For years, I have disliked Mother’s Day. Not at first. The early years with my baby, the generational portrait possibilities, the later years with school-made cards and presents—those were cute.
It was only after several years in that I started to see this holiday as just one more damn thing I needed to stage manage as a parent. A boatload of emotional and organizational labor.
You see, holidays don’t spring fully formed from the heads of greeting card companies. They are handled, finessed, scheduled, negotiated, shopped and cooked and cleaned for—they are MADE by women. (Yes, I know exceptions exist. I know. Lucky you.)
Despite the effort involved, there are aspects of holidays I enjoy. I like decorating my home for Christmas: lighting candles, hanging string lights, putting up wreaths. I like making little special treats to deliver to friends and family. I like the stealth involved in sneaking around to buy gifts. I like eating cookies and drinking eggnog. As for the other holidays, the best I can honestly offer is this: I like cookouts on the 4th of July, at-home appetizers on New Year’s Eve and the entirety of Halloween (the best holiday, in my opinion; Easter and Thanksgiving are trash.)
But liking aspects of these holidays doesn’t mean they don’t create loads of stress or require hours of energy and thought to pull off. If you’re the kind of person who’ll say, Well, you don’t have to do it, nobody’s making you, it’s important that you get away from me before I spit-scream in your face about how in the name of all that’s holy you explain your failure to deliver expected holiday largesse to a sweet little kid who’s been indoctrinated, for better or worse, on the concept of decorative displays, gifts and butter-rich desserts.
Holidays are a perverse mélange of buying power, list-making, internecine family conflict, kitchen sweat and logistics. Every mother I know is in charge of them at her house; some are made fun of, even, for being “into Christmas.” Listen. I’m not into Christmas. I’m into doing fun things when it’s cold outside and you’re stuck inside. I’m into making my kid delight about what’s under the tree or coming out of the oven. I’m into not pissing off the entire family. If I could do those three things without dozens of shopping trips, scribbled lists, group texts and phone calls, extended family scheduling and multiple trips to the attic to pull out huge bins of decorations, I would.
Holidays are not about ease, enjoyment or choice. They are about packing up the car and the gifts and the dogs, making last-minute stops to pick up candy or napkins or a present for some cousin you barely ever see. Good times involve effort, yes. I understand the social imperative for feast days and celebratory events.
What I don’t understand is why we’d heap the bulk of this burden on women on Mother’s Day and then try to pass it off as a holiday in their “honor.”
If you really want to honor mothers once a year, book them excellent vacations, far away from their families. Let them go away to refresh, rest, relax, unwind. Let them sit on a beach and sip cocktails someone else made. Let them eat off menus they didn’t prepare. Let them live a few days without having to find the missing keys or the goddamn scotch-tape dispenser.
If you want to honor me, ask me in mid-January, when it’s cold and miserable, where I’d like to go in May. Imagine you’re sitting there, laptop open to some travel whiz-bang site, and you ask me for desired destinations, and who I’d like to go with: Mom, friends, sister?
(You don’t say anything shitty like, “Alone in Nashville again this year? Huh. Wow. Okay.”)
You just type in the airport codes and start scrolling. You find the place and time. Book the hotel, buy the tickets, loop in the relevant people. You don’t mock or belittle the destination or its prospective allures. You don’t schedule nonemergency surgery for the weekend in question.
Because of this, in mid-April, there will be no delicate dancing around who, what, where regarding Mother’s Day. You’ll already know the plan! All the mothers in your life will be gone that weekend. Maybe that whole week! There’s no breakfast in bed, no marshaling the kids to set the table, no ironing a shirt to wear to a fussy brunch buffet. You can lay on the sofa all day, if you want. Eat fast food standing up in your underwear, let the kids endlessly play video games in their pajamas. Nobody will ask you where the scotch-tape is; they know you have no idea, either.
In this amazing world, you don’t even have to visit your own mother. Because she’s gone. She’s been given time to refill her cup, recharge her body, read an entire book, sleep in until noon, eat nachos for breakfast, walk around a new city exploring without anyone bitching or saying they’re bored, lie idly on a floating air mattress while letting her fingers skate across the warm pool water thinking about what kind of lip balm Tom Hardy uses to make his mouth so beautiful. Play your cards right, and this next Mother’s Day, you won’t have to do a goddamn thing.
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