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When 'Happy Mother's Day' Doesn't Quite Fit

Rachel McClary

Published on: May 06, 2014

Rachel and her mother shortly after her baby brother was bornMost mothers look forward to Mother’s Day as a time for being with family and getting looked after. I, on the other hand, struggle with what I should feel. Since losing my own mother 13 years ago, “Happy Mother’s Day” doesn’t seem quite appropriate — yet I do want to celebrate with my own children.

I lost my own mother before she had a chance to meet my three girls, the grandchildren she had desperately longed for. Every year, my girls and I talk about her, sharing pictures and stories. But the girls find it hard to understand that my stepmother (who they know as their grandmother) and my own mother are not the same person.

Mother’s Day is when I remember my mum most. I miss hearing about local gossip, shopping together and going to the theater. Mostly though, it is the everyday things that I miss, like sharing my own children’s achievements with her, or a quick phone call to ask her advice. She was a keen gardener, so every time I step into the garden and wonder what a plant is called or how to take a cutting, I regret not being able to ask her.

I am sad that my children will never know her, and that the support and encouragement she would have given me when I became a mum is missing. Before I had children it was perfectly fitting to use Mother’s Day as a day of reflection. But now that I am a mother, I feel as though I am letting the children down if I am not cheerful.

How do I reconcile these opposing sentiments? As my children grow older, they are learning that Mother’s Day is a difficult day for me. Our first Mother’s Day in this country, last year, was a turning point. Perhaps it was because my eldest daughter (now 10) had reached an age where she could comprehend death. Perhaps it was put into context when, a few months before we moved here from the U.K., one of our dogs passed away. The girls were sad and talked about how our other dog (her puppy) would miss his mum. Moving here, they missed friends and family of their own, so perhaps that helped them to understand, too.

Whatever the reason, Mother’s Day now has a different dynamic. It's a day of comfort and love rather than joyous celebration. They see Mother’s Day as a way of comforting me and showing me how much I am loved. They bring me breakfast in bed, flowers from the garden and handmade cards, and I make sure that they know how lucky I feel to have such amazing children. I don’t think they feel cheated.

Another benefit of moving to the U.S. is that because Mother’s Day in the U.K. and U.S. are on different dates. Now I can have U.K. Mother’s Day in March to think about my own mother and Mother’s Day in the U.S. in May to celebrate with my children.

What to do about the array of "Happy Mother’s Day" messages around the web? As with most holidays, there are always those who will find celebration difficult. For mothers like me, I send a message that’s more fitting: “Best wishes and may Mother’s Day surround you with love and companionship.”

After all, this is the day for mothers to give less and receive more — a day for you, in whatever form that may take.

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