Mother’s Day has always been a struggle for me. The most obvious reason being, I’m not a mother. I wanted to be one very badly most of my life. The only reason I liked the holiday at all and didn’t loathe it was because my mother is a wonderful, godly woman who sacrificed a lot for me growing up to keep me alive and she deserved to be honored. My mother was my hero growing up. I wanted to be exactly like her. I wanted to teach like her. I wanted to have a family with the same number of kids like her. I wanted basically to copy my mom in every possible way I could. Knowing my Mom deserved it made the day a little easier.
But jealousy still clawed at me.
I grew to hate and resent Sunday on Mother’s Day, to where I was glad if I was sick because I could have an excuse that was perfectly valid to stay home and no one would ask me uncomfortable questions or look at me with pity. I wished it fell on some other holiday because God deserved my worship no matter what day it coincided with. But at the same time, I was mad at God, too. For not giving me the fruit of the womb which was supposed to be a blessing from the Lord. But what I hated the most were sermons about motherhood and how to be a better mother on Sunday mornings.
When I did come, I girded my loins, pasted a smile on my face, and had a backup plan if the sermon was about motherhood. I’d let my mind wander wherever it wanted. I’d read other passages, or think about something else entirely. When the sermons weren’t about mothers, and applied to being a godly wife as well, I was eternally grateful.
But it’s impossible to know in advance before you get to church what the sermon will be about. (Unless you call the preacher ahead of time, or happen to peak over his shoulder reading his notes, both cases of which are unlikely.).
In my head I knew that we’d made the right choice not to have children due to being a carrier of my genetic mutation and the enormous possibility of bring a child worse off than myself into the world, that didn’t erase the longing. The yearning I’d always had for someone to cling to my skirts and call me, “Mommy.”
Things are a little different now.
It still hurts, but not as deeply. I still weep but the tears aren’t enough fill a rain gauge.
Clara and Philip.
Most of you know that I went to my sister’s house for a few weeks to stay with their family. My sister has two toddlers. Clara is four, Philip is two.
They were wonderful to play with. They were so excited to have me there and wanted me to come do everything with them. But shortly after I arrived, I became sick. I developed a 100.0 fever, which for most people isn’t significant, but for me, it saps me of any and all energy to function. I played with them as best I could, and slept or sat staring into space the rest of the time, totally devoid of energy.
This went on for about a week until finally Leah took me to the doctor. As it turned out, I had an ear infection. I got some medicine and within a couple of doses was well on my way to feeling better. But as I was trying to get better, I had to rest a lot. As I was lying there on my makeshift bed of an air mattress and I thought about what it must be like for Leah everyday. Two people to feed, clothe, make sure they’re happy, healthy and whole. Whether you feel like it or not. And you don’t get to send them home to somebody else. If you’re lucky, your husband might be able to help take care of the kids, but he might not.
We talked about it together and she said, “Being sick is the worst part of being a mom.”
I thought about that for awhile. Babies are fun to hold and snuggle with. But they need care 24 hours a day. So do toddlers. Leah’s life was busy and hectic with two rambunctious children all the time. Even when sick.
What must my mother’s life have been like? Caring for me while I was in the hospital. Working so we could have insurance so that I would be able to have the medical treatment I needed, whether she felt good or not?
ALL THE TIME.
The longer I thought about it, the more I realized the life I thought I had wanted would never have been sustainable. Even if my children had been perfectly healthy, I wouldn’t have been. And they would eventually get sick and need me to care for them. And my poor immune system means I would catch what they had, nine times out of ten.
Tim would be left alone to do it all. That’s not a helper. And my body would have eventually collapsed from the strain.
And suddenly I realized, I didn’t want to be like my mother. I didn’t want to be like my sister, either. My mom was still my hero. But I was perfectly happy to be me.
I’m perfectly happy to be able to sleep in. I’m perfectly happy to have peace and quiet. I’m perfectly happy to have four cats in the bed to snuggle with and a husband who loves me who can take care of me and the house when I’m sick.
My life isn’t the same as theirs. Mom is a teacher. Leah is a mother.
And as for me, I’m a writer and proud of it.