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Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me?
A dark and yucky Mother’s Day reflection
At the time of this writing, I’m sitting on a muggy, fully packed United flight to Newark. We’re not currently flying the friendly skies but instead stalled at the gate waiting for the mechanics to fix a broken overhead light at the exit rows. I want to be irritated by this development but, as this morning’s Uber driver pointed out to me, “What good is stress when it doesn’t change anything?”
(Okay, the mechanics are back and are now doing the repairs. Talk about stress! Imagine doing your most tedious home repairs in a hot, claustrophobic metal tube full of hundreds of ornery strangers staring at you. You can’t even blow off any steam by sputtering f-bombs through gritted teeth! I would get fired.)
This week’s newsletter will be a little different. Some weeks I have a clear multi-evening runway for my writing, with oodles of clever hot takes, cocktail recipes, television and music reviews, and mailbag features to dispense. This was not one of those weeks. This was one of those weeks where the pressures of working momhood took a bit of a toll. My son started Little League, our AC broke, and my day job is at level 11 with a big event kicking off tomorrow. I like to think I can just sit down and pop out witticisms in between calls and errands, but here I am – with nothing to show for myself except real-time updates on plane repairs.
Reader, I am running on fumes.
Running on fumes. What a perfect segue into the one topic I wanted to lean into this week: Mother’s Day. It’s on Sunday and it’s bittersweet for a lot of people. In the past, my Mother’s Day posts have always been sweet little tributes to the joys and pains of raising little ones. Aesthetically, Mother’s Day brings floral pastels, lace frills, sun bonnets, teacups, and scones. I feel like I’ve had to match that aesthetic through my writing, pushing out Hallmark-y feel-good sentiments to prove to the world that I am the pensive, gracious mother that everyone expects me to be. There is certainly space for this approach but today, I want to lend my voice to the pain that will come pummeling through the wall this weekend like the Kool-Aid Man, smashing many people’s teacups and scones to smithereens.
Over the last few months, in my immediate circle of family and friends, there has been a groundswell of chronic illness, dementia, mental struggles, and end-of-life conversations among beloved matriarchs. It has given me and many of my family members and friends a feeling of whiplash, initially writing it off as a “when it rains, it pours” phenomenon rather than what it really is, a new chapter of life where reflections of motherhood are rapidly evolving from “it’s lovely and hard raising these little babies” to “what will life look when my mom is gone?” For those of us lucky enough to have made it through young adulthood with most of their grandparents still alive and both of their parents in good health, this new phase is a gut punch.
For years, I’ve complained about my peers arriving at motherhood after me, so many of them lamenting why no one told them it was going to be like this. I would bristle, thinking “everyone told you it was going to be like this! I told you it was going to be like this!” The rich hypocrisy of my response is that while I was busy being the crusty old seasoned mom, I failed to prepare myself to confront the flipside. Why didn’t anyone tell me that, on the edge of 40, we were going have to navigate this sudden influx of death and sickness and deterioration among the women who had come before us?
These are dark and yucky topics. But they must be said, even on Mother’s Day. Especially on Mother’s Day, otherwise we will most certainly leave many of our friends feeling alone this weekend, and will set the rest of us up for bewildered isolation later on.
Motherhood is not just about the sun bonnets and scones. It’s not just warm reflections and tributes. But it’s not just loss and pain, either. It’s all of these things. It’s sleep deprivation and victorious first steps. It’s losing yourself and then finding yourself again. It’s deciding what generational habits you want to break and which ones you want to cling to. One minute your smothered in needy little hands and hiding in the bathroom, and then suddenly you’re begging for time and attention from little hands that aren’t so little anymore. And then, one day, you’re holding a wrinkly hand that, due to profound memory loss, no longer remembers your touch but responds to it all the same.
That’s motherhood. Let’s talk about it in all of its forms so that none of us have to ask why no one told us it was going to be this way.
On that note, the pilot has announced that we have to get off this plane and try a different one. That’s my cue.
Until next time, stay well, my friends.