we were all supposed to stop and be grateful for the mothers in our lives for long enough to make that phone call, then go on with whatever else we were doing that day.

Then my husband got cancer and we found out we might never have kids. Then I got pregnant against all the odds in the world before radiation started. Then that baby died. And mother's day went from being about other people to being a day full of reminding me of this thing I was supposed to have and then didn't have and might never have and that so many other people had.

And really, it wasn't just a day, was it?

Mother's day isn't a day. It's an entire month of reminders and card aisles and constant commercials. In the day of social media now, it is a month of memes and posts telling everyone to call their mother and be thankful for their mother and forgive their mother. It is a month of celebrating the people who have normal stable relationships. It is a month of ignoring and shaming and marginalizing literally everyone else.

This month is hell for lots and lots and lots of people.

The people who want to have kids, but cannot for one reason or another.

Those who don't want to have kids for reasons all their own, but something about all the forced gratitude of this month suddenly makes everyone else around them experts on how they should live their lives. Almost as if the pollen carries a confident self righteousness.

Those who have lost pregnancies, lost babies, lost children. And why do we say "lost"? Who decided that is how we refer to dead babies and kids??? They aren't misplaced. They are gone. And "lost" implies that someone is at fault, there is neglect or something else that caused them to go missing. We need to rethink our words, society.

Those who have abusive parents. Those who had parents that covered for abusers.

Those who have parents who don't accept them as they are, who want to shove them into the boxes of their own expectation, who will disown them or qualify their existence.

Those who have dead parents. Those whose parents are dead to them.

Those who have children with needs that are harder to cope with than the average family, whether those needs are physical, emotional, mental.

Those without partners to help.

Those who have partners who are unhelpful (and yeah, those are two very different things).

Those whose partners walked out on their families.

Those who have to negotiate custody for

Those without the necessary resources to support their families.

Those who have had to ask a system that detests their existence for help to survive. Don't ever tell me this political climate is a pro-life one. It is a pro-fetus one, but only superficially. Our system does not care for the health of those children when they are in the womb, and certainly not once they are born. Our system does not care for their stability or nutrition or education. Our system does not care for their families.

Those who have to live with the constant fear of being undocumented in a nation that suddenly believes they are all criminals here to steal jobs, not just parents trying to raise their children.

Those who struggle with what they have passed on to their children, whether through genetics or circumstance.

Those who have to sit their children down and teach them how to interact with a world that sees them as somehow threatening because of the color of their skin. A world that will treat them differently because of bias and hate and racism and indoctrinated fear.

Those who society pushes to the fringes even though they raise children, because let's be honest, this manufactured holiday only cares about cishet genetic mothers raising healthy kids in stable marriages with ample financial resources.

Those who are not with their children for reasons outside their control, or for reasons within their control.

Those who have had to draw firm boundaries with their mothers or children for their own well-being and safety.

Those who have lived their entire lives wishing for a normal relationship without even knowing what a normal relationship would look or feel like.

Those who have given birth to children then allowed someone else to raise that child, and those who have taken those children into their homes. Any degree of proximity to adoption is full of emotions that the rest of society cannot possibly comprehend.

Those who have had their children taken away.

Those battling mental health conditions in themselves, in their children, in their mothers. Shout out to the ones doing all three. I've been there. Got the t-shirt and everything.

There are so many people for whom this holiday is a reminder of the inherent unfairness and inequality of the world. There are so many people who go through the motions, giving gifts with empty meaning to people with whom they have shaky relationships simply because the date on the calendar says they are obligated. There are so many people for whom this day is a reminder of all we have lost, of who isn't here, of harms perpetrated.

Motherhood is loaded with expectation. With this entirely unsustainable idea that people are only fulfilled in life if they reproduce. With the belief that all who want children have them, and that all children are wanted and loved. With the false notion that anyone can ever have it all. We've had the idea that we are supposed to put our families first above ourselves at every opportunity shoved down our collective throats so much so that many of us have done it at our own expenses. We're expected to sacrifice ourselves, physically, emotionally, psychologically, and we're supposed to do it while balancing everything and bouncing back into those pre-pregnancy bodies.

And we fail. We all fail.

I don't want to be sold anything. I don't want to buy anything. There is no item that makes this day magically about me. There is no card that can give me a functional relationship with a living mother. There is nothing that can erase the fact that I lost my identity for many years at the feet of expectation, for the sake of the children I very much wanted, at the mercy of postpartum depression.

If we want to demonstrate that this society cares at all about motherhood and mothering and mothers, then we have to understand that one day isn't going to fix anything. Quite the opposite, it just serves to remind us of how much is broken.

We need to make sure there is access to health care, to mental health services, to food without shame, to education that isn't creatively tied to property values. We need to erase the stigma that keeps us from seeking mental health help in the first place. We need to understand that not everyone was given a functional mother. We need to understand the systemic biases that result in treating people differently, confront them, then work to dismantle them. We need to understand that parenting some children is heavier than we believed it would be. We need to know that we're all failing, and that all those images on social media are contrived and momentary.

Most of us who have kids are wondering all the time if we're forever screwing our children up.

We're crying in parking lots and showers and holding back tears in IEP meetings. We are frustrated and tired of navigating insurance companies and trying to find resources that don't exist. We are fighting for answers and reasons and help, and we're failing. Constantly.

The world is full of motherless children and childless mothers and a million other permutations that are consciously not being celebrated this weekend.

Will this post get me some hate mail? Yeah, probably.

Lucky for me, I can handle it. I'm a mother.


If this weekend brings you joy, my love.
If this weekend brings you pain, my love.

I'll see you all on the flip side.

p.s. this is exactly why I do the music marathons on my page...I ask people what they want me to play, then I schedule it and stay off the internet the whole damn day.

It'd be a whole lot easier if we could just not do this anymore.

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