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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

Always a mixed bag for me. Of course, I am so thankful for my mom. If you read this blog with any regularity, it should be pretty obvious by now that I care deeply for her, appreciate her immensely and am so thankful that she is still here on this earth where we can continue to enjoy one another for a bit longer. I am also very blessed with a wonderful mother-in-law who I love and feel deeply loved by as well. Eileen has been a very supportive presence in my life since the day that Doug and I hooked up and it has been a blessing for both me and Doug to have such warm, loving, supportive relationships with one another's parents. So my feelings about Mother's Day have nothing to do with how much I truly treasure and appreciate the mothers in my life. It has to do with the fact that I am not a mother. This has not been by choice. Doug and I tried and tried to have kids. The medical possibilities did not yield children for us. And we opened ourselves up to adoption and for one reason or another, the doors all kept closing rather than opening. So finally, as we were aging and growing emotionally exhausted by the whole process, we closed the door on parenthood and accepted that we would never have children. The season of trying to have children was one of the most difficult and painful seasons of our marriage. But now I tell people that while we experienced a sad thing, we do not have a sad life. And I genuinely believe this. I believe with all my heart that doors have opened to us that we've been able to walk through because of not being parents. Our life here in Sweden would've been much more complicated if children had entered the picture. Our future is pretty simple and we do not have the concerns of providing for our next generation. But still...there are moments when not having kids still leaves me feeling weird...outside...left out.
For women, so much of life revolves around motherhood and the joys and trials therein. And I love children and overall, I'm pretty good with kids. But it's hard to jump into the conversation when you have no first hand experience. I can empathize with how people feel when their kids are hurt or left out or struggling, but I don't really know what it feels like to watch your very own children go through life. And in some cases, being a mom is elevated to such a high place in society that I can feel so second rate at times. And because I've pursued my professional calling with vigor, I've even heard the whispers of people who say, "Well, if she hadn't have been so focused on work, she might've had been able to have children." I actually had someone walk up to me at church once and ask with all the crassness you can imagine, "Don't want them or can't have them?". After I picked my jaw up off the ground, I said, "I beg your pardon?"
And because not having kids is so obviously weird, you feel like you have to explain yourself to perfect strangers because when we meet people, what do we ask? Hi, what do you do, do you have kids? When I answer, no we don't have kids, a weird anxiety enters the airspace and I quickly feel the need to help the person asking calm down because they are writhing in such obvious discomfort that it makes me uncomfortable! And then you just wonder if you need to give this complete stranger a huge chunk of your medical history just to help them accept that you do not have children and you are also not evil or selfish. At this point I usually just add, "Oh, we have a dog. He's great." And these kinds of encounters just kind of leave me feeling a little bit outside.
It's weird to be so open about this because it sounds like sour grapes. But today is a hard day. I want to celebrate my mom and my mother-in-law with great joy and thanksgiving. But I feel the ache of being outside of that. No flowers, no hugs, no burned breakfast in bed for me. And overall, that's fine. I often say to my friends...well, you have kids, but I take great vacations! And it's true. Once we knew that we weren't going to have kids, we felt freedom to spend the college fund that we had begun when we got married!
It's all rather complicated because I don't hate moms or children. I love them. And here in Sweden, Mother's Day, which isn't until the end of May, isn't nearly the HUGE commercial endeavor that it is in the US so it's much easier to simply let the day slide by. But still...there are times when I feel bad that we don't have kids. Mother's day is one of those times.
I put on my Facebook status this comment: "Jodi wishes all moms a great day and also asks that all be tender towards those who aren't. Today is not such an easy day for those of us without kids." It's interesting how much commentary it generated. Many people have appreciated it and others also commented that I've made a deep impact on so many kid's lives that I should feel good about that. And I do. And I love that I have energy for other people's kids sometimes! And I love my life with Doug and I am not sad and bitter all the time about not having kids. But sometimes I am sad and it's hard to share that emotion with people because it often just makes them too uncomfortable.
So Mother's Day is complicated for me because I love the moms in my life but feel sad that I don't share that aspect of womanhood with them. My sister-in-law Jan also put a beautiful comment on her Facebook: "Mother's day- more complicated than it seems. We are so lucky to be mothers and have mothers. We grieve for loved ones who yearned for motherhood but did not have the opportunity, we grieve for those who have lost mothers and for mothers who have lost their children. Happy Mother's Day to all wherever Mother's day finds you."
Perhaps you might consider sending a card, or baking a cake, or just saying hi to a woman in your life who is not a mother. It's way too cynical to think about having a Happy NON-Mother's Day, but perhaps a gesture that lets them know that they are valuable women in spite of the fact that they don't have kids would be greatly appreciated by all who live through Mother's Day without knowing the joy of motherhood.