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Issue No. 5: How to Ruin Mother's Day
Hint: It starts with your son.
May is home to Mother’s Day. And however that day makes you feel (there are so many unique minefields on this particular holiday) the one phenomenon that I observed which left me most enraged – this year 🤠 – was the shitty Dad who does the bare minimum for his wife – or maybe even literally nothing!
“You’re not my mom.”
Look, my life is far from perfect but I have no complaints about how Mother’s Day rolls out. My kids are bursting with excitement and my husband makes me feel appreciated.
He calls it Mother’s Day weekend and I get to be a little lazy the whole way through and a lot lazy on the actual day. On Sunday he does a decent job keeping the house quiet so I CAN sleep in and when I do wake up, there’s coffee, flowers, some sweet home made gifts and that travel mug I hinted at wanting in my favourite colour.
We see family, we do some things, sure. I wash dishes and do some clean up – but I do not wipe a butt (other than my own, that is). And in the afternoon, my kids are shuttled away and I relax on our back deck and stare at the sky in SILENCE for 2 hours.
Later, we see friends and eat the cheesecake my husband made for me and my mom friend. Then we go home and watch Succession while the kids refuse to stay in bed. They don’t care thaaat much it’s Mother’s Day. And overall? Nice day.
So it doesn’t take a lot, does it really?
Which is why it burns me up so deeply to have seen many, many moms on TikTok share how the bare minimum – or nothing! – had been done to celebrate them.
The bare minimum is where you get a gift but then it’s business as usual and you still have to do the majority of the domestic and child rearing tasks. Hey, if you are happy with this I am happy for you. But I am talking about seeing a lot of women who felt hurt and burned out.
And nothing is, well, men who literally did nothing. Yeah, nothing. The bar is in hell, I know, but… Nothing? Like, it’s bad, right? How could they literally do nothing? Well, the answer to that question is even worse.
They tell their wives: “You’re not my mom." And yes, I’m glad you asked. These are the same men who often depend on their wife to plan Mother’s Day for their actual mom (🙄).
I think what’s most interesting about this, is the reality that TikTok has blown open. The very fact that I could be privy to these videos is actually kind of a huge step forward. I’m deeply saddened to see these moms feel they have to turn to the internet to feel less alone, but I also think it’s progress, in a way.
Because underpinning the anger I felt hearing their stories, is the jokey martyr culture that I saw endlessly on Instagram. I think that insidiousness is what bothers me most. Here, I’ll give you an example:
Posts like these normalize being treated poorly. Again, if brunch with your MIL and buying your own gift is your thing, excellent. But that’s not really in the spirit of this post, is it?
No, posts like this give into this culture of propping ourselves up and bonding with each other over the martyrdom of motherhood. And while it feels like a release, it doesn’t ultimately empower us…
Because it reduces our value to the ways we serve others and ask for nothing in return – whether we like it or not.
I’m aware this may rub some people the wrong way. To be clear, it’s not my intention to shame anyone. If you relate to that post, it’s sure not your fault. This is so culturally engrained. It takes a lot work, self awareness and a willingness of both partners to break cycles and be different than the default.
That’s a pretty tall order when you’re sleep deprived and busy changing diapers. It shouldn’t be up to moms to be the catalyst for the entirety of that change. Time’s up. We can and should expect more from our partners – on Mother’s Day, and all the days.
So if you were left feeling unappreciated, not seen and/or burnt out on what should have been your special weekend, I’m sorry. You deserved – and deserve – more than that. You’re doing an amazing job. An incredible job, actually. And I don’t say that as a some flighty platitude.
Because parenting is ultimately about building intimacy through action.
It’s in the 2am wake ups to change wet sheets; the cleaning up of the diaper blow outs. It’s reparenting yourself and learning to regulate your own nervous system when someone won’t even let you take a shit without interrupting to ask for a snack.
It’s helping with homework, packing beautiful (or in my case, not so beautiful) lunches, and remembering that Thursday is crazy hair day at school while also knowing that the field trip permission slip is due Monday…
It’s in all those things that you become their model for how beautiful and predictable and safe the world can be. It’s truly God’s work (or the Universe or whatever!!) that you do.
Every day, all damn day.
So while it’s not fair that you didn’t or don’t get recognized – or get a fucking break, even – you’re changing the world, and I see you.